Suns all fired up about taking a serious run at these things …
The Suns pulled the trigger because of Steve Nash far more than Pau Gasol.
Nash turns 34 on Thursday. There will be no alarm bells sounded in Phoenix to commemorate the occasion, since Nash has hushed pretty much every doubt about his durability by playing at an MVP level for the past three-plus seasons, but his bosses are realistic. They know that a team relying heavily on Nash and Grant Hill will likely only have a couple more cracks at the championship that has eluded this franchise for four decades.
"We've got a few years here," Suns president Steve Kerr acknowledged, "where we can really make a push."
The trade might look like a direct reaction to the Lakers' grand theft of Gasol from Memphis, but the Suns knew long before that heist that defending the post and cutting down on the buckets of second-chance points they surrender have been their downfall in the playoffs. This decision was made largely because Phoenix decided that it could no longer wait to change a locker-room dynamic that Nash has openly questioned at times, especially when a morale-booster like Shaq suddenly became available.
Nash spoke in glowing terms of Shawn Marion after the deal was announced -- "I'm a big fan of Shawn's," he said -- and has never specifically mentioned names when lamenting the Suns' occasional dips in togetherness, effort and selflessness. But knowledgeable sources say that the Suns' power brokers, feeding off Nash's growing frustration and exasperation, lost confidence in the group's ability to win it all without some sort of shake-up. They stopped believing that the Suns' pre-Shaq core could overcome the behind-the-scenes negativity that typically involved either Marion or Amare Stoudemire without trading one of them away.
Now that it's finally happened? The giddy Suns instantly gave off a vibe Wednesday that O'Neal's impact on team morale might be as big as anything he'll provide on the floor, even in the unlikely event he winds up being the interior defensive force they've dreamed about. It's the sort of Shaq Effect that never would have been possible had Marion been moved in a more conservative swap for, say, Utah's Andrei Kirilenko, as the Suns and Jazz discussed early in the season.
"I just think we need a little lift," Nash conceded. "We probably can improve our chemistry. … At some point I think there needs to be a healthy balance between being excited and having a spirit about us and at the same time holding each other accountable. I don't think that balance, for the most part, has been [there]."
Said Kerr: "[O'Neal's] presence is magnetic and that is a big part of it."
Dirk helps the Mavs beat a team that was ready to cause mucho embarrassment in downtown Dallas …
Dirk Nowitzki recorded the first triple-double of his career, and what a waste it would have been had it come in a loss to one of the NBA's most undermanned teams.
The Milwaukee Bucks were missing three key players Wednesday night and played only eight, but made up for it with heart, hustle and Mo Williams.
So the Mavericks found themselves in a tie game with just over two minutes left and Nowitzki's massive night in danger of being ruined.
To the rescue came Jason Terry, Brandon Bass and J.J. Barea, all of whom made clutch plays in the final moments to spring the Mavericks to a 107-96 victory at American Airlines Center.
Nowitzki finished with 29 points, 10 rebounds and a career-best 12 assists for the Mavericks' first triple-double in three years. He'd never had more than eight assists in a game, which rendered a triple-double impossible.
"Always, getting the assist part has been the problem," Nowitzki said. "At halftime, I think I had five assists, so I was kind of thinking that this might be the night. I've been close other times, so it's nice to get it out of the way.
"It took almost 10 years, which is not good, but at least I got it, and we got the win."
The last triple-double for the Mavericks was by Antoine Walker, who had 11 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists against Philadelphia on Jan. 14, 2004.
Amazingly, Nowitzki is not the first German wearing a Mavericks uniform to have a triple-double against Milwaukee. Detlef Schrempf did it against the Bucks on Jan. 30, 1987.
Nowitzki's versatile play helped the Mavericks keep pace with the stubborn Bucks, who refused to let the absence of Michael Redd, Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons stop them.
Williams had 28 points at halftime, including a 40-foot bank shot at the buzzer. That was a sure sign that the Mavs had to clamp down on him in the second half.
"If this was football, two game balls would be given out," Mavs coach Avery Johnson said. "One would be Dirk and the next one would be Devean George with his second-half performance defensively on Mo Williams. George really brought a lot of energy on him."
And then this email that is amazing:
On the Mavs post game show on fox, they flashed the stat that Dirk was the “first German Maverick to have a triple double since Detleph Shrempt (sp?)”.
What the hell? Next are they going to tell us that Marc Cuban is the first Maverick owner worth over a billion dollars, brown hair, slightly overweight, and have a failing reality show to sit courtside at a game?
