Well, this party is only just getting started, but with 19 games left in their season, the Stars have a 6 point lead over Anaheim (19 left), and a 9 point lead over San Jose (23 games left).
I still fear a matchup of 7 games against either the Joe Thornton Show or the defending Cup Champions who have everyone back on the team now (and are said to still be shopping), but it sure looks like the Stars are in a fabulous spot to bring home their division, and thus a favorite for the #2 seed. Dallas has only 8 road games left, Anaheim 7, and San Jose 14!
All the Stars can do is take care of their business, and now with a weekend that featured a road win at Anaheim and a home win against Detroit, optimism is brewing, and guys like me are wondering if a bold strike at the deadline is a great idea anymore.
All I can say now is this: The Stars look poised to do something in these playoffs. Weather changes daily in the NHL, but the Stars look like they are building to a team that could and should win a series or two around here. I won’t speculate beyond that for now, but I wonder if the Stars have what it takes to gain back some winner’s credibility this spring.
We shall see…
Target Time for the Stars? …
As the trade deadline sits six days away, the talk of who will go where and for what is increasing by the hour, but, for the Stars, the buzz factor has been pretty low. They're happy with their team. They're happy with how certain players have put together career seasons. And they're not sounding too high on giving up their future for one player.
Maybe it will be quiet after all. Still, there are some rumors and it's fun to look at what could be. Here's a look at the top names in trade rumors involving the Stars:
Center, Florida Panthers
Salary: $5.25M per year through 2009-10
The plus: He's a go-to scorer in the clutch, something the Stars have lacked in recent postseason appearances.
The negative: The price is probably too great. The Hockey News had a scenario of the Stars giving up four players and a draft pick for Jokinen. That's quite a lot for one guy.
Center, Toronto Maple Leafs
Salary: $5.5M, unrestricted free agent in off-season
The plus: He's a big body with a beautiful scoring touch. And he's a name that everyone recognizes and a player all admire.
The negatives: He's 37, and the Stars are focusing on getting younger. He also has a no-trade clause and doesn't seem to want to nix it.
Right wing, Atlanta Thrashers
Salary: $7M, UFA in off-season
The plus: The veteran is a scoring machine from the right side. With a team full of centers, the Stars could use a scoring right wing.
The negative: Once again, how big is the price? If the Thrashers are demanding prospects and draft picks, do the Stars want to part with those?
New York Rangers
Salary: $8.36M, possible UFA in off-season
The plus: He's a sniper who had been going through a slump before Tuesday. Maybe he just needs a change of scenery.
The negatives: He's 36 , so the slump could be more than just a slump. And, after trading for him, what contract do you give this guy in the off-season?
Where are Boucher and Zubov? …
Dallas Stars defenseman Philippe Boucher continues to make strides in his recovery from shoulder surgery. Boucher, who has missed 35 games, was shooting slapshots and participating in light contact drills Tuesday.
Stars coach Dave Tippett said he believes Boucher is on track to return by the end of February.
"The original prognosis was 12 weeks, so we're on schedule for that," he said.
Defenseman Sergei Zubov, who has missed the last 14 games, continues to work out off-ice, but he is still wearing a protective boot on his right foot. Zubov has a hairline fracture in his foot and also has a sore groin.
"I think the foot is something that he could get by if he really pushed it, but the groin is still sore enough, so why push the foot?" said Tippett, who lists Zubov as "week to week."
Wow, all of that talk, and we haven’t mentioned the Mavs yet?
In New Orleans tonight, and Jan Hubbard discusses the NBA working with the Mavs …
The league office proved how much it loves the Mavericks on Tuesday, but at the same time, compromised its principles. The league has long been protective of the integrity of the salary cap, but the deal between the Mavericks and the Nets is a blatant circumvention.
Keith Van Horn has not played since the end of the 2005-06 season. He had chances, but life was too good to give up quality time with his wife and four children.
Yet he agreed to sign a contract with the Mavericks so that they could get within range of Kidd's $19.7 million salary and facilitate the trade with New Jersey.
The $4.3 million that Van Horn will receive -- and he gets it all -- is found money and he no doubt is kissing Lady Luck. But since he made more than $112 million in his nine-year career, according to basketball-reference.com, it's not like he's strapped for cash.
So the question is: Why would he agree to take the money now when he's turned it down the past two off-seasons?
Van Horn will meet the New Jersey media today and explain, but it should be noted that he spent five years in New Jersey and a year and a half in Dallas. So perhaps this was his way of saying thanks to two teams that paid him a lot of money.
But it's a scam. There had been reports that the league told the Nets and Van Horn there would be certain minimum requirements for the trade to be approved.
But in his news conference on Tuesday, Nets general manager Rod Thorn denied that.
We'll see. Besides, if he does leave in two weeks, what is the league going to do? Rescind the trade? No way.
