Friday, February 29, 2008

Wow. Watercooler Topics Everywhere!

Wow. I did not accomplish my full mission from last night, as Lost has not been viewed. But, boy, what a sports night. 2 lead stories today for sure.

1) The inexplicable stupidity of Avery Johnson.

2) The amazing brilliance of Brad Richards.

Both deserve top billing. I just don’t know what Avery was thinking. That was impossible to justify. He really should and will be grilled all day by pretty much anyone who watched the game. Jason Kidd is the be-all end-all that you claimed he was. Then, against the hated Spurs, you have one possession to win or tie. And you sit him? Like I said, amazing stupidity.

Then, Brad Richards raised the bar so high for himself yesterday. 5 assists is his career high, and is the most assists of any Dallas player in the history of the NHL in Dallas. The Stars look crazy-loaded, and now you can dare to dream how good this thing can get for them. I am so fired up for this Stars stretch run because I think they might be Sergei Zubov away from being the best team in the league. Wow. Stanley Cup dreams return?

Oh, and the Cowboys, in what might be the most important story of all, secure their Left Tackle.

All in all, a note-worthy sports day. We should likely do a talk show today.
Mavericks Links, first:

Mark Stein says it all very well

Five games.

Or make that four games and one TNT Thursday showdown in San Antonio that had an undeniable playoffs-in-February kind of feel.

Either way . . .

It didn't even take two weeks for Mavericks coach Avery Johnson to make us question why he pushed for the Jason Kidd trade.

Not even two weeks to register fresh doubts that Johnson's ego can prevent him from overthinking or overtaking the game or that he's really ready to relinquish control of his offense to a veteran point guard who doesn't need to be micromanaged.

In just the fifth game of Kidd's Dallas rebirth, Johnson stunningly and inexplicably benched Kidd for the Mavs' final two possessions in crunch time against their biggest rival. Two possessions, spanning nearly 35 seconds.

That's the same Kidd who Dallas worked so hard to bring back because, in Johnson's words, this team needed someone after those playoff collapses against Miami and Golden State who "knows how to finish games."

On this night, though, it looked as if Dallas' own Lil' General had already forgotten the new game plan. With the Mavs down two points in the final minute of a certifiable thriller that they would up losing 97-94, Johnson came out of two straight timeouts with a play call that -- unfathomable as it sounds -- he thought would work better without Kidd's involvement.

Both calls were from the Mavs' catalog of trusted isolation plays, designed to get Dirk Nowitzki to attack the Spurs' defense from the middle of the floor. Johnson explained afterward that he wanted to make sure Nowitzki was surrounded by shooters after catching the ball to discourage San Antonio from double-teaming, leading him to hold Kidd out because he feared Spurs coach Gregg Popovich surely would have ordered Kidd's defender to immediately double Nowitzki.

Yet there are at least three major flaws in that thinking.

1. Kidd has never been a shooter. You can't trade for Jason Kidd to be your ace closer and then worry about his shooting. Kidd actually said earlier this week that Dirk has been "helping me with my shot," but it's not going to improve fast enough to prevent this from being an issue in every playoff game Dallas plays. The solution? You trust Kidd's resume a closer, put him in pick-and-roll situations with Nowitzki at game's end and thus give your trade maximum opportunity for success as it was conceived.

2. Johnson himself has likened the Mavs' final 20-odd games to a learning-on-the-fly training camp. So why would you delete Kidd from the exact situation that you, as head coach, described as his specialty just days earlier?

3. When the Mavs came up with offensive rebounds after two Nowitzki misses in that final half-minute, they ended up with a busted play to decide things. But instead of a Kidd/Nowitzki pick-and-roll for the Mavs to force overtime or win it, their combo was Jason Terry and Nowitzki. You saw the result.

Nowitzki did get open briefly on the screen/roll, but Terry couldn't get the ball to him. Nor could Terry avoid getting his shot blocked in the lane, sealing Dallas' defeat.

