We are leaving with the Stars today on our annual road trip. It is always a highlight of my calendar year, but this year, with the Stars in free-fall, I wonder if this will be a tension filled trip with guys not in the mood for hilarity. We shall see.
In other news…
Welcome Clippers – Thank you!…
The healing powers of the Los Angeles Clippers are so strong that if Dirk Nowitzki gets really, really close to them, his ankle might magically get better overnight.
As cure-alls go, the Clips were better than a slug of penicillin in the backside for the Dallas Mavericks. They didn't have to look pretty or play particularly sharp to come away with a vitally important 103-90 victory to snap a three-game losing streak in their first outing since Nowitzki's injury.
A sensational team-wide rebounding night and standout efforts by Josh Howard, Erick Dampier and Jerry Stackhouse sparked a third-quarter getaway as the Mavericks finished the period with a 12-2 binge. Their lead never dropped below a dozen in the fourth quarter.
Howard, who couldn't buy a shot early in the game, made a living at the free throw line, then heated up from the field and finished with 32 points, with 18 coming in the third frame. It was his best scoring output since he had 32 on Jan. 21.
Dampier had a double-double before halftime and finished with 19 points and 17 rebounds, prompting one fan in the high-priced seats to yell: "Where's that been?"
The answer would be that it's a lot harder to produce those kinds of numbers against San Antonio or Boston than it is against the Clippers, who lost their eighth in a row. Yes, everybody gets well against them.
But no matter whom it came against, the Mavericks needed a victory to build a shred of momentum as they head out for tough road games at Denver and Golden State in the next five days. The win gave the Mavericks a bit more breathing room in the seventh spot, moving them 1 ½ games ahead of the Warriors and two games up on the ninth-place Nuggets.
"Winning has always been a great deodorant," said Jason Kidd, who had 10 points and eight assists. "It helps with making the bumps and bruises go away and gives you a little more confidence, especially the getaway game going on the road."
The Mavericks could ill afford a loss to a team that, as Stackhouse said, "is not playing for anything right now." The Mavericks had a 12-point lead early but had to fight out of a close game in the second half. To their credit, they made sure there was no drama down the stretch.
Dirk News is improving? …
The first 48 hours are supposed to tell a lot about an injury, and the Mavericks said they got all the right results about Nowitzki's left ankle and knee problems. It's looking like the original two-week prognosis by owner Mark Cuban might be a worst-case scenario.
"From what I'm hearing, he's doing really well," Johnson said Tuesday. "That doesn't mean he's going to be back anytime soon. But for the type of injury, he's doing well.
Hopefully, we'll catch a break with it. And he'll heal like he normally heals, and it won't take that long."
Officially, the team still says Nowitzki is out for an unspecified time.
Cowlishaw takes the controversial view that these trades might not be going well …
When they went 4-4 initially, I said it wasn't a big deal. The team needed at least 10 games with Kidd in the lineup to come together, and those four losses were on the road against the top four teams in the West.
Their big week was supposed to be last week with the Lakers, Celtics and Spurs coming to Dallas. I thought they needed to win two out of three to make a statement.
Instead, they lost all three games and Nowitzki maybe for two weeks, maybe more.
If the Kidd deal has failed, the trade for Brad Richards has produced even worse results for the Stars.
There was that initial franchise-tying five-assist night against Chicago. Since then ... almost nothing.
The Stars have gone 1-7 since Richards' first game with Dallas. He has two goals and two assists in those eight games. He's not scoring, and neither is anyone else. Dallas has scored totals of one, one, one, three, three, three, one and two goals in the eight games.
As someone who supported both trades, although I considered the Richards deal a very high risk in the long run because of his salary ($7.8 million average the next three years), I'm not going to flip-flop and say the deals shouldn't have been done.
The Mavericks were going nowhere with Devin Harris at point guard. And if you're worried about Kidd and his abominable shooting, understand that both guards are shooting 41 percent from the field since the trade but Kidd is shooting far better from 3-point range.
I know, I know. That's hard to believe given what we witnessed last week. But before going 1 for 10 on 3-pointers in the losses to LA, Boston and San Antonio, Kidd was hitting better than 50 percent from 3-point range. Harris is tossing them in at a 25 percent rate in New Jersey, which has slipped out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture (hard to do).
I think there is some real truth to the belief that both head coaches have something to do with the failures of the deals.
