Monday, March 03, 2008

The Pains of Growing

I am trying to judge both the Mavericks and the Stars on the “eye-ball test” rather than the final scores these days. It helps curb my instinct to knee jerk every 24 hours about the direction of the teams. Both teams have had a major alteration performed to the core of the squad in the last few weeks, and as everyone says they expect, growing pains are underway.

Funny thing about growing pains is that everybody warns you to expect them, and then the same parties freak out during said growing pains.

I don’t like losing to the Lakers and Spurs (and possibly Jazz tonight) anymore than the next guy, but no team in the league is going to mow through road games at San Antonio, at Kobe’s House, and at Salt Lake City in 5 nights. The 1996 Bulls would not go 3-0, so let’s put down the guns and remember that in both settings, the Mavs were in the position to win for the entire contest.

Moral victories are for losers, but we have to keep in mind that there is some sort of training camp going on right now. I am looking for a few things, including the fight in these guys. Frankly, I have never seen Dirk play with more passion than he is right now, and that is getting everyone to play harder. Now, they just have to play with a bit more effectiveness.

I am sure Jerry Stackhouse and Josh Howard have had worse games than they played yesterday, but I can’t think of when it was. Those two were horrible. Howard is in such a funk right now that I am wondering if he is planning on coming back. He looks like a rookie.

I guess my thoughts once again are that we all need to simmer down. This team is right in the mix with the best teams in the league, and if the Spurs and Lakers had come to Dallas over the weekend, I suspect the Mavs would have won both games. Everyone is tight right now, and nobody is going to go on the road and grab win after win against the other powers in the West.

Keep hope alive. This team is getting its sea legs.

Dirk vs. Kobe …And it is Kobe by a nose!

It was a mesmerizing show in the fourth quarter and overtime as Nowitzki sent the game into the bonus frame with a last-gasp 3-pointer and Bryant responded with eight of his team's 15 points in the extra period.

"To say one single thing did it," said Lakers coach Phil Jackson, "Kobe Bryant is probably the reason we didn't lose."

In the second half, Bryant had 38 points while Nowitzki racked up 25 of his 30 after halftime. Bryant also made his last 17 free throws, 15 of them in the fourth quarter and overtime.

It was the second time in three games against Western Conference division leaders that the Mavericks played well on the road but came up short. They lost by two at San Antonio on Thursday.

"In the fourth quarter, all you can do is go for it," Nowitzki said. "We were shooting only 30-something percent from the floor, so we just had to get something going.

"Tough loss. We were right there at the end, we had our chances in overtime, we had a chance to tie with five seconds left. We had chances against San Antonio and against this team, and we haven't found a way to close those games out yet.
"We know we're right there, but right there in this league doesn't get you anywhere."

Except another mark in the loss column. The close calls are getting old in a hurry for a team that continues to slide further toward the bottom of the West playoff pecking order rather than rising through the ranks.

"On the road, we got to find a way to win," said Jason Kidd, who missed a critical free throw that could potentially have forced a second overtime. "We've put ourselves in that position twice in San Antonio and now here in LA. The next step is to find a way to win those games. The newness is over. As a team, we got to find ways to win games."

Another War tonight in Salt Lake

Since Kidd's arrival, the Mavs have lost to the Hornets, Spurs and Lakers. Their play has been encouraging in the last two games, but in the West, close losses can cost playoff seeding.

And now the Mavericks must take on the Jazz tonight in Salt Lake City, where Utah is tied with Dallas for the best home record in the league at 25-3.

"Time is something we don't have," Nowitzki said. "We'd love to say now that it's only November or December, but it's not. We only have 20-something games left.
"We know we're right there, but right there, in this league, doesn't get you anywhere."

The Mavs and Lakers were shooting less than 30 percent when their stars turned it on in the fourth quarter.