Meanwhile . . .

The veteran who has the ability to make something out of nothing -- Kidd -- was
rooted to the bench for that sequence as opposed to having the ball in his hands to try to slip it to Nowitzki or find a shooter in the corner like Jerry Stackhouse (or, say, Terry) for a clean look. Worse yet: Dallas' first play Nowitzki for didn't work and Johnson declined again after a second timeout to send Kidd in, even though you always want a Kidd or Manu Ginobili making that decisive play -- whether or not they've been with the team long enough to know all the plays -- because so many last-second situations in the NBA turn into busted plays because of sophisticated defenses.

No one's suggesting Johnson was the Mavs' lone culprit Thursday night. Nowitzki couldn't convert his final jumper or a lefty drive after sinking a strongly contested J with 1:38 to play to make it 94-94. Terry missed a big free throw and a wide-open jumper of his own in crunch time and, whether or not he was provoked by the Spurs' Bruce Bowen, earned himself a costly technical foul that triggered Dallas' loss of composure in the third quarter as soon as the visitors had seized a 10-point lead.

He was actually better defensively on Ginobili than he was at his preferred end, credibly pestering one of the league's hottest players but totaling just seven points on 3-for-10 shooting, four rebounds and 10 assists while struggling somewhat to impose himself in the halfcourt when the pace slowed in the fourth quarter.

Yet none of that can make sense of Johnson's reasoning in this one. Kidd was a diplomat in his postgame address -- telling reporters in San Antonio that "I understand and support my coach's decision" because he's the new guy -- but all of the above would have been just as mind-boggling had the Mavs pulled out a victory.
As discussed in this cyberspace on multiple occasions already my only skepticism regarding the wisdom of parting with five players, two first-round picks and $3 million to reacquire Kidd -- as well as the extra $11 million it'll cost Mavs owner Mark Cuban this season after his first trade with New Jersey collapsed -- was Avery-related. As in: Will Avery ever really be able to restrain his controlling instincts and relinquish lead decision-maker status offensively?

Now that's only one of the questions confronting Johnson entering Game 6 of the new Kidd Era at home Friday against Sacramento. You inevitably wonder what sort of messages Avery transmitted to Kidd, when they're just building a relationship, by holding him out of a such a high-profile finish on national TV.

If you're a serial optimist, by contrast, perhaps you're wondering whether Dallas can come out of all this unexpectedly fortunate, based on the idea that such an ill-conceived coaching decision happening so soon after the trade will generate such an outcry in Big D that Johnson winds up backing off faster than expected.

In the interim?

This might be remembered as the first Thursday on record that the studio assessment of TNT's Charles Barkley was met with near-unanimous approval:

"There's no sense in making the Jason Kidd trade," Barkley said, "if they're not going to play him in crunch time."

Tempers flared last night as these two teams don’t like eachother

The new blood pumping through the Mavericks didn't change the bad blood broiling between them and the San Antonio Spurs.

Emotions, tempers and controversy – all the things that helped build this rivalry – were on display Thursday night. New players might be on board for both sides, but the same, old Texas-style feud still exists.

The only things lacking in this one were execution by the Mavericks and an appearance by Jason Kidd at the end.

Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry combined to miss the Mavericks' last five shots over the final 65 seconds, and the Spurs got two free throws from Tim Duncan to secure a 97-94 victory at AT&T Center.

Bruce Bowen, who the Mavericks said threw an intentional elbow at Terry earlier in the game, blocked Terry's drive down the lane with less than four seconds left, ending a final Mavericks possession that included three missed shots.

"It was a heavyweight fight, and we just didn't have that last punch at the end to bring it home," Mavericks coach Avery Johnson said.

The Mavericks led by 10 points in the third quarter but were down a point going into the fourth. They shot 6-of-19 in the final quarter.

