Mavs fight hard; fold late to Suns …
But on Thursday, with new Sun Shaquille O’Neal on a bench at US Airways Center and perhaps soon-to-be Mav Jason Kidd in limbo, it was a whole different scenario that played out in Phoenix’s 109-97 win.
Yes, a Suns big man and a Mavs point guard dueled for points. Instead of O’Neal and Kidd, though, it was Amare Stoudamire and Jason Terry. Terry scored 29 points, two shy of the season high he set back in November, but the Mavs couldn’t find a way to stop Stoudamire.
He scored 26 points, and his dunk – and follow-up free throw with 3:39 left to play – extended Phoenix’s lead to seven points. It also seemed to break whatever was left of the Mavs’ spirit. The Suns outscored Dallas 32-24 in the fourth quarter.
“They had an extra gear and we couldn’t get there,” Mavs coach Avery Johnson said. “They just had a better fourth quarter. We battled for four quarters, but just didn’t have that finishing kick.”
The Mavs enter the All-Star break 35-18, now third in the Southwest Division, percentage points behind second-place San Antonio. The loss also dropped them a half game behind the Los Angeles Lakers for the third seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
The Mavs could use the break. Thursday marked the end of a stretch of four games in five days. The Mavs lost three of them. They have failed to score at least 100 points in any of their last five games, a season-long drought.
“We have strong character and very good integrity,” Johnson said. “Our guys don’t make any excuses. We’re not a perfect basketball team, but we’ve got a lot to hang our hats on. I’m proud of our guys.”
The Mavs could also use some time to try and reconfigure that deal with New Jersey that would bring them Kidd. The stumbling point is Devean George, who has blocked the trade and found himself a starter at the same time. George played a season-high 43 minutes but had little to show for it.
George, missed his first two shots of the night to extend his string of misses to 13 straight. He did hit a 3-pointer with four minutes left in the first quarter to break the drought. He finished with seven points and six rebounds.
If these teams do end up meeting in the playoffs, it may be with wholly different rosters than have suited up for the first two games of the regular-season series.
David Moore on the Mavericks state of affairs …
I'd argue this is a crisis point if not resolved in the next few days. How can the Mavericks keep their current team intact? How can they not do whatever it takes to bring Kidd in now?
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has told the players what he has told the media. No one knows what is going to happen. He raves about what good guys he has on this team and how they remained focused against Portland and Phoenix after the news broke.
So Mark, tell us how this thirst for Kidd doesn't send the message that management has lost faith in this team's ability to climb the mountain?
"It's not about how we can't win," Cuban said. "I love our team. We're always going
to be opportunistic to see if we can improve. That's just the way it is."
And what about five players knowing they may not be part of the club's future?
"Other than Dirk [Nowitkzi] and J.J. [Barea] and Nick [Fazekas], just about everybody out there has been traded," Cuban said.
"I felt bad when we traded Buck [Greg Buckner]. I felt bad when we traded Juwan Howard the first time. I felt bad when we traded Erick Strickland. It's hard because you get to know and like these guys.
"It would not be fun to lose Stack. It would not be fun to lose Devin Harris."
Terry refuted the notion that the last 24 hours could negatively impact the team's chemistry if a satisfactory solution isn't found. He said every season is about dealing with issues on and off the court and your ability to work through them.
And what about the vote of nonconfidence that is implicit in management's pursuit of Kidd?
"They're not saying we can't go all the way," Terry countered. "They're just saying if we can make this team better, we'll try to do so.
"Who knows if this [trade] will work out or not? We hope it does. If not, we're still confident in the team we have going forward."
What did you expect him to say?
Phoenix not any kinder to the Stars either …and down goes the win streak…
During the seven-game streak, the Stars had allowed two or fewer goals in six of those games. Phoenix had two goals by the end of the first, when Daniel Carcillo scored.
For the second consecutive game, the Stars had difficulty solving Phoenix goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, at least when it mattered.
Skating at home Monday and with the Coyotes playing the second game of a back-to-back, the Stars were able to rally for a win despite 42 saves for Bryzgalov.