One NBA front office executive agreed that the trade violated the principles of the salary cap.
"But," the executive said, "the player's association loves it because their players get more money. The league loves having Jason Kidd in the West because there's a lot of publicity and it pleases the TV partners. Still, it's an issue that should be addressed in the next collective bargaining agreement."
It's not the first time the league has approved a trade involving a player who was either not under contract or even one who seemed retired. But there has never been a player who signed such a large contract with little, if any, intent to be a contributing member of the team.
So if you believe the trade for Kidd is the last piece in the championship puzzle, then please no more talk of a league conspiracy against your team. The NBA did the Mavericks a big favor Tuesday.
Marty Burns’ take on the trade …
Like the Suns with Shaq, the Mavs are taking a giant risk in an effort to win the title this year. The difference is that Kidd is in a lot better shape physically than Shaq. But if the Mavs don't win it all, Dallas fans (like their Phoenix counterparts) will always wonder, What if? For the Nets, it's a chance to rebuild on the fly. It might cost them a playoff berth this season, but in the long run it will probably be worth it.
Meanwhile, Shaq is ready for the Lakers tonight …
He arrived two weeks ago, an aging center with a championship resume. Shaquille O'Neal told those who opposed his trade to the Suns to just wait and see. One of his pastimes included proving people wrong.
His quest begins tonight.
Barring an unexpected setback, O'Neal, 35, will start tonight at US Airways Center against the Los Angeles Lakers, the same team that once sent him to the Miami Heat and Eastern Conference.
"There's no easing into it," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said Tuesday. "He's just going to dive into the pool."
The Suns are hoping for a noticeable splash, one that will help solidify postseason seeding and start creating championship momentum. Tonight's contest kick-starts perhaps the most challenging stretch of the season. The Boston Celtics visit Friday, followed by the Detroit Pistons on Sunday. Three games, three title contenders, one incredible transition.
Since O'Neal arrived Feb. 6, the Suns have expressed hope; but the truth is, they're not positive how O'Neal's bruising ways will integrate with their up-tempo mind-set. All they have to rely on are a handful of practices, many of which O'Neal spent recovering from a hip injury suffered in Miami. The big man hasn't played since Jan. 21.
"I think people will be pleasantly surprised," forward Grant Hill said. "I was surprised (Tuesday). He looked great. He moved the ball, ran up and down the court. He looked good."
D'Antoni said O'Neal might play in three- or five-minute segments, topping out around 20 minutes. But like many things associated with this trade, the coach might take a wait-and-see approach.
The Rangers lock down Ian Kinsler …
The "talk" has now reached a third generation of Rangers. It was passed from Rusty Greer to Michael Young and this winter was passed from Young to Ian Kinsler.
The message: Take care of your family first. Show a little loyalty. Worry about playing baseball rather than the gaudiness of the paycheck.
Kinsler, 25, heeded his baseball ancestors on Tuesday by signing a five-year deal with the only professional team that he has known. The deal is worth $22 million guaranteed, and it would jump to $32 million if the Rangers exercise an option for 2013. It could buy him out of two years of free agency.
"Mike and [wife] Cristina basically walked us through this whole thing," Kinsler said. "A lot of people say Mike took a club-friendly deal in his first contract, but the important thing was to make sure he had taken care of his family first and that he could concentrate on just playing baseball. We talked about all of that. It's the same way for me."
Young took a four-year, $10 million deal in 2004. After three consecutive seasons with a .300 average and 200 hits, he parlayed it into a five-year, $80 million extension.
Kinsler's deal dwarfs Young's. He will receive a raise to $500,000 this year and will also receive a $1 million signing bonus. The contract will go to $3 million in 2009, $4 million in 2010, $6 million in 2011 and $7 million in 2012. If the Rangers choose not to exercise the $10 million option, Kinsler will receive a $500,000 buyout. If he is traded, both the buyout and option year would increase by $500,000.
With the option, the commitment would be the largest the Rangers have made to a player that they drafted and developed. The previous high: a three-year, $25.8 million contract extension with Greer that expired in 2004.
Another story of Vince’s Gagree …
After leading Texas to the national title in 2005, Vince Young says he's getting no perks for coming back to school to complete his degree in applied learning and development/youth and community studies this semester.
"I have to hunt for a parking space just like everyone else," Young said. "And they still charge $50 for parking tickets. I know that."
Brian Davis, who heads Texas' academic services for football, said he thought about getting Young "a bodyguard" after Young's first day in a psychology class turned into an impromptu autograph show.
"Then I realized Vince is a big boy and he can handle himself," Davis said. "Vince basically told all the students in his class that they needed to take their seats and listen to the professor."
Young received a standing ovation in that class from the students, leaving the professor perplexed.
