Monday, March 24, 2008

Bad to Worse

When we last visited, the Stars were a mess and the Mavs were worse.

Then, Easter weekend came and went.

The Stars are a bigger mess.

And, the Mavs are still worse.

And, if I were to guess, Dirk is done for the season.

Desperados Football, anyone?

Spurs win, Homestand 0-3, Dirk is hurt badly

The Dallas Mavericks were in the process of losing a double-digit lead, giving up 19 consecutive points to San Antonio. They were losing their cool as well as the game.
And none of that was the worst news.

When Dirk Nowitzki went down clutching his left leg, the Mavericks' list of concerns took a sharp turn away from a discouraging three-game home losing streak.
Now, all emphasis is on simply making the playoffs.

San Antonio's 88-81 victory Sunday afternoon, coupled with Nowitzki's injury that owner Mark Cuban said probably will sideline the superstar about two weeks, leaves the Mavericks in the precarious position of hoping to hang on to a low playoff seed.
There are no guarantees. With 12 games to go, the Mavericks appear headed to a showdown with Golden State and Denver for the last two spots in the Western Conference.

Nowitzki's injury won't make things easier.

It happened with 3:18 to go in the third quarter. San Antonio already had run off 14 of the 19 consecutive points that would push it ahead 61-54, a lead the Spurs would never surrender.

Nowitzki was playing defense against a driving Ime Udoka. The pair collided as Nowitzki blocked Udoka's shot. When Nowitzki landed, his left leg buckled underneath him. He first grabbed his left ankle, then just below the knee. X-rays were negative, but he will have a magnetic resonance imaging test today. The team said it was a lower-leg injury.

"I fell awkwardly, and my left leg got caught underneath me," Nowitzki said in a Mavericks news release.

As Cuban left the locker room toward his suite, he held up two fingers to indicate the weeks Nowitzki is expected to miss.

Working with that rough estimate, the Mavericks will face six or seven games in the next two weeks without their anchor. They are seventh in the Western Conference, two games ahead of ninth-place Denver. Moving up is looking less likely. The No. 6 Spurs are three games up and own the tiebreaker.

Is this good somehow?

But in the midst of what seemed like very bad news — the Mavericks were not overwhelmingly forthcoming with information about Nowitzki’s injury — we have very good news to report.

Not so much for the Mavericks, the players, the coaches or fans who had title aspirations. But if Nowitzki, who will be re-evaluated Monday, is out for an extended period — or simply long enough for the Mavericks to drop out of the playoffs — there will be some winners.

First of all, with no Dirk, no one expects the Mavericks to make the playoffs. If they do, no one would expect them to get out of the first round.

That means that Mark Cuban’s trade for Kidd will not be judged until next season. It appears to be a very bad trade at this point, but if Dirk’s out for awhile, who can really say?

The tension between Cuban and Avery Johnson could ease a little bit. They two had a shouting match after the Mavericks lost to the Lakers on Tuesday, but if Dirk is out, Cuban can’t get upset with Avery. That doesn’t mean that Johnson won’t resent Cuban’s meddling, but with no Dirk, there are no expectations.

And Cuban even did his part to make amends on Sunday when he modeled the latest addition to his T-shirt collection, one that had “Avery’s Team” on the front.
It made for warm and fuzzy TV, but did not seem to be a scene that would play out in a reality series.

Without Nowitzki, the lack of poise that the Mavericks have been exhibiting will not be an issue. Jerry Stackhouse got a silly technical in the third quarter on Sunday when Manu Ginobili boxed him out going for a rebound and the two fell to the court. Stackhouse got upset, put his hand in Ginobili’s face and, in Ginobili’s words, “pushed my head into the floor.”

Hate to be the old man here, but the size of the shorts the Longhorns are wearing is so ridiculous....

Texas marches on to play Stanford on Friday

With a 17-point lead unbelievably cut to three, Texas needed somebody — anybody — to make a couple free throws.

A.J. Abrams was ready — as he had been all day.