This time, a fresher Coyotes defense prevented any late comebacks.
Tippett called the overall execution "poor" and was bothered by his team's passing and inability to finish at the net.
Bryzgalov's biggest of 32 stops might have come against Mike Modano during a second-period power play with Phoenix up, 2-1.
"He made a great save on it," Modano said. "There was a lot of net to look at. It had a bit of bounce to it, so it wasn't something I could catch and release at the same time."
Hope began to fade when former Star Niko Kapanen gave Phoenix a two-goal lead late in the second period.
The Stars' power play that was clicking at 26.7 percent (8-for-30) during the streak failed to score and finished minus-1. Jere Lehtinen's pass eluded Stephane Robidas at the blue line. Vrbata claimed the loose puck and lofted a backhand over Turco to complete the breakaway for a 4-1 lead in the third period.
Turco didn't really allow any bad goals. Neither did he play like the goalie who had a 1.57 goals-against average and .943 save percentage during the streak.
Pete Prisco gets the football juices flowing by rating the top free agents …
1. Asante Samuel, CB, New England Patriots: He is a premier corner who is coming off an All-Pro season. He will get the biggest contract on the market.
2. Antwan Odom, DE, Tennessee Titans: In a league starved for pass rushers, here's a 26-year old coming off an eight-sack season. The Titans will be hard-pressed to keep him considering they will have to franchise Haynesworth.
3. Randy Moss, WR, New England Patriots: I love the way he plays. But he turns 31 this week and one has to wonder how he'll be as a player in another system, without the peer pressure to toe the line. The Pats might still franchise him, but that's not a definite.
4. Corey Williams, DT, Green Bay Packers: This 27-year-old is one of the better young players available. At 312 pounds, he can hold up against the run, and he has 14 sacks over the past two seasons.
5. Lance Briggs, LB, Chicago Bears: The Bears would love to keep him but they can't franchise him, so he will hit the market. He's coming off a heck of a season and should cash in on it.
6. Flozell Adams, T, Dallas Cowboys: After a so-so year in 2006, he played well last season. Was it a money push? The Cowboys would love to have him back, but only at the right price.
7. Justin Smith, DE, Cincinnati Bengals: He had only two sacks last season, which hurts his marketability. But he's a better player than that. In a league looking for pass rushers, he will get overpaid some.
8. Alan Faneca, G, Pittsburgh Steelers: If he were four years younger, he'd be even higher. He played at a really high level last season after a so-so 2006. But at 31, how much more does he have left?
9. Bernard Berrian, WR, Chicago Bears: He had a little case of the drops last season, but his deep speed is enticing. He's the next-best deep threat on the market after Moss.
10. Michael Turner, RB, San Diego Chargers: I'm not big on paying running backs who played with other teams, but he will get his money. He'll give his new team two or three good years. There's already wear and tear on the tires.
11. Jacob Bell, G, Tennessee Titans: He has developed into a power player for the Titans. He is part of a good offensive line that doesn't get the attention it deserves. He has 31 starts the past two seasons.
12. Gibril Wilson, S, New York Giants: He is coming off a good playoff run that probably upped his value. He led the Giants in tackles in two playoff games. He is a physical safety with range.
13. Ken Hamlin, S, Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys signed him to a one-year deal and he responded with a Pro Bowl season. That's cashing in. He is a big hitter who played better against the pass last season than he did when he was with Seattle.
14. Ryan Lilja, G, Indianapolis Colts: He has developed into a good player the past two years and he is a big reason the Colts' running game has improved. The way guards got paid last year, he will get his this time around.
15. Bryant Johnson, WR, Arizona Cardinals: He is the third receiver in Arizona, so bringing him back is a luxury. The Cardinals want to keep him but it might be tough. He has good speed. He caught 46 passes and made eight starts last season.
16. Drayton Florence, CB, San Diego Chargers: He lost his starting job to Antonio Cromartie, but played well as a nickel corner after that. With teams searching for corners to match up against the spread offenses, he should be a wanted commodity.