"The professor, she's from California, worked at UCLA and just moved here," Young said. "I think she thought the applause was for her."
Young gets stopped wherever he goes on campus.
"Some of the kids are shocked to see me," Young said.
Young will have a semester of work left – 12 hours – after this semester to complete his degree in the college of education. On campus, things have gotten so crazy at times for Young, the student newspaper, The Daily Texan, published an editorial that said, "Don't hound him for autographs."
But after signing a $58 million contract two years ago as the No. 3 overall draft pick of the Tennessee Titans, Young is hardly slumming it the way he did as a freshman in the dorms back in 2002. He's renting a house with a swimming pool, hot tub and weight room until he finishes the semester in June.
Found this on a blog, Mike and Mike are pro wrestling experts …
Performance-enhancing drugs are in the news again, and that means it's time for the sports media to pile on pro wrestling. Next up is ESPN Radio's Mike Greenberg, who said this on his show this morning:
Greenberg said he would like to discourage young people from using steroids with a pro wrestling-related scared-straight approach. According to Greenberg, it would be easy to use the pro wrestling stars of his own youth as examples of why not to use steroids because, "All the stars of wrestling in the early 1980s -- all of them are dead, it's incredible. I didn't do any research on this because I grew up and I didn't care that much, but now you read the stories and they're all dead."
But the thing is, they're not all dead. Most of them aren't dead.
As I've written before, Wrestlemania III was the high-point of the 1980s pro wrestling boom. Of the 38 wrestlers who performed at Wrestlemania III, 31 are still alive. Of the seven who died, three (Andre the Giant, The Haiti Kid and Little Beaver) had hormonal problems that preceded their careers as professional wrestlers and two (Junkyard Dog and Adrian Adonis) died in car crashes.
Two others, Hercules and Davey Boy Smith, died of heart disease that was almost certainly caused or at least exacerbated by steroid use. Two men dying prematurely is two too many, but the way the media sometimes portray professional wrestling, you'd think the majority of pro wrestlers die in middle age of steroid-related illnesses. That is not the case. Most of the top professional wrestlers of the 1980s are still alive.
The Legend of Toni Braxton …
Jason Kidd vs. Jim Jackson
Jason and Jim -- part of the "Three J's" (Jamal Mashburn was the third) who were supposed to rebuild the Mavericks in the mid-1990s, feuded almost the whole time they were together in Dallas -- 2 1/2 seasons. The cause of the rift? Well, Kidd accused Jackson of selfishness, on the court.
But saucier things happened (or didn't happen) off the court. The story goes that singer Toni Braxton stopped by the Mavs' hotel in Atlanta to pick up her date for the evening -- Kidd -- but left with Jackson instead. And then milked the ensuing publicity for all it was worth, telling a reporter who asked about the situation, "I've at least heard of them [but] as far as dating, whether it's true or not, I can never kiss and tell."
Kidd demanded a trade -- either him or Jackson -- and the Mavs dealt him to the Suns. Jackson exited just a few months later . But both denied Braxton caused the rift. "I don't know how many times we have to say it," Jackson said. "He says it, I say it, it's never happened. It's ridiculous."
"I've never met her," Kidd said long after. "But those type of things hurt a young team. We didn't know how to handle it."
Outdoor NBA – Now a reality …
The Phoenix Suns and Denver Nuggets will play the first outdoor game in more than 35 years during the 2008-09 preseason.
The exhibition game on Oct. 11 at the 16,000-seat Indian Wells Tennis Garden will be televised by TNT.
The game follows the NHL's successful outdoor game on New Year's Day in Buffalo, N.Y.
"What will happen here will be historic," Rick Welts, the Suns' president and chief operating officer, said Tuesday. "More importantly, I think this will be a lot of fun. Most of us learned how to play basketball outdoors. This had the perfect circumstances to do it in the NBA."
It won't be the first NBA game to be played outdoors. The Suns defeated the Milwaukee Bucks in a preseason game on Sept. 24, 1972, at a baseball stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Welts said the ideal weather in October and the facility made it possible to hold the event. The tennis stadium is home to the Pacific Life Open, one of the major events on the men's and women's pro tours.
Because the seating is built around the parameters of a tennis court, rather than a hockey rink like most NBA arenas, Welts said the game will offer a more intimate setting.
"It's an NBA-quality facility with no roof on it," Welts said.
Nuggets center Marcus Camby said he may have to work on his jumper to make it more wind resistant.
"I have a high release -- it's probably not too good outdoors," Camby said. "It will be fun. I've seen hockey have a couple of outdoor games, so it will definitely be interesting. I hope the weather's nice."
In the unlikely event the game is rained out, Welts said it would be played the next day.
Weekly Buccigross …
There is ONLY ONE STEVEN GERRARD! LFC 2, Inter 0