Abrams calmly sank two with 9.5 seconds remaining, giving the second-seeded Longhorns just enough margin to hold off seventh-seeded Miami 75-72 in the second round of the South Regional on Sunday.

Abrams gave Texas a 74-69 lead, but the Longhorns weren't quite safe yet. Miami's Raymond Hicks made a 3-pointer, and D.J. Augustin then shot an air ball on his first of two free throws with 1.8 seconds to play. Augustin made the second, however, and Texas was able to break up a long pass to preserve the win.

Abrams scored 26 points on six 3-pointers for the second consecutive game. Texas advances to the regional semifinals to play third-seeded Stanford on Friday.

Aggies were bounced; wondering if the DeAndre Jordan era was worth it ….

And now that the Aggies' experiment with teenaged lottery-pick talent is likely over, you have to wonder:

If coach Mark Turgeon had it to do all over again, would he still persuade DeAndre Jordan to honor his commitment?

To be fair, A&M's 7-foot freshman isn't the reason the Aggies lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday. UCLA's 6-foot-10 freshman is.

But before the season, the Aggies were just as excited about signing Jordan as the Bruins were about signing !Kevin Love. And to see the way it ended — with Love dominating like the All-American he is, and Jordan having teammates angrily grab his jersey and berate him at midcourt — just illustrates the rewards and risks of pinning your hopes on another freshman phenom.

Love and Jordan have been friends for years, and Love thinks so much of his counterpart that he said Jordan “might be the next Andrew Bynum.” He also asked Bruins coach Ben Howland why he didn't try harder to recruit Jordan to UCLA.

The Aggies — particularly sophomore forward Bryan !Davis, who tore into Jordan for pouting instead of joining A&M's postgame team huddle — could give Love and Howland a few reasons why they might've been better off. Even if Jordan still is a sure-fire top-10 pick in this summer's NBA draft — and scouts say he will be if he declares — he never showed much of that promise with the Aggies.

He struggled to score against physical competition, looked lost at times on defense and moved farther and farther down the bench as the season progressed.

It got so bad that by the NCAA tournament, no one at A&M even wanted to talk about him.

When Howland gets a question about Love, he's just as eager to rave as Kansas State's Frank Martin is when asked about Michael Beasley, just as happy to gush as Texas' Rick Barnes was when Kevin Durant's name was brought up. Turgeon? The mere mention of Jordan at this week's news conferences had him wincing and grabbing his temples.

“Offensively, it's never been easy for him,” Turgeon said. “It's going to take time. Whether it's a year from now, two years, four years, I don't know.”

In fact, all sorts of schools are wondering If the one and done super freshmen are really worth it

If freshmen are the story of college basketball this season, then it's a short story.

Indiana's Eric Gordon, Memphis' Derrick Rose, USC's O.J. Mayo, Kansas State's Michael Beasley and UCLA's Kevin Love arguably were among the 10 most popular players in the nation.

It will be an upset if any of them comes back for his sophomore year. Thanks for the short-term memories, fellas.

We're told this is good for college basketball, that getting even one year of them in a college jersey is a treat for us, that we are blessed if we can say, "I saw Mayo drop 18 on Cal Poly!" I'm not so sure anymore.

Oh, I know all the arguments for why high schoolers shouldn't be able to jump directly to the NBA. I used to make them. One year of college ball is better than none. It will make them better basketball players. Who knows, they might decide they like college. They might stay more than a year.

But none of it really is true. They're hell-bent on getting to the NBA. In almost every case, they will get better coaching in the NBA, or at least better coaching for the NBA game. Most of them would rather be listening to bluegrass music than sitting in a classroom. Even on the court, indifference oozes from Mayo.

And for us--or at least for me--the whole thing feels empty. It feels like free agency. You're watching something you know won't last. It's like keeping a wolf as a pet. The first chance it gets, it's going to escape.

Freshmen in captivity doesn't sound like much of a marketing campaign. It's like telling your 18-year-old to be in by 7 p.m. for no other reason than you can. (Hmmmm, not a bad idea.)