Gone is their modest three-game winning streak as they start a tough stretch of games with a heart-wrenching loss. After tonight's game against Sacramento at American Airlines Center, the Mavericks visit the Los Angeles Lakers and Utah, who like the Spurs, are division leaders.

And the Richards performance from Heika

As debuts go, Brad Richards' was, well, perfect.

The Dallas Stars' blockbuster trade deadline acquisition tied the franchise record – and set a personal best – for assists in a game, recording five to help lead the Stars to a 7-4 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night at a sold-out American Airlines Center.

"Maybe I shouldn't have done that," Richards joked when asked about elevated expectations.

No, no, this is exactly why the Stars brought him in.

This is exactly why they sent Mike Smith, Jussi Jokinen and Jeff Halpern to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

This is exactly why they took on Richards' hefty salary, which will count $7.8 million against the salary cap for the next three seasons.

This is exactly why they decided to mess with the chemistry of a team that was winning.

Because it gives Dallas the chance to get better.

Stars coach Dave Tippett played Richards on a line with Niklas Hagman and Antti Miettinen, and Hagman responded with the first hat trick of his career. He left Mike Modano on a checking line with Steve Ott and Jere Lehtinen, and Modano finished with a goal and an assist.

Tippett rolled four lines, and the passing seemed infectious as the Stars danced around an outmanned Chicago team that had played the night before against Phoenix.
"That's certainly how you'd like to draw it up," veteran forward Stu Barnes said of the start of the Richards era. "When you bring in a player like that and you get a rhythm in your game and you're rolling lines, the confidence does really spread throughout the team.

"It is just one game, and you don't want to get too excited, but hopefully this is a glimpse of what we can be."

The Stars improved to 41-22-5 (87 points) and continue to chase Detroit for the NHL's best record. Dallas has won 13 of its last 15 games and finished with 12 wins in February – the most in one month in franchise history. These are heady times for the Stars.

"We brought in an elite player, and he is going to make us better," Modano said.

Hagman gets a hat trick and yet isn’t the lead story

New Stars forward Brad Richards remembers playing against Niklas Hagman when Richards was with Tampa Bay and Hagman was with Florida.

"I know he was a pain to play," Richards said with a smile. Thursday, "the pain" was Richards' biggest beneficiary.

Richards, acquired Tuesday in the five-player trade that sent Mike Smith to the Lightning, recorded a career-high five assists in his Stars debut as Dallas beat Chicago 7-4 at American Airlines Center.

Niklas Hagman tallied his first hat trick off three of Richards' helpers, helping the Stars win for the 13th time in 15 games. Mike Modano had a dazzling goal and an assist and Richards' linemate, Antti Miettinen, had two assists.

And Richards helped the Stars continue their impressive climb in the standings. Dallas now holds an eight-point lead over second-place Anaheim in the Pacific Division and is only three points behind NHL-leading Detroit
Richards became the first Stars player with a five-point game since Modano had a goal and four assists Feb. 10, 2002, against Anaheim. Richards is the third player in franchise history -- and the first since the move to Dallas -- to post five assists in a game.

"He's just a good player in all situations," Stars coach Dave Tippett said. "The biggest thing Brad and I talked about is he just wants to come in and fit in."
Tippett said that natural fit, at least for now, is at center. He knows many would like to see Modano and Richards together but is cautious about pairing two natural centers.

"[Richards] has to be around the puck," Tippett said. "That's where he's at his best. And that's where Mo's at his best, too. To put them together and say, 'You guys just make this work,' it's too much of an adjustment right now. We'll just see how this pans out."

Richards was strong in every situation: 5 on 5, power play and penalty kill. And his chemistry with Hagman was undeniable.

"He's always in your face, and he's a pain to play against because he plays the right way," Richards said. "I know he's a good player, and Miets is a smart player, too."

Hagman now has 25 goals, one behind team leaders Brenden Morrow and Mike Ribeiro. Hagman said his first hat trick came seven years ago in a preseason game with Florida.