Revo feels good about Nolan Ryan Hire ….
Nolan Ryan is back home where he belongs.
In doing so, he fulfills a dream that began when he was a player, when he envisioned someday being in a position to help determine the direction and future of a major league club.
"I've known since I was a player, later in my career, that I would like to be involved in the shaping of an organization," Ryan said. "This gives me that opportunity, and it's why I accepted it."
"I haven't seen him this excited in a long, long time," son Reid Ryan said.
Ryan is the Rangers' fifth president since Tom Hicks bought the team in 1998, but the first since Tom Schieffer, who was part of the George W. Bush-Rusty Rose regime, to straddle both the baseball and business operations.
"I don't think there would have been anyone else besides Nolan that I would have done this for," Hicks admitted. "Nolan's the biggest hero we've ever had."
Landing Ryan, who will forgo the final year of his contract as special assistant to the general manager with the Astros, is a coup of immense proportions for Hicks and the Rangers and provides an organization that hasn't finished higher than third in the American League West since 1999 with a tremendous boost of class and credibility.
As for his impact on the field and in the front office, that will take time.
If you were hoping that he'd immediately step in and clean house, in other words, that's not going to happen, nor should it. Not yet, at least.
"I don't come in with any preconceived ideas of what I want to do or what needs to be done," said Ryan, who indicated that he will make two extended trips to spring training to become acquainted with players and staff. "I think it'll be a learning process for me.
"I'm going to try to get my arms around our organization so I'll have a better understanding of who we are and what we do and what I can do to help us be better."
Hicks said that he and Ryan are still working out the details of his contract, but it's expected to be for three to five years.
There were hints that it may, at some point, include an ownership share, not just of the Rangers, but in Hicks Holdings, which includes the Stars and the Liverpool FC soccer team in Great Britain.
Just so no one would get the idea that by hiring Ryan as club president he has lost faith in general manager Jon Daniels, Hicks is extending Daniels' contract, which runs through 2009, by at least another year.
"I'm so excited about having a 30-year-old general manager, who's one of the smartest in the business, partnering with a 61-year-old Hall of Famer who's seen it all, been there, done it and knows how to measure character," Hicks said.
Daniels said he welcomes Ryan's experience and will value his input.
"What he's accomplished in the game and in life, he wouldn't be here if his sole goal wasn't to win a world championship," Daniels said. "That's what we're all in this for, killing ourselves every day about."
The Rangers made sure Ryan's return to Arlington was met with great heraldry. Hicks had every team employee and all ballpark employees assemble in the Rangers' Legends of the Game Museum for a pre-news conference introduction, where Ryan was met with a standing ovation.
After that, everyone trooped over to the Diamond Club, where TV monitors throughout the place flashed the same message: "Welcome home, Nolan."
I would just say this on the topic, the bar is low, Nolan. You should have no problem exceeding expectations. In fact, mix in a 2nd place, and we will throw you a parade…
Morrow feature as the Stars are in Minnesota tonight ….
Brenden Morrow is a bit of a closet superstar.
Known as a quintessential grinder, an edgy elbower, a master of the face-wash, Morrow has joked in the past that his goal-scoring range is somewhere between five and 10 feet from the net.
But if you glimpse the childhood memories of the Dallas Stars captain, you'll see that's not how he started out. Morrow's schoolboy heroes were the dazzlers – Brett Hull, Michael Jordan, Doug Flutie, those were the guys that Morrow loved to watch and loved to emulate.
"I'm sure it's that way for every kid," Morrow said. "Everybody wants to be those guys."
But for Morrow, he set aside those dreams early in his NHL career. He came into the league fighting for every inch of ice and found a home amongst the ugly battles in front of the net. And to tell you the truth, he was fine with that.
But somewhere along the way to 23 goals and 30 assists this season, Morrow has morphed. Sure, he's the first guy in line to protect a teammate, the meanest when it comes to battling an opposing defenseman or the most annoying in front of a goalie, but now Morrow is letting his inner superstar shine.
On Friday against Edmonton, Morrow showed a little Brett Hull trick, shoving his way to the front of the net, before pushing back away from the scrum to open up some space. As he floated backward into the 20-foot range, linemate Mike Ribeiro found him with a perfect pass, and Morrow released a stunning one-timer that whistled past the ear of goalie Dwayne Roloson and snapped the top of the net.
It was a "goal-scorer's goal" if ever there was one.