If Avery Johnson isn't getting more positive results with Kidd at the point than he did with Jason Terry or Harris, then maybe it says something about how he works with his point guards.
Before getting into this road trip that could knock the team down to ninth in the West standings, Johnson should meet with Kidd and ask him how he thinks things should be run.
Of course, without Nowitzki, the Mavericks are going to struggle even if Kidd plays at his career best.
As for Dave Tippett and Richards, the Stars coach isn't giving him the ice time he needs. Only three times in nine games has Richards played 20 minutes. In Tampa Bay, he regularly played 23, 25 even 27 minutes a night.
The Stars may be deeper at center than the Lightning, but between power plays, penalty kills and Richards' ability to at times share the ice with Mike Modano, he ought to be getting more than 18 minutes a game to prove his worth.
Jon Barry has the Mavs bounced out of the playoffs …
Who won't make the playoffs?
Dallas falls out. When Dirk Nowitzki went down and had to be carried off the floor on Sunday, Mavs owner Mark Cuban looked like his dog had been run over by a truck.
Two weeks in Western Conference, the minimum Nowitzki is expected to miss, and you can drop quickly. And without Dirk, Dallas is in serious trouble. The remaining Clippers game coming up is a must-win.
They made all these moves in the offseason to get guys who could defend. Now how are they going to score? I don't see where they get points from. Josh Howard is your No. 1 option, but I don't see how you can rely on him. Jason Kidd's averaging eight points a game. Just don't see them scoring enough.
Who gets in?
If Dallas is out, it's Denver. I wouldn't say this is a sure thing, because as great as the Nuggets are offensively, they are equally bad defensively. Is the offense going to be enough? They've got the a big game with Dallas at home on Thursday. The loss of Dirk should light a fire under the Nuggets.
Denver guard J.R. Smith is a wildcard with the impact he can have coming off the bench.
Rangers keep Jason Botts …
But Jon Daniels is the general manager and while Washington's chief concern is winning the next ball game, Daniels worries not only about today's game, but next week's, next month's, even next year's and the year(s) after that.
Washington's focus is immediate. The nature of Daniels' job demands that he always think big picture.
Occasionally those worlds collide, as they did Tuesday.
The organizational decision was to keep minor league wonderboy Jason Botts and send fan favorite Kevin Mench to Oklahoma City.
Washington had made it clear over the last couple of weeks that he favored keeping Mench, with his proven major league track record, even going so far as to personally attempt to expand Mench's versatility by giving him a crash course on playing first base.
One major factor came into play in the final decision: Botts has no more minor league options and would have to pass through waivers to be sent down, meaning the Rangers would risk losing him. Mench had signed a minor league deal with an agreement to report to Oklahoma City.
All other factors being relatively equal -- both players had good springs at the plate -- the sensible thing to do then was to give Botts an extended look with the Rangers during the early part of the season, with Mench, who can't opt out of his deal and become a free agent until June 1, still available at OKC as a fallback position if Botts blows this one last chance.
In other words, it's just smart business. Besides, Botts gave the Rangers no reason not to give him a shot.
"Ron looks at it that way, too," Daniels said. "It wasn't like I forced Jason Botts on him. Did I bring up some points along the way that made some sense why Jason is here? Has he earned the spot? Has he played well? Yeah, I believe he has.
"His defense at first base plays into it, his track record plays into it. He's out of options and that plays into it."
A week ago Washington was hinting that even if he had to keep Botts, he didn't have to play him. Tuesday, after all precincts had been heard from, the manager was toeing the company line.
"There's nothing being forced on me," Washington insisted. "That's one thing I can say about Jon Daniels and with the utmost respect: He doesn't just make decisions off the top of his head. He's always urging a collaboration.
"At the end, he has to make a decision, or I have to make a decision, but it's a decision that's always made through talking it out."
The Botts-Mench decision, Washington said, came down to common sense.
"What went into that decision, we needed a guy who could hit against left-handers and play first base," Washington said. "We decided in January, long before Mench was even in the picture, that we'd bring Botts in here, work him at first base and see how he did. He did an outstanding job.
"Bottsy didn't do anything to for us to say that he couldn't do it. So he gets the first shot, and that's how it came down. He did everything we asked him to do. He became a serviceable piece at first base."
The Rangers need a right-handed hitting first baseman to spell lefty-swinging Ben Broussard against certain tough left-handed pitchers. One thing the Rangers will ask Mench to do at OKC is continue learning how to play first.