17. D.J. Hackett, WR, Seattle Seahawks: He played in only six games due to injury, but he is 26 and was being counted on as a big part of the Seattle offense. In one three-game span in November, he had 23 catches for 294 yards and three scores.
18. Calvin Pace, LB, Arizona Cardinals: The former defensive end moved to linebacker
and responded with a 6½-sack season. He also showed he has the foot speed to play the position.
19. Tommy Kelly, DT, Oakland Raiders: Before tearing an ACL, he was a quality starter for the Raiders, a player on the upswing. If he can show that the knee is rehabbing right, he will get a nice deal. The team that signs him will be getting a good defensive lineman.
20. Travis LaBoy, DE, Tennessee Titans: He was used mostly as a speed rusher and had six sacks. Injuries have held him back, but he's only 26. He plays with a lot of effort.
21. Jerry Porter, WR, Oakland Raiders: He had 44 catches last season in a bad offense, but averaged 16 yards per catch. At 29, he still has some good football left. He will be free when the period opens after opting out of his contract.
22. Rex Grossman, QB, Chicago Bears: In a quarterback-famished league, he's bound to get some action. Grossman did lead a team to the Super Bowl two years ago. Maybe a new team will be good for him.
23. Jamal Lewis, RB, Cleveland Browns: He signed a one-year deal with the Browns and surprised a lot of people -- me included -- with a big season. But can he expect a long-term deal after eight years as an NFL running back? For a season or two, he could be a bargain.
24. Kawika Mitchell, LB, New York Giants: He's another player who took a one-year deal and will now cash in. Mitchell exceeded a lot of expectations for the Giants
25. Eugene Wilson, S, New England Patriots: He has started 55 games the past five seasons, playing both corner and safety. He started six games last season and has range for a team looking for a free safety.
26. Stacy Andrews, T-G, Cincinnati Bengals: He can play both guard and tackle and filled in nicely last year when injuries
27. Julius Jones, RB, Dallas Cowboys: He lost his starting job by season's end to Marion Barber. The Cowboys will let Jones walk. Can he be a decent starter? Yes. But if he's asking for mega-money he might be in for a shock.
28. Josh Brown, K, Seattle Seahawks: Brown made 28 of 34 field-goal attempts, his misses all coming from outside 40 yards, two from outside 50. I don't normally put kickers on the list, but he's worth a look.
29. Sean Locklear, RT, Seattle Seahawks: He has 42 starts the past three seasons at right tackle. In a league where there aren't a lot of them, he has some value. He's another 26-year-old player.
30. Maurice Williams, T-G, Jacksonville Jaguars: He was benched as the team's right tackle this season when the Jags signed Tony Pashos, but Williams played well when he started the final two months at guard. He can play both positions, which will help his value.
31. Max Starks, T, Pittsburgh Steelers: He was a starter at right tackle in the Super Bowl season of 2005 and in 2006, but lost his job this season in camp. When injuries hit, he moved to left tackle and played well. He's a huge man at 6-8 and 335 pounds. He did end the season on IR with a knee injury, but it isn't serious.
32. Jake Scott, G, Indianapolis Colts: He has started 48 games the past three seasons for a good offense. And he's only 26. At 290 pounds, he's not big enough to play in all systems.
Parcells and Ireland cut Zach Thomas …
Zach Thomas, who has more tackles than any linebacker in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, was released by the Miami Dolphins on Thursday afternoon.
"I have a tremendous appreciation and admiration not only for the Dolphins organization but for the fans as well, for all of the support that they have given me," Thomas said in a statement, in which he thanked owner Wayne Huizenga, new football operations head Bill Parcells and general manager Jeff Ireland.
A fifth-round pick in 1996, Thomas has spent 11 seasons with the Dolphins, recording more than 1,500 tackles.
"Zach Thomas has been a great player on this team for many years," Ireland said. "And because of the type of player and the kind of person that Zach is, this was not an easy decision."
But Thomas' age and salary worked against him as the Dolphins begin a major rebuilding process with Parcells running the front office and Tony Sparano taking over as coach. Thomas will turn 35 in September and was scheduled to make $5.65 million in base salary in 2008.
