Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Test Failed

My frustrations are many with this team.

I wish they were just flat out horrible. Then, they would not continue to suck me in with hopes of NBA glory. But, no. This team is good enough to rally back from 25 points down in a furious show of guts, heart, and will. But, of course, you are then forced to wonder how a team with guts, heart, and will falls behind in a tell-tale game in the first place! But, as soon as they rally, they also blow their execution and fall just short with another gritty, gutty loss to zap the life force of the people that invest their heart in the team.

You will have to forgive me for not being real familiar with Ronny Turiaf. Heck, even Vladimir Radmanovic is not a guy who I swear I can read like a book. But, then again, I don’t play for the Mavericks. How the heck are the Mavericks confused about how to defend these guys?

Oh, and when it is time to inbounds a crucial pass, do you think you would want a decent passer to do the said inbounding? No? Well, then Josh Howard’s absurd pass to the back of Dirk’s ankles must have been just what was drawn up. Were you hoping to free Jason Kidd up for another 3? Seems like Kidd’s only role in that situation would be to inbound the ball.

In summary, this team still has not beaten an above .500 team since the Jason Kidd trade. And since I mentioned Kidd, could we point out that he had 1 point, 3 rebounds, and 7 assists in a critical contest? Is there still talk of him being Dirk’s equal for leading this team? I guess I expected his stamp on the game in much bigger ways. I also expect that Mark Cuban feels the same way.

Loss asks more questions of the Mavericks

To be taken seriously in the NBA, one of the rules is you have to beat the occasional contender.

Right now, the only thing serious about the Mavericks is their condition, which is in danger of being downgraded to critical.

They were on their way toward perhaps the ugliest night in American Airlines Center history. That they saved face in the second half was fine. But they couldn't save a game that truthfully was lost before halftime.

The Mavericks fell behind by 25 points, made a spirited rally, then couldn't close the deal, dropping a 102-100 decision to the Lakers on Tuesday evening in front of a sellout crowd that booed loud and long, but was poised for unbridled passion during the comeback.

They left unfulfilled.

Dirk Nowitzki had a chance to tie or win in the final four seconds. After Derek Fisher hit the second of two free throws for a two-point LA lead, the Mavericks got the ball to Nowitzki, who had a huge night with 35 points and 11 rebounds.

But Josh Howard's poor pass went near Nowitzki's ankles, and the forward had to gather himself and fire an off-balance 3-pointer that missed badly at the buzzer.

With that, the Mavs' five-game winning streak against flimsy competition ended. They haven't beaten a team over .500 since the All-Star break (0-6). They have only one such win (over Portland at AAC) since Feb. 4 at Orlando.

No wonder they were booed off the court after a 9-0 LA finish to the first half that put the Lakers ahead, 59-38.

"The fans were booing a little there in the first half," Nowitzki said. "It wasn't pretty there.

"When we showed some energy and some heart, they came alive and pushed us."
By then, it was too late. The Mavericks missed a chance to make any sort of statement against one of the teams ahead of them in the compact Western Conference playoff picture.

"It's not the time now to hang our heads," Nowitzki said. "You got to keep fighting and keep swinging."

Dallas did neither for 2 ½ quarters against the Lakers. Not surprisingly, Kobe Bryant put his unmistakable stamp on the game.

In an epic move, Bryant finished a third-quarter fast break with a whirling, over-the-shoulder shot that somehow found the basket and put the Mavs in a 76-51 hole.

By then, the Mavericks didn't look like the team that couldn't wait to get one of the West's big boys in their crosshairs. When they finally did, not only could they not pull the trigger, they couldn't even find their gun.

"They played early like their basketball lives depended on it," coach Avery Johnson said of the Lakers. "And we didn't. We played like we were in apologetic mode, like we shouldn't even be here."

The comeback was highlighted with a pair of Nowitzki 3-pointers, the second of which came with 41.3 seconds left and cut LA's lead to 98-97. Dallas had trailed by seven with 70 seconds to go.