Cowboys were busy yesterday; consequently won’t be busy today …the money is spent…

In the chess game that was the negotiations with left tackle Flozell Adams, the Cowboys decided that keeping Adams to protect the blind side of quarterback Tony Romo was too important to lose.

The Cowboys signed Adams to a six-year contract extension for about $43 million Thursday, hours before he would have been eligible for free agency at 11 p.m.
"He will be one of the highest-paid offensive linemen in the league, and he wanted to stay, and they wanted him to stay," said Jordan Woy, Adams' agent. "He got enough money early in the deal; that is what I was concerned with."

Woy said Adams got a higher three-year average than guard Leonard Davis received in 2007 from the Cowboys. And Woy said Adams' signing bonus was $15 million, close to the $16 million Davis received as part of his seven-year, $49.6 million contract.
In other developments, the team is in trade talks concerning nose tackle Jason Ferguson, according to a source.

The Cowboys can't move Ferguson until today. According to the source, the likely destination is Miami.

The Cowboys have offered tenders to three of their four restricted free agents, including the highest offer possible to running back Marion Barber.

Barber received a one-year contract offer of $2.56 million. Although he is free to sign an offer sheet with another team, the Cowboys have seven days to match any offer. If they let him go, they would receive first- and third-round draft picks.
On Wednesday, the Cowboys had planned to give Barber the first-round tender of $2.017 million, but the expected demand for the Pro Bowl running back prompted the team to give itself more insurance.

Defensive end Chris Canty's offer was $2.017 million. The Cowboys would get a first-round draft pick if he signs with another team and they chose not to match.
Guard Joe Berger received the original draft tender of $927,000.

The Cowboys did not tender restricted free-agent running back Tyson Thompson.

In what may be a foreshadow of things to come, Favre’s retirement is announced by mistake …I have a disturbance in the force that tells me he is out…

Brett Favre Decision 2008 took an odd turn Thursday when a sprinkling of visitors to found themselves staring at the headline, "Favre to Retire."

Within a few minutes, the mysterious page was pulled off the Green Bay Packers' official Web site, but not before some visitors had copied the page and alerted media sources about its existence. A firestorm brewed as word spread of the unofficial announcement and forced the Packers to deny Favre had made a decision on whether to play next season.

Team spokesman Jeff Blumb told the Journal Sentinel that the posting was of a page that was created in case Favre announced his retirement. He said it wasn't intended to be posted live and was not created in anticipation of an upcoming announcement.

"As most media outlets have done, each year prepares its Web site to handle the traffic in case Brett Favre does retire," Blumb said in an e-mail. "The URL for this 'Breaking News' page, which also was used last year when Brett announced his return, was accidentally posted as live, when it should have been disabled until needed, if needed at all."

Blumb said a third party helped produce the content on the Packers' site with the supervision of the team.

Favre's agent, James "Bus" Cook, said he was aware of the Internet snafu but had not heard a word from Favre about his plans for next season. Cook said he didn't bring the subject up with Favre and expected a call when the decision was made.

Fueling speculation that the announcement was legitimate were comments Wednesday from team President Mark Murphy that the Packers might hear something from Favre before the week was over. It was easy to see why some people might be skeptical of the Packers' claim that an announcement wasn't imminent.

But general manager Ted Thompson adamantly denied that the Packers knew Favre's intentions for next season and said he was sorry for the stir created by the posting on the Web site.

"Obviously, it caused a lot of consternation and angst for our fans," Thompson said. "But there's nothing there. We'll look into it and see how it happened and make sure it doesn't happen again."

CBS signs up with MMA

CBS is bringing mixed martial arts, the bone-crunching combat sport popularly known as "cage fighting," to prime-time television this spring, the U.S. network said on Thursday.

Branded as barbaric by critics in the 1990s for its lack of rules, mixed martial arts, or MMA, has evolved into a more mainstream sport that bars biting, eye-gouging, head-butting and strikes to the groin.