"His game is evolving," Stars coach Dave Tippett said. "He's still a player that needs to be around the net, but he has the ability to step out and find those areas where he can score. He has a great shot. That's probably his biggest area of improvement, finding the areas to shoot and getting it away quick."
Morrow credits Hull (the Stars new co-general manager) with putting a lot of the ideas in his head.
"Hullie wants me to work from the net and get away from it, and I do think that's been helping," Morrow said. "You give yourself more space, you give yourself the opportunity to maybe get a little more on the shot, you give yourself more time. You know what it is, I think it gives you options. When you step back, you just see things better."
And that mindset has led to more skill plays. Morrow is perfecting a backhand no-look pass into the slot – the one he used Monday to set up Jere Lehtinen's power play goal – and he's even improved his shootout technique. He tallied the game-winner Monday when the shootout against Vancouver went to the sixth round.
"It's kind of surprised me a little," Ribeiro said. "I heard he was a hard grinder who stayed at the front of the net. But he really has good hands, he has great vision, he's a great passer and he really has a big shot. I'm surprised at how good his release is."
Ever wonder why I am happy to not live in Wisconsin anymore? Check out what my parents are dealing with this morning …
Madison came close to making weather history Wednesday, recording the second-highest snowfall in a 24-hour period since records started being kept more than 100 years ago.
National Weather Service meteorologist J.J. Wood said the Dane County Regional Airport got 13.3 inches of snow by 6 p.m. Wednesday, second only to the 17.3 inches it got on Dec. 3, 1990.
And the effects of the storm will likely be felt during this morning's commute.
Dane County Highway Department crew leader Mark Schnabel said plow crews would be out all night salting and applying a salt-brine mix trying to get the roads clear by morning. But he cautioned that the crews were dealing with a difficult combination of snow-packed and ice-covered roads.
"I hope it'll improve," Schnabel said at about 11 p.m. Wednesday. "The county roads, with the winds we had, some are impassable right now. We'll bring out the road graders in the morning and try to scrape it off."
"But it's going to be snow-covered and slippery in a lot of spots," he said.
He said one probable trouble spot would be Interstate 39-90 from Stoughton into Rock County, where traffic was stalled throughout Wednesday afternoon and night due to semitrailers' inability to make it up a hill near Stoughton.
"There's no traffic moving there, which usually helps keep the roads clear from the movement of the cars and the heat they give off. But nothing's moving, so everything's just getting packed down."
George Dreckmann, spokesman for the Madison Streets Division, expected city streets to be in better shape.
"I think the streets will be close to being all plowed by morning," he said. "It's a very slow plow because of the total accumulation and the wind. We're trying to get some salt down on the main arterial roads by morning."
The storm led to widespread white-out conditions, caused crashes too numerous to count and prompted mass closings of schools, businesses and government offices. Conditions got so dicey in Green County that even snowplows had to pull off the roads.
The highest snow total Kuhlman's office received Wednesday was from Orfordville, about nine miles northwest of Beloit, which saw 21 inches of snow.
All Time Record falls! …I am sure Madison is proud…
Coming into today's heavy snowfall, about 63" of snow had fallen this winter at the airport through midnight last night, including about 3" Tuesday night, so Madison is only 13" away (not counting today's total) from the all-time winter record of 76.1" set in 1978-79.
And, the Packers lost another playoff home game at Lambeau...
Wire Fans ask What did Snoop say? ….
After Corriveau questioned her about the fight’s origin, she responded: “I don’t really know ’cause he came in all drunk and rowdy and whatever, and the man just start saying (inaudible) drunk,” according to a transcript.
Corriveau then asked her if Roseborough tried to flirt.
“He ain’t try to flirt with me or no [expletive] like that,” Pearson responded. “It was so tight in there. ... He was saying something like um I don’t know what the [expletive] he was (inaudible) but I mean, I’m like what (inaudible) [expletive] man get out of my face.”
Pedro enjoys cockfighting …
Optimism abounds about the Rangers:
I am a big fan of Nolan Ryan, but this hiring is nothing more than a dog and pony show. Hicks referenced bringing pride back to the organization, Nolan's successful ventures, etc. What a load of crap. This is the same crap we have heard year after year from Hicks for both organizations. This hiring will do NOTHING for the Rangers. Nolan will last 3 years at most then fade away. Then it will be some other fantabulous hiring that will bring the Rangers back to prominence and their rightful place in annals of baseball. Unfortunately, Hicks won't fire himself, which is really the problem with both his teams. Well three if you include Liverpool.
A year later, this is still funny
When I can play this on my guitar, I will have arrived. I am not anticipating it happening very soon.