The View from Los Angeles

Depending on the chat room of choice, the banter around the office, or even the perspective from the local coffeehouse barista, the Lakers were supposed to return from their rapidly disintegrating trip anywhere from fifth to seventh in the Western Conference.

Instead, they're back in a tie for first after an engaging 102-100 victory Tuesday over the Dallas Mavericks, a sturdy defensive effort in the early going followed by a hang-on-at-all-costs ending.

Kobe Bryant limped mildly and smiled broadly, Vladimir Radmanovic cracked one-liners, and the Lakers ended a losing streak at an opportune time after twice disobeying the "can't-lose" credo in the West.

"We had to stop the bleeding," Bryant said.

They did, in many ways, individually and as a team at American Airlines Center.

Bryant was granted a mulligan for his 11-for-33 debacle against Houston, following it with 29 points on more concise 12-for-23 shooting. Apparently, his late-night shooting expedition a few hours after losing to the Rockets paid off.

Lamar Odom matched up his 17 points with 17 rebounds, and Radmanovic tied a season high with 21 points.

The Lakers (46-21) also moved into a tie with Houston (46-21) after the Rockets' 22-game winning streak ended an hour later against Boston. The Lakers' four-game trip ends Thursday in Utah.

On the day Phil Jackson said the Lakers were merely "still hopeful" that Andrew Bynum would return in time for the start of the playoffs, the Lakers proved they could win without Bynum and Pau Gasol.

They also improved to 2-1 against the Mavericks (44-24) this season, with one game left against them next month at Staples Center.

Meanwhile, Stars and Ducks ready for battle tonight

The great thing about tonight's battle between the Stars and the Anaheim Ducks is that it is a playoff primer in many ways.

One, the teams should be fighting at their most intense as they jockey for playoff positioning and potential home ice in the first round of the postseason. Anaheim (90 points) and Dallas (89) sit fourth and fifth, respectively, in the West. If the Ducks and Stars finish the regular season in those spots, they would meet in a first-round series with the Ducks enjoying home-ice advantage.

Two, the Stars have had a 5-1-0 run against the Ducks this season. That should create some bad blood between the teams.

And three, linemates Brenden Morrow and Mike Ribeiro are going to get to see just what it's like to face an inspired Ducks team bent on shutting them down.

Ribeiro and Morrow have combined for 15 points in six games against Anaheim, and their line is plus-6. They have scored on the power play and at even strength, and they have sent a clear message to the Ducks that they are a top line in the NHL.

"It's definitely going to get tougher because you are going to draw attention," Morrow said Tuesday. "But I think that's just part of the game. We're doing a lot of right things, and I think we need to continue to do that. But as much as that's important, this is a new game. This is a playoff-type situation; it could be a preview of that first round, and we need to step it up and respond."

The Stanley Cup champion Ducks are saying the same things. Anaheim's best defenders have dialed up their performances in recent games, and they will be tested against a Stars team that has added Brad Richards since they last met Feb. 15.

Of course, the Stars have seen a Ducks team that has been trying to blend in defensemen Scott Niedermayer and winger Teemu Selanne – and both are now fully integrated. That said, Anaheim is without suspended defenseman Chris Pronger (who is out eight games after stepping on Vancouver's Ryan Kesler), and the Stars are still missing injured blueliners Sergei Zubov (foot) and Philippe Boucher (shoulder).

But the focus tonight won't be on players not in the lineup. It will be on ones who could be part of a vicious battle. Ribeiro said he understands the pressure that comes with being a targeted player.

"I know it's going to be tougher and that I have to be tougher," said Ribeiro, who has a goal and two assists in Dallas' recent 1-5-0 slump. "That's the same for everyone, but it's important for me because I need to be better."

Part of Ribeiro's challenge is finding new ways to create scoring chances. The 28-year-old center played much of his career in the Eastern Conference with the Montreal Canadiens. So Western teams weren't as familiar with Ribeiro, who brought some fresh moves to the Stars early in the season that helped push him to 27 goals and 77 points (11th in the league in points). But teams are starting to pick up on those moves.