Is it really better this way? Most college coaches will say it is. They know if a Derrick Rose comes to their school and then goes to the NBA, other blue-chip players who have the same thing in mind won't be far behind. If a kid has to go to college for a year, he might as well go to the processing station to the stars.

In their heart of hearts, most coaches would prefer to have junior- and senior-led teams. Those teams are more coachable, and they're normally teams that play well together because of their experience together. But those coaches are well acquainted with reality, and reality says that stars help bring in more recruits. And, unless a meteorite hits and changes the landscape in college basketball, recruiting is everything in terms of job security.

It's why USC coach Tim Floyd signed Mayo, even though Mayo's "people" refused to give the coach Mayo's cell-phone number. That's right, Floyd had to wait for Mayo to call him.

That told me right there Mayo was ready for the NBA.

Some critics say that dropping the freshman rule would dilute college basketball. They say the game would suffer, that it wouldn't be nearly as good as it used to be, that it would lose something irretrievable.

I don't think so.

Beasley is better than North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough by miles and miles, but at least we got to know Hansbrough, a junior. Boy, did we get to know him, thanks to overzealous announcers who saw a Wagnerian opera every time they looked in his eyes. But college basketball is bigger than Beasley and Hansbrough. If they weren't there, somebody else would fill the void. They might not be as good as Beasley or Hansbrough, but it wouldn't matter.

The college game is about emotion. It's about raucous crowds and student cheering sections and longtime rivalries. It's about big-name coaches. It takes place inside a vacuum. It's great theater unto itself, regardless of who the actors are.

You don't want to get emotionally attached to freshmen. It was fun watching Greg Oden play for Ohio State last season, but there was something distracting about it.

Oden's accomplishments always were put in the context of what undoubtedly would be his one-year stay in college basketball: Great game against Michigan, but do you think he will go first or second in the draft?

Most Ohio State fans will say he was worth the distraction. Same with Syracuse fans and Carmelo Anthony in 2003. But it's hard to imagine Anthony coming back to campus for a 25-year championship reunion and either him or the fans, if they're honest with themselves, feeling a tight connection.

One and done is no way to go through college.

Either give them a financial reason to stay in college, or let them go to the NBA whenever they want.

This morning, after 31 games, this is how the Top 5 places in the English Premiership looks. Man United is in the cat bird’s seat, and Liverpool is nursing its wounds after its pounding yesterday…7 games left for everyone…

Man United – 73
Chelsea - 68
Arsenal – 67
Liverpool - 59
Everton – 57

3-0 is the final tally for Hick’s boys

There is always one moment in every season when, for the team that are going to finish as champions, everything clicks, the worrying stops, all the hard work comes together and everyone knows it is going to be a year to remember. For Manchester United, this was quite conceivably that moment, another potentially decisive day to go with Steve Bruce's header against Sheffield Wednesday, Eric Cantona's volley at Newcastle, Andy Cole's lob against Tottenham and all the seminal moments in the portfolio of Sir Alex Ferguson's favourite Premier League wins.

That is not to say Ferguson will underestimate the strength of Chelsea's desire to prolong the argument. Yet the pity for United is that Javier Mascherano's buffoonery, and the debate it conjures up about the behaviour of modern-day footballers, will inevitably divert attention away from what was, in essence, a performance of authentic brilliance. Liverpool were dismantled from A to Z, losing to Wes Brown's first goal in almost three years, Cristiano Ronaldo's 34th of the season and a scorching effort from Nani on a day when Mascherano registered his nomination for Clot of theYear, acting as if he thought Sky should have redefined the coming together of England's top four clubs as "Surly Sunday".

Mascherano, to put it succinctly, lost the plot. His behaviour was contemptible and the Football Association will be obliged to take extra disciplinary measures when they consider the way he sought to take out his anger on the referee, Steve Bennett, in a scene more reminiscent of a Friday night punch-up. A lengthy ban should follow, but the real story here was not of one man self-imploding but a team reaching the point of maximum expression.