But fierce punching, kicking, karate, judo and wrestling moves -- with no protective gear -- are still very much a part of the sport.

One of its biggest stars, the bald, bearded Kimbo Slice, has become a sensation for video clips showing him punching his adversaries into submission within 30 seconds. The sport remains unsanctioned in more than a dozen states.
Beginning in April or May, CBS plans to broadcast four MMA events each year as two-hour live specials airing on Saturday nights, a time period once reserved for such family fare as "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "The Bob Newhart" and "The Carol Burnett Show."

Saturday nights have become a virtual dead zone for broadcast networks generally due to drastically changing viewer habits. CBS now devotes much of its Saturday prime-time lineup to movies, the news magazine "48 Hours Mystery" and reruns of its hit crime dramas.

But CBS executives are seizing on the growing popularity of mixed martial arts, especially among the young men most prized by TV advertisers, as an opportunity to build a lucrative franchise where none exists.

"It is a sport that has a very strong fan base and attracts a terrific audience," CBS Entertainment executive Kelly Kahl told Reuters. "We're putting it on Saturday nights, a night that has been underserved by all the networks for quite some time. So it's low risk and a potentially large reward."

CBS is bringing MMA fights to commercial network TV for the first time through a deal with ProElite Inc., one of the sport's leading promoters, which has produced mixed martial arts for the sibling cable channel Showtime since last year.
ProElite matches, and those of its larger competitor, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, also are big draws on pay-per-view television, and tickets to live events are often priced at more than $500 per seat.

Kahl said CBS would broadcast its MMA matches as they are already presented on Showtime, with no special rules or alterations to tone down the level of violence.

Predator and Alien versus Lloyd Christmas

Trampoline Gone Wild


dim499 said...

This might not be a good day for Avery to check out some Mavs message boards.

Flaco said...

Bob....chill on the Stars.

That was a great game last night...but I'm still just hoping and praying this team can make it out of the 1st round. I think that needs to be all the dreaming the Stars do.

I noticed you got pushed down a few chairs last night in the press box...and why can't Dan ever be there to see the entire game?

Blog Tavern said...

I've been reading this blog for years, but I've never been riled up enough to post a comment. Until now.

If I'm Cuban last night, I'm fighting the urge to fire Avery on the spot, right as we're walking off the court into the lockers.

The Mavs are dysfunctional. I should probably devote my own blog entry to this topic, but in a nutshell, it starts at with Avery and works its way down.

(By the way, did anyone notice with about 3 minutes left, with JET and Kidd on the floor at the same time, Kidd carried the ball across the timeline and JET came running up to him and demanded the ball - Kidd gave it to him, at which point JET proceeded to dribble 20 feet to his right, pull up for a 15 footer with a man IN HIS FACE, he was NOT open, and he missed the shot. Again, why trade for Kidd - we could have had that stagnant offense without the trade...)

It's just infuriating. The Mavs may not make the playoffs. The Musers this morning were asking what happens if this team loses again in the first round. Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves here, this team isn't a shoe-in for the playoffs in the first place. And I ALMOST hope they do miss it - no way Cubes can keep Avery around if that happens, right?...

Jay said...

On Mavs, ya I thought it odd to leave Kidd out on nat'l tv against the Spurs. I don't think he'll do that again.

On the Stars, I'm finally interested tho I can't get any of the games so what's the use? Well if they make it to the second round maybe I can finally watch Stars hockey bc it would be on nat'l TV at that point I assume. Go hockey, -J

TroyA said...

Good riddance to the little foot soldier. Avery Johnson showed his true colors by his ego driven exit interview with the local press. The problem with Avery is and always will be is that he actually thinks he was a Hall of Fame point guard and nothing could be farther from the truth. Add that to his massive ego and need to micro manage and that will never work in the NBA where they have athletes that have I-Q's of a rock and don't like any type of control and rules. Now we got to put up with his lovely voice on television probbaly. At least he doesn't think articulation is a sex act like most of his brothers.