"In addition to his numerous accomplishments on the field, he was a leader off of it as well," Ireland said. "We want to thank Zach for everything he has done for the Dolphins organization and the South Florida community."
Thomas missed most of last season because of concussions and migraines and was placed on injured reserve against his wishes in December because of nagging migraines, an aftereffect of an Oct. 21 car crash.
Rangers stories beginning to pour in, and although I realize that Rangers optimism is folly, I still love reading the stories that set up the season…like these:
Who is your catcher? ….
There is so much for the Rangers to sort through this spring between the catchers.
Laird has more experience; Saltalamacchia, acquired from Atlanta in the Mark Teixeira deal, has a higher profile. Laird has a better throwing arm; Saltalamacchia has better power. Laird, who is still only 28, must recover from an awful season at the plate to energize his career; Saltalamacchia must show he's ready to handle a major league pitching staff though he won't turn 23 until May.
The Rangers aren't ruling out the possibility that the loser will be on the roster. But if Laird wins the job, it's likely Saltalamacchia would go to Triple-A Oklahoma to play every day. If Saltalamacchia wins the job, Laird could end up the backup or it could go to veteran Adam Melhuse.
It is indeed foreign territory for the Rangers. They have played exactly 5,700 games since moving to Texas in 1972. The duo of Jim Sundberg (1,426 games) and Ivan Rodriguez (1,495) has combined to catch more than half of those games.
Laird, who has twice won the Rangers' starting catching job with strong spring training performances, is currently seventh on the Rangers' all-time games caught list. A full season behind the plate could move him to fourth. Saltalamacchia has less than a full-season in the majors.
If Laird is to win the starting job for a third time, he must rebound from an awful 2007 season. It began with Washington urging Laird to help the pitching staff, even if it meant sacrificing some offense.
"I think I put too much pressure on him and kept the pressure on him," Washington said. "I think I just hit him with it too hard. I'm going to sit back and relax and let him play baseball. He clearly knows what's expected of him. The guy is a big league catcher."
The pressure built to a breaking point last May when Washington and Laird got in a dugout shouting match over the handling of pitchers. They were eventually separated by pitcher Kevin Millwood. Tension lingered for several weeks. Laird seemed to never recover.
"We just got off on the wrong foot," Laird said. "But by the second half of the season, he understood me and I understood him."
Laird finished hitting .227, a drop of nearly 70 points from 2006. By the end of the season, he was splitting the catching job with Saltalamacchia. Laird's .627 OPS (on-base-plus-slugging percentage) ranked 92nd among 94 AL players with at least 400 at-bats.
Washington met with Laird in Arlington last month to make sure the air was clear. He's also said he will give new catching instructor Matt Walbeck more autonomy to communicate with Laird and Saltalamacchia. Laird, Saltalamacchia and prospect Taylor Teagarden all attended Walbeck's informal minicamp in Arizona last month.
The Rangers have also communicated clearly with Saltalamacchia, who struggled last year with multiple hurdles. In addition to jumping from Double-A to the majors, he was traded and split time between catcher and first base. In December, though, he was told he'd be a full-time catcher in 2007. The Rangers just didn't say whether that would be in the majors or not.
And Can CJ Wilson hold down the closer spot? …
Instead, there's a strong front-runner to be closer, and he has been endorsed by the organization's brass. He's C.J. Wilson, who finished 2007 as the club's last line of defense.
He badly wants the job, and general manager Jon Daniels wants him to fill the role. Even though Wilson, 27, stands as the incumbent, he must earn the spot over the course of six weeks in the Arizona desert.
Three others will be evaluated, but Wilson looks to be the man to beat.
"I compete with my expectations for myself," said Wilson, who had 12 saves after Eric Gagné was traded July 31. "I want to close. I wanted to close when Eric was here. Nothing has changed that."
There's no long shot such as Ron Paul in this group, although little is known about free-agent signee Kazuo Fukumori. One might assume the 31-year-old Japanese right-hander leans left on immigration.