United had already made a convincing case for being the superior team by the time Mascherano paid the price for his dissent. The gulf in class then became wide enough to resemble an embarrassment for Benítez, his players and everyone associated with Liverpool, not least those supporters who were plunged into such a state of shock even their final chorus of "You'll never walk alone" was cut short.

And before we blame everything on Tom Hicks, we should also consider the spare-ness of his manager. Rafa Benitez is a genius at the Cup competitions, but when it comes to just winning a game against the “Big 3” in league play, here is how he has done since he was hired in June 2004:

Vs. Manchester United 0 - 7 - 1
Vs. Arsenal 3 – 3- 1
Vs. Chelsea 1 – 5 - 2
Total 4 – 15 – 4
In 23 games – Of 69 possible points, Liverpool has pulled 16


Meanwhile, Chelsea charges ahead of Arsenal with a nice win

There are rational causes for gladness around Stamford Bridge now that a fixture with a principal rival has finally been won by the Israeli. What is more, Chelsea have overtaken Arsenal to stand second in the table, five points behind the leaders Manchester United, whom they have still to meet on this ground.

The overall situation will please Sir Alex Ferguson and the Old Trafford squad but Chelsea are at least putting up a fight. They will be particularly capable of making heads ring if Drogba can go on landing blows as he did here. The Ivorian must be infuriating to Stamford Bridge devotees, since it sometimes feels as if he had no sooner set down his pen after signing for the club than the tales of his disaffection began to spread.

He was fully engaged yesterday, particularly after the interval. Arsenal were unlucky since Drogba should have been given offside in the build-up to the equaliser as the ball was launched through the middle. Nonetheless, Arsène Wenger's team began to reel from the moment they opened the scoring. That goal from the right-back Bacary Sagna exposed Chelsea's deficiencies at set-pieces, just as Tottenham had done.

The Frenchman broke away from Salomon Kalou and got in front of Frank Lampard to head in a Cesc Fábregas corner from an acute angle at the near post in the 59th minute. Before long, Sagna hurt an ankle and he eventually had to be replaced, a factor that Wenger blamed, in part, for the outbreak of confusion in his back four. As the Arsenal manager knows, of course, his squad have to be far more resilient than this in adversity.

Arsenal have improved this season, but it now looks like the early stage of a revival. In future, a larger squad will be essential and so, too, will be an enhanced hardiness because brittleness has become apparent over the pounding of the long Premier League programme. A five-point lead has, in mercurial fashion, been converted into a six-point deficit.

Arsenal's showing here was good enough for a period to suggest that the club, who had been the last to beat Chelsea on the Premier League here in February 2004, would repeat the feat. They had been developing some enterprise even before they scored, with Mathieu Flamini, for instance, seeing a raking drive blocked by the goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini after 47 minutes.

Email of the Day:


When are people going to start facing the facts about what type of player Jason Kidd is at this stage of his career? I know everyone wants to blame everything on Avery (he deserves plenty of blame), but Kidd has done nothing to make the team better at all. In fact, they were a better team with Devin Harris running the point. Kidd is a liability in the halfcourt offense. He can't shoot and he can no longer penetrate either. He never gets to the foul line. Is it any coincidence that New Jersey was one of the worst halfcourt offensive teams in the league. Kidd is great in transition, but the Mavs don't have the personnel to be a run and gun team and good teams will make you play in the halfcourt eventually. Devin Harris may not be able to pass like Kidd, but he is way better offensively and was the one player on the team who could get to the rack consistently.