With Josh Howard continuing to struggle with 11 points on 4-of-15 shooting, Jerry Stackhouse misfiring (2-of-12 from the floor), and Jason Terry and Kidd seemingly only connecting from 3-point range (where they were 7-of-13, compared with 4-of-17 inside the arc), the Mavs benefited from the growing offensive presence of center Erick Dampier.

He scored 16 points and grabbed a season-high 17 rebounds in 31 minutes. But one of the Mavs' greatest concerns played out, and Dampier fouled out having played less than 4 minutes in the fourth quarter.

Helpless on the bench in overtime, Dampier watched the Lakers grab four offensive rebounds on one possession. Gasol, no match physically against Dampier, was fouled on the fifth shot attempt and made two free throws for a 100-96 Lakers lead.

The Mavs didn't have an answer for Kobe Bryant, who went to the free-throw line 27 times and brought back memories of Dwyane Wade in the 2006 NBA Finals.

Before Dirk Nowitzki's eruption in the last 6 minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime, he had shot 4-of-17.

The swingman tandem of Josh Howard, Jerry Stackhouse and Devean George combined for 6-of-32 from the floor.

What is going on with Randy Moss?

Three days into the free-agent signing period, with every other marquee player already off the market — and interior offensive linemen becoming rich for the second year in a row — receiver Randy Moss remained available. Most observers expected Moss to be re-signed by the New England Patriots a few strokes after midnight Friday, when the signing period began.

Moss’s agent, Tim DiPiero, did not respond to an e-mail message seeking comment Sunday. The Patriots were mum. And Moss remained unsigned, free to join any team, or at least one that offers him a chance to win a Super Bowl, which has been his stated wish since his two-season debacle with the Oakland Raiders.

The Patriots chose not to use the franchise tag on Moss last week, raising speculation that a long-term deal was in place, or would be soon. Players generally hate the franchise tag because it severely limits their ability to sign with another team.

When Friday and Saturday came and went with no announcement, and the same appeared true for Sunday, the intrigue surrounding Moss’s future increased. And so did the chances that he would play elsewhere next season. reported Sunday that Moss had “reached out” to quarterback Daunte Culpepper, his former Minnesota Vikings teammate, to talk about the good old days and to discuss the possibility of their reuniting with another team. (Culpepper is also a free agent.) The report also said that Moss had no scheduled visits with other teams.

Moss’s situation has been complicated by the six-year, $42 million deal that the free-agent receiver Bernard Berrian signed Saturday with Minnesota, which includes $16 million guaranteed. Last year, in his fourth season with the Chicago Bears, Berrian had 71 receptions for 951 yards and 5 touchdowns. At 27, he is four years younger than Moss.

But Moss showed no sign of slowing in 2007, with 98 receptions for 1,493 yards and a league-record 23 touchdown catches.

Berrian’s signing and Moss’s stellar numbers last season raise the question of just how big a contract Moss can command. He took a pay cut last season and played under a one-year contract to join the Patriots, earning $5 million.

Jacques Reeves gets $20 million?

The Texans entered the offseason concerned with their secondary. They wasted no time acquiring help.

Former Dallas Cowboys cornerback Jacques Reeves, 25, signed a five-year deal worth $20 million Saturday and will compete for the starting job opposite Fred Bennett in training camp.

"I'm very excited," said Texans general manager Rick Smith, who worked out the deal with Reeves' agent, Brian Hamilton. "We feel Reeves is a good, young player who is on the rise. And we think he will really add to a defense that is full of good, young players."

The Texans hope the 5-11, 188-pound Reeves will be able to help fill the void left by Dunta Robinson, who is expected to miss at least half the season with knee and hamstring injuries.

Kubiak said the Texans targeted Reeves from the beginning and that defensive coordinator Richard Smith, defensive backs coach Jon Hoke and assistant defensive backs coach Ray Rhodes wanted Reeves.

"We're happy to get him," Kubiak said. "There's no doubt we've upgraded our team. There's no secret our secondary is an issue and we really believe he's going to help us."