Father of the Year Candidate Patrick Roy and his son Jonathan make us proud …See video below…
The hockey brawl that saw Patrick Roy’s son Jonathan pound an opposing goaltender was widely deplored on Tuesday.
And some felt Jonathan and Patrick Roy got off lightly with seven-game and five-game suspensions respectively.
“It certainly isn’t anything we like to see in the game,” said Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson.“Any time you have a person such as Patrick Roy involved, it always brings that much more attention.
“That’s why it’s been there in the media for that length of time.”
Nicholson discussed the incident with Canadian Hockey League head Dave Branch, who had talked to Quebec Major Junior Hockey League president Gilles Courteau before the suspensions were issued.
The melee that erupted in the second period of a playoff game between coach Patrick Roy’s Quebec Remparts and the Chicoutimi Sagueneens on Saturday, won 10-1 by Chicoutimi, has been replayed repeatedly across the country this week.
It featured Jonathan Roy skating the length of the ice to pummel Chicoutimi’s top goaltender Bobby Nadeau, who avoided suspension by refusing to fight back. Video footage shows Roy gesturing to his son before the attack, although the Hall of Fame goalie denied he was involved.
The Quebec justice department has opened a police investigation into the incident.
While he didn’t want to discuss the criminal investigation, Quebec Premier Jean Charest said Tuesday that junior hockey must reflect on the amount of violence on the ice.
Charest added his voice to those who have called for the abolition of fighting in junior hockey.
“We expect that the league will reflect, that other leagues (elsewhere in Canada) will do the same and the message sent by Quebecers is that the time has come to put an end to fighting in junior hockey,” said Charest, in attendance at the Colisee Pepsi in Quebec City for Tuesday night’s game.
Don Phelps, coach and general manager of the Junior A Calgary Canucks, said both father and son got off “very, very light.”
“I think it’s embarrassing to most legitimate hockey coaches because that sort of behaviour, it emanates from the bench. And how these players behave is a reflection of the coach.”
Former Canadian Olympic coach Pat Quinn, a tough defenceman in his playing days, deplored the brawling.
“We’ve seen these things before, but most of us don’t like seeing things of that nature in the game,” said Quinn. “We know there’s fighting, but this seemed a little over the side.”
Roy and Roy suspended for this
Hurrah! A new Uni-Watch! …
Here are the top 5 reasons why this deal was over rated:
1. Brad Richards is a natural center. This gives the Stars three front line centers which means one of them has to play out of position if you want to have two of them paired together. Does this sound familiar from past Stars deals (Modano, Nieuwy, Arnott and Turgeon)? Did it work?
2. Richards has had just one point a game season and that was two seasons ago. Otherwise his career is .88 pts/game
3. His +/- is a league worst -25 out of 813 players. For his career he is +/- 55. Unless he learns how to play defensive hockey he will not fit into the Stars system.
4. His salary cap is the biggest hit of any single player in the league on any team (based on average salary over length of contract)
5. This salary will set the standard for resigning other players who will use Richards contract as a benchmark. There was a lot of discussion of overpaying Ribeiro what does this say about Richards
Doing something was good especially since the Stars gave up very little. But the deal I would have done to make the Stars better now is Marian Hossa and here is why:
1. Just two years older than Richards
2. It would have cost the Stars players like Miettenen, Erickson, Dailey, Halpern, Jokkinen all 3rd and 4th line guys to make this happen
3. Just short of a point a game player .93 pts/game
4. He is a natural wing and wouldn’t be playing out of position
5. Career +/- plus 85 player
6. His salary cap hit is $7M this year and then he is unrestricted which shouldn’t be a problem since they were willing to commit top $$ to Richards they could have offered the same to Hossa for an extension.
My response to Jerry:
I have a few issues with your logic.
1) ppg is largely based on who you play with. Hossa has played with huge talents in Ottawa, and then has been with Kovulchuk in Atl. Richards top linemate may have been Fred Modin.
2) +/- is directly related to the success of your team. Lousy team, lousy +/-. Meanwhile, everyone on Detroit has a great +/-. It is far from an individual stat.
3) your points about Richards salary are right on, except that you contradict yourself with giving Hossa the same amount-
and 4) Richards makes sense as a center, because Modano is about to retire. Maybe in a few months, maybe in a few years, but when he does, Ribiero and Richards are two solid top flight centers.