The club's reigning Pitcher of the Year, righty Joaquin Benoit, 30, and free-agent addition Eddie Guardado, 37, are also in the running.
Guardado thrived as closer in past stops with Minnesota and Seattle and is the best bet to beat out Wilson. But health issues are a cause for concern; Guardado is coming back from Tommy John (elbow ligament replacement) surgery in 2006.
The lefty also wants to close but said he isn't competing against his teammates. He wants to pitch as well as he can and said that, if that happens, he will be happy in any role.
"My nature is competing and being in pressure situations," said Guardado, who has 183 saves. "No matter what I'm doing, I'm going to help out the best I can."
Waxman: I’m sorry we had the hearing …
A day after a dramatic, nationally televised hearing that pitted Roger Clemens against his former personal trainer and Democrats against Republicans, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform said Thursday that he regretted holding the hearing in the first place.
The chairman, Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California, said the four-hour hearing unnecessarily embarrassed Clemens, who he thought did not tell the truth, as well as the trainer, Brian McNamee, who he thought was unfairly attacked by committee Republicans.
“I think Clemens and McNamee both came out quite sullied, and I didn’t think it was a hearing that needed to be held in order to get the facts out about the Mitchell report,” Waxman said.
“I’m sorry we had the hearing. I regret that we had the hearing. And the only reason we had the hearing was because Roger Clemens and his lawyers insisted on it.”
The decision to hold the hearing had been made in early January, as Clemens was publicly challenging the veracity of the Mitchell report. But Waxman said he and Tom Davis of Virginia, the ranking Republican and former chairman of the committee, decided by last Friday that they did not need to conduct the hearing as scheduled because depositions taken last week from Clemens, McNamee, Andy Pettitte and others were thorough, as was the committee staff’s own investigation, and that a hearing would not provide a great deal more insight.
“Roger Clemens’s lawyers told us he wanted the opportunity to make his case in public,” Waxman said. “He had his opportunity.” Now, Waxman added, 90 percent of the people being asked their opinion of the hearing were stating that they did not believe Clemens.
Waxman’s regrets, and his assertion that Clemens’s side was responsible for the hearing taking place, was assailed last night by Clemens’s lead attorney, Rusty Hardin, who said Waxman’s statements were “unbelievable, disingenuous and outrageous.”
“He is the one who created this circus in the first place,” Hardin said of Waxman, contending that Clemens and his lawyers had asked several weeks ago for the hearing to be called off, only to be rebuffed by Waxman’s staff.
“We didn’t think any good would come out of having a food fight with the accuser,” Hardin said in reference to McNamee. But once the depositions were taken last week, he said, the Clemens side felt it had no choice but to proceed, fearing that the committee would use the depositions to produce a hostile written report. “We wanted this out in the open,” Hardin said.
And it was out in the open that it became Democrat against Republican. Waxman said he was shocked at the partisan nature of the hearing, with Democrats, for the most part, grilling Clemens, while Republicans lambasted McNamee. “I was disappointed to see that kind of partisanship, and I can’t understand it,” Waxman said.
Waxman said Davis and Mark Souder of Indiana were the only Republicans on the committee who actually read through the depositions that were filed last week. Souder was also one of the few committee members who refused Clemens’s request for a private meeting before the hearing. And it was Souder who stood out from his Republican colleagues by stating during the hearing that the depositions were “fairly devastating” against Clemens.
“I don’t think, quite frankly, that they anticipated quite the solid wall on the Republican side, the defense of Clemens,” Souder said Wednesday of the Democratic members of the panel. Speaking of Clemens, he added, “It wasn’t an accident that word got to me that he’s a Republican, or he said that President Bush called him.”
What is on my Tivo?
Tim Goodman reviews this week’s Wire …
Lostpedia looks at last night’s episode …
A week has passed since the Sturm Formula debuted; here is some email feedback on the topic:
Pardon me if you explained this and I missed it, but it seems to me that you have two separate treatments of the same situation in your rankings.