The Stars have played the busy part of the schedule

The Dallas Stars have earned some down time.

Still, coach Dave Tippett stresses that players can't view a light March schedule as "rest."

After finishing what Tippett called one of the toughest stretches he's ever seen in the schedule, the Stars will play only 10 games in the next 31 days. While the temptation might be for players to collectively exhale, Tippett says they must use the off-days to revitalize and refocus on the task of winning the Pacific Division and making the playoffs.

"I don't see an asterisk by our name yet ... let's not fool ourselves," Tippett said, referring to the fact that the Stars have not clinched even a playoff berth. "Our goal is to be playing the best possible hockey we can down the stretch."

Ninth-place Nashville can reach 106 points. That means the Stars, at 87 points, would need 20 more to clinch a playoff spot. Now, that "magic number" will change when the Stars win or Nashville loses.

But the message is clear – nothing has been decided.

The Pacific Division race went to the wire last season and looks squared up for another exciting finish. San Jose can finish with a maximum of 114 points, Dallas with 113 and Anaheim with 111. That makes the Stars' six-point division lead seem a little slimmer.

"That's a good thing," Tippett said. "Anything that makes our team maximize their effort, that's a good thing for us."

And if the division race isn't exciting enough, the Stars have a schedule full of opponents who are already in postseason mode just trying to earn playoff spots.

They have three games remaining against 10th-place Phoenix, starting with a Wednesday meeting at American Airlines Center. They play rejuvenated Colorado in back-to-back games on the weekend. Then, the Stars face Detroit, Vancouver and Anaheim.

Blog on the 2nd to last Wire …excellent episode, but I don’t want to spoil it…
Email time:


If the biggest concern with Brad Richards is his +/- I found some big names on the bottom 30 players in the NHL such as:

Daniel Briere
Anze Kopitar
Marc-Andre Bergeron
Marian Hossa
Sam Gagner
Olli Jokinen
Ilya Kovalchuk
Mike Comrie

It is a useless stat league wide, I think its only value is comparing it within each team. The Stars may have made the trade of the year.



I was under the assumption that Akin was playing well because Parcells didn't complain about his play. But, Man he doesn't make many plays.

Zach Thomas is signed and Akin is on the Hot Seat.

2007 stats for RT ILB's in 3-4 schemes.

49ers: Patrick Willis: 174 Tackles, 4 Sacks
Browns: D'Qwell Jackson: 101 Tackles, 1 Sack
Chargers: Matt Wilhelm: 97 Tackles, 1 Sack
Patriots: Tedy Bruschi: 92 Tackles, 2 Sacks
Ravens: Bart Scott: 93 Tackles, 1 Sack
Steelers: Larry Foote: 81 Tackles, 3 Sacks

Cowboys: Akin Ayodele: 57 Tackles, 0 Sacks

How did we miss this lack of production from Akin?


Vince Carter brilliance

The Glory of the Mustache

Oh, and Anderson Silva is a bad man.


dim499 said...

Funny Kobe towel throwing video from last night.

Jay Beerley said...

I've been a big Avery fan, but his stubbornness is really starting to get on my nerves. Yesterday's game was amazing, and no doubt Kobe can get his. But Avery's unwillingness to do exactly what the announcers said he should be doing was amazing. And at the end of regulation, the last half-court possession that the Lakers had the Mavericks actually tried the trap and you know what? Kobe turned it over. Just guard Kobe and Gasol and make those other guys beat you. My guess is some days they can, but most of the time they can't.
By now, Kidd knows what's going on in this league. Avery needs to stop talking to him EVERY time there is a dead ball. Hopefully they're just talking about the Mavericks' offense he's trying to learn.

Don't get a chance to see the Stars much (pretty much only FSSW, and not in HD)but I'm very excited about this stretch run.

And what, no Rangers mention?!