And, I am not saying this was my idea 2 weeks ago, but this was my idea 2 weeks ago ….

The assimilation of Richards, who was acquired from Tampa Bay on Feb. 26, has been an issue. Tippett has tried the versatile forward at center on several lines and as a right wing with Mike Modano. But the coach said after a 4-3 loss to Vancouver on Saturday that Richards will stay at center.

"We like him as a center, and we like Mike [Modano] as a center, and that's the way we'll go forward," Tippett said.

Mike Ribeiro is expected to center a line with Brenden Morrow, Richards will center a line with Jere Lehtinen, and Modano will probably center a line with Steve Ott, who has one game remaining on a three-game suspension. The other parts will mix in, Tippett said.

Season Preview for FC Dallas

1. Can a tried-and-true 4-4-2 guy adjust to a fancier formation?

It seems that coach Steve Morrow, schooled at Arsenal, would be hard-wired into a four-man back line. But Morrow says the Gunners actually used a 3-5-2 a couple of years while he was there, so he's quite comfortable with and committed to playing three across the back. He says it best fits Dallas' personnel.

So the 4-4-2 is out for now. Instead, he wants the team familiar with a 3-4-1-2 or a 3-4-3 setup. It's all about getting the best from Juan Toja, Kenny Cooper and Arturo Alvarez. When Toja's available, they'll deploy him at the top of the midfield triangle in a 3-4-1-2, exploiting his long legs to go at guys from the center of the park.

If Toja's not available or if they need something different, they'll use three forwards in front of four defensive-minded midfielders. (And speaking of Toja, here's the answer to the more compelling question as it concerns Dallas' second-year workhorse: Yes, he's still rockin' the mullet.)

The other key in this formation tweak is subtracting some responsibility from Alvarez; they want him free to improvise in the attack.

2. Can Kenny Cooper lead the scoring parade?

The local product seems to have recovered nicely from last year's broken leg. Morrow says the big striker looks fit and focused, and he is confident that Cooper's drive for contract renegotiation (with two option years remaining) will stay on low boil and won't dent that reliable attitude and work ethic.

That said, it's all about production when you are the go-to striker. Without Ruiz around, Cooper no longer must play a subjugated role. Now he's the primary target, with Toja and
Alvarez set to work off his ability to collect, hold and distribute, and otherwise bother defenses.

Cooper's heart has never been questioned, but he sometimes struggles to work within a team framework. A target of 8-10 goals seems worthy.

3. Can new leaders stand up?

This question continues to dog FCD, which can't seem to get it sorted out. This was a team, after all, that made the mercurial Ruiz its captain a year ago. And "mercurial" is never a word you want associated with your captaincy. Morrow feels sure that Davino, Adrian Serioux and Drew Moor can act as shepherds. But Davino's English is limited, injuries have limited Serioux's participation over the last 12 months or so and Moor, who is developing nicely, simply hasn't assumed that role before. That's not to say that real leaders, guys who truly command respect, police the locker room and keep the team on course, can't come forward. But until it happens, the question stands.

4. Is the defense better?

Half the starters are gone from a Red Stripes back line that allowed 44 goals last year, third-worst among eight playoff teams. Chris Gbandi took an offer in Norway and Clarence Goodson was left exposed in the expansion draft -- then took an offer from Norway. This year it looks like Davino will man a free role behind center backs Moor and Serioux, with Alex Yi and Aaron Pitchkolan in reserve.
The selections in the wide spots seem to be about protecting the back line. At present, David Wagenfuhr, a defender by trade, and Dax McCarty, at his best as a defensive midfielder, appear to be the picks.

Other random links:

Costas versus the Bloggers

Costas, speaking before he emceed (and donated $50,000) at Tuesday's Make-a-Wish sports auction at the Broward County Convention Center, doesn't understand what compels so many nonjournalist sports fans to seek a forum for their opinions.
Before the Internet, most fans were content talking about sports with their buddies. Now, in this interactive media age, many covet a wider audience, while often maintaining anonymity.