You said on the air today that you treat the Cleveland Browns as the "Cleveland Browns" rolling both iterations into one history, whereas the Baltimore Ravens' history goes back only as far as 1995. However, the Tennesse Titans get credit for Houston Oiler history.
Truthfully, the only difference between these two situations is Bud Adams' spite in not allowing the city of Houston to use the name "Oilers" again. Considering their being one continuously operating organization with common ownership, I would think the Browns I/Ravens and Oilers/Titans should be treated the same either in the way you currently treat Tennessee, or the Texans should get credit for the Oilers' history the way Browns II get credit for Browns I. The naming difference seems, to me, inconsequential here, though I'm assuming that had something to do with your operating rationale.
If for some reason I'm off base here, I'll just go ahead and consider myself Sturminated.
Jason Reed, Good Strong P1
first of all; love the ranking system but a few things jumped out at me.
the minnesota vikings with 0 superbowl championships rank higher than the Giants with 3 championships. this happens several times throughout the ranking system, where a team with more championships will be rated lower than a team with less or zero championships. i understand this is because of more playoff or superbowl appearances but should we consider a rule that a team with more superbowl championships cannot be ranked lower than a team without any championships. see also the bills and eagles who are rated above the bears, cheifs, bucs, and jets, all of whom have a championship.
I am an active follower of your Blogs, and i love your team ranking list you complie. However, i do have a suggestion that would make the list much better. Why dont you do points per year for each franchise? Meaning you would divide each teams total points by the number of years they have been in existence (max 42 obviously). This would get a better gauge of what franchise has been the most productive in their history. Teams like Baltimore or Carolina would compare much more favorably to the older teams by doing that, because under the current system they would have no chance to catch up to the other teams. It would also give you an average, or expected productivity of each team. For example, Baltimore's points per year would be 1.27 (14 points divided by 11 seasons in the league). So from that number, you can deduce that they are an above average franchise that typically has a good chance of making the playoffs....
Any pts/yr above 1 would suggest a team that makes the playoffs often on average
Pts/yr below 1 suggest that the franchise struggles to make the playoffs
I think this would create a very strong gauge of who truly has the most productive franchise....
Anyway, please feel free to email me back with your thoughts, included below is the list i compiled
1- Dallas: 107/42 = 2.55 pts/yr
2- Pitt: 91/42 = 2.17
3- SF: 85/42 = 2.02
4- Raiders: 77/42 = 1.83
5- NE: 59/42 = 1.40
6- DEN: 57/42 = 1.36
7- MIA: 57/42 = 1.36
8- WASH: 56/42 = 1.33
9- Ravens: 14/11 = 1.27
10- GB: 53/42 = 1.26
11- Rams: 50/42 = 1.19
12- Colts: 48/42 = 1.14
13- MINN: 48/42 = 1.14
14- NYG: 47/42 = 1.12
15- CAR: 11/13 = .85
16- BUFF: 34/42 = .81
17- JAX: 10/13 = .77
18- TB: 24/32 = .75
19- CHI: 31/42 = .74
20- KC: 30/42 = .71
21- PHI: 30/42 = .71
22- TENN/HOU: 29/42 = .69
23- NYJ: 26/42 = .62
24- CLE: 24/39 = .61
25- SEA: 16/32 = .50
26- SD: 20/42 = .48
27- CINN: 16/39 = .41
28- ATL: 14/42 = .33
29- DET: 11/42 = .26
30- NO: 8/41 = .19
31- ARI: 4/42 = .09
32- HOU: 0/6 = 0
On Paul’s point, the whole exercise is not to simply add up Lombardi trophies and determine the best team. For instance Green Bay has 3 Super Bowl wins, but was so awful throughout that they really cannot compare to the annual solid efforts that the Rams and Vikings were putting out in the 70’s and 80’s. So how do you rate that? How do you measure 4 Super Bowl losses in Buffalo against 1 Super Bowl win? That is what I tried to do. I suggest anyone can assign any point values and run the results as you will. The results remain mostly the same.
Indiana Jones New trailer. I am ready!