After the trade was made, all I heard about Kidd was how clutch he was and what a great leader he was. However, Kidd has yet to come through in the clutch for the Mavs and hasn't changed the persona of the team one iota. Everyone said the Mavs now have two superstars with Kidd, but Kidd has been at his worst in the big games and didn't step it up at all when Dirk was out vs. Houston or when he went down vs. the Spurs. I am not saying it's all Kidd's fault or even close to it, but he has been a major disappointment so far and deserves his share of the criticism. The Mavs panicked and made a bad trade. They way overestimated Kidd's ability at this point of his career. There was a reason why a lot of basketball people didn't even think Kidd was an upgrade over Harris. For all the good things Kidd can do, he is zero threat offensively. The old team probably wasn't going to win anything either, but this trade did not address their weaknesses at all and actually made the team worse. I just think people need to start being more critical of the Mavs organization for making such a misguided move and realizing Jason Kidd is not close to being the answer to their problems. Anyway, I love listening to BAD Radio every day and reading your blog. Take it easy.


Halen 88, once regarded as a hardcore Cowboys fan, now exposes himself as a “hardcore Lakers fan”. I am sure he also loves the Yankees or Braves. FRONTRUNNER.

HBO Wins again with John Adams


Jay said...

Well the Mavs are done. No Dirk means more easy excuses when the Mavs fail.

Man I am not feeling good ab this Kidd deal right now. I think we half to get back to a run style offense if we want to see him produce. We also need guys who he can throw the ball into. We need post up players. I am on the ditch Avery and trade Josh band wagon.

Eric the Great said...

First, I'm concerned about Jay's grammar.

Second, this offseason there must be major changes. I don't know what that means, but we are slipping very quickly back into mediocrity and in a year or two we could be irrelevant. I don't want to see Avery fired, but that is a lot cheaper for Cuban versus trading away players.

And would someone teach Jason Kidd that you put the orange ball into the orange hoop? There's no points for just hitting the hoop.

jaybrams said...

i never understood the arguments for the age limit / one year of college ball... hmm Dirk, KG, Kobe, Dwight Howard, Amare, Lebron, Jermaine ONeal, McGrady, etc... all HSers, all All-Stars... there were a few rough years when GMs made dumb draft day decisions with the high schoolers. Just like they did with the influx of Euros for a while. They would've wised up. No need for the rule.

now, onto soccer. Three Sr. Squad members for the olympics? Landon, Brad Guzan... and... ?? most are saying defender, but i was so unimpressed with the finishing i'd be tempted to go with another Foward. Midfield (aka Holden) was great, defense was alright, but finishing was just abysmal.

Andy D. said...


This is officially a mentally tired, under confident, average team. You are no longer a top 3 team in the West playing your best. The only good thing about this whole wipeout, is that this team needs to be blown up. Blowing up after this year can save us for the next 3-5 year window.
Avery is fired. Donnie needs to start making some phone calls to big men. (Dwight Howard, etc.)

Who is out there? Who wants this collection of spares?

Bill said...

I've got tickets for the Nuggest game on Thursday and I've been looking forward to this for a couple of months. But then Dirk went down and now I wonder if the Mavs will keep it close. I'm not looking forward to seeing Kidd dribble the ball across halfcourt, dump it off and then disappear for the rest of the play.

Cult of Jeff said...

As much as it saddens me as a Scouser-by-choice, Manu was pounding us prior to Masch's sending off. And yes, he lost his little Argentine mind when he saw the flash of red. Plus, as many callers on 606 pointed out, he had "wished fornication" on the ref many times earlier in the match.

Still, where is the consistency? I can't help but feel Javier was sent off for sins by Ashley Cole eariler in the week. If we want to have a rule ala Rugby League that only the captain can speak to the official, I love that. However, the current rule does not exist in that form, thus Masch asking about the very tenuous decision of a yellow on Torres hardly seems like a bookable offense.

I cannot stand up for Mascherano's actions after the card, but the reasons for the card itself are weak. I also cannot summon up a great deal of angst over the sending-off, since I feel Liverpool was ouclassed (or more specifically - outmanaged) Sunday. However, it underscores the lack of quality Bennett, Clattenburg (sp) and a few select others have displayed this season. Granted, they do not make the large checks of the prem players, but the prem refs do just fine (probably better than I do with my many years of post-grad education). The fact that I know their names is a bit of evidence to this - they are minor celebs themsleves and should be held to the highest standard of referees since they call games in the highest league in the world.