''Today, I saw on ESPN a poll about which Western Conference teams would not make the playoffs,'' Costas said. ``Well, 46 percent said the Denver Nuggets, which has zero percent influence on anything. No reasonable person who cares about the NBA should care about that. Who has the time or the inclination to do this, even if you're sitting on your computer? Why would you weigh in on it?''

Many newspapers (including The Miami Herald) allow readers to post comments, hoping to generate web hits and enlightened exchange of ideas.

''I understand with newspapers struggling and hoping to hold on to, or possibly expand their audiences, I understand why they do what they do,'' Costas said. 'But it's one thing if somebody just sets up a blog from their mother's basement in Albuquerque and they are who they are, and they're a pathetic get-a-life loser, but now that pathetic get-a-life loser can piggyback onto someone who actually has some level of professional accountability and they can be comment No. 17 on Dan Le Batard's column or Bernie Miklasz' column in St. Louis. That, in most cases, grants a forum to somebody who has no particular insight or responsibility. Most of it is a combination of ignorance or invective.''

What bothers Costas -- and he's not alone -- is Internet and talk radio commentary that ``confuses simple mean-spiritedness and stupidity with edginess. Just because I can call someone a name doesn't mean I'm insightful or tough and edgy. It means I'm an idiot.

``It's just a high-tech place for idiots to do what they used to do on bar stools or in school yards, if they were school yard bullies, or on men's room walls in gas stations. That doesn't mean that anyone with half a brain should respect it.''

Here is indirect international publicity for 1920’s reporter guy and his meeting with David Beckham From the Daily Telegraph

Unless you go spectacularly off the rails like Britney Spears, celebrity is dealt an easier hand than in England. There are still paparazzi around the house but in more manageable quantities than in Madrid. Beckham has tasted a baseball game and once took his children out for a bike ride and wondered why the streets were deserted. It was the afternoon of the Super Bowl. Jet lag is fought off with sleeping tablets. His manners are still impeccable, even when asked by a radio reporter to 'list your favourite gin joints and speakeasies in Los Angeles'.

Cars of the Premiership

Sweet Hats!

Hey Bob,

My brother and I made a new vid, thought you'd like to check it out. Here's the link



Amazing Stuff I cannot do, that Jonathan and his brother can do

Good Lesson, Bad Bulge

Hurray! Hurray! April 10th is coming!


clay said...

jonathan and his brother are good athletes, but man... they are gay

MK said...

So only experts are allowed to have and express an opinion? Not sure anything would be said in America if that is the rule. and the ticket would be down to 3 hosts.

Mavs-fatally flawed. Avery, go ahead and give Lee Majors a call, find out what it is like to be "the fall guy".

Jay said...


Go Mamericks?

Andy D. said...

This one, sadly, is very simple.

Your 2007-2008 Mavericks are just good. That is it.

Our window of opportunity completely slammed shut 10 months ago and without a change in leadership (sorry Avery) and players (sorry Josh, and those that sit on the bench)this team is trending down while LA, New Orleans, and Houston are trending up with SA following the pack.

I have been following this franchise since Tarp, Blackman and Harp ran the show, but this is going to end badly this year. We need to brace ourselves for maybe a 2nd round appearance, maybe.

cracker1743 said...

Hey Bob, thanks for picking on you Mavs and sparing me a rehash of my Rockets' arsewhipping. 'Preciate ya, pal.

MK said...


Worried the Rockets might be emotionally spent now that the streak is over.

The West is nuckin futs. A team rolls off 22 in a row and is at best a darkhorse for the finals.

My theory on Avery's thinking: after Golden State, Avery realized he could never coach Dirk into a complete player (defense). so Avery decides to go with offense over d but he knows this will ultimately fail and is resigned to his fate. he rolls the dice with Kidd hoping somehow the offense becomes unstoppable. experiment fails. game over for him in Dallas. Avery coaches the Bucks next year after Del tells his son to hire him.