Wednesday. The Eve of Marty Turco’s largest exam yet. Detroit has not been a good spot for him, but neither have the playoffs been before this...
History is not on his side …
Marty Turco has exorcised plenty of demons in the 2007 and 2008 postseasons.
Recording shutouts? Stopping 40, 50, 60 shots? Winning the series? Done, done and done.
But another test approaches. The Joe. The dank home of the Detroit Red Wings and flying octopuses. The building of much angst for the Dallas Stars goalie.
But, in a postseason in which Turco is silencing critics and passing the tricky -- and long -- goaltending tests this time of year brings, does the building really matter?
"No," Stars captain Brenden Morrow said. "The net's the same size; the rink's the same shape."
True, but Joe Louis Arena has been a house of horrors for Turco, who is 0-7-2 there.
However, as Stars coach Dave Tippett said, "Maybe it's a great time for a coming out party there for him, right?"
Maybe so. Turco has been at his best this postseason and, unlike last April, the Stars have helped him enough offensively. Turco has continued to let little in on the other end and left everyone slack-jawed and rubbing their eyes with his 61-save performance in Game 6 on Sunday/Monday.
Still, whenever the Red Wings are on the horizon, the jinx of The Joe is a topic of conversation. The Stars, in general, haven't fared well there the past few years. But, because the goaltender is always the focal point, it has always been about Turco's problems there.
Now, Turco embarks on his first NHL playoff series there. He's confident. Well, he's always confident. But his latest postseason work has him focused on future trips to Detroit, not past ones.
"I'm not trying to erase any memories of playing these guys in Joe Louis at all," he said. "I'm here to win this series, win the next game. I could care less if I was 0-100. It's totally irrelevant this time of year."
Here is Sidney Ponson’s career resurgence …
Once upon a time, the Texas Rangers believed they had a handshake agreement with Sidney Ponson to add depth to their pitching staff. It may be five years later, but Ponson seems to be honoring the commitment.
The rotation's most surprising addition provided his third consecutive impressive start in the two weeks since he was purchased from Triple-A to beat Seattle, 10-1, Tuesday night.
Ponson, who the Rangers initially passed over after a late January tryout, didn't sign with the club until March 9. After an abbreviated spring and five appearances in Oklahoma, he was called up on April 26. Since then, he's been the Rangers' best pitcher.
He allowed just a run in seven innings Tuesday. It followed an eight-inning, one-run outing last Thursday against Kansas City. In his first start, he allowed one earned run (but four unearned) in 5 1/3 innings against Minnesota. He is 2-0 with a 1.33 ERA for the Rangers.
Evan wonders about 1B …
Why is Ben Broussard still here? Why is Jason Botts not? How come the Rangers didn't
consider starting Chris Davis there at the beginning of the year.
All right, settle down people. And, you in the back, put that smoke bomb down. We'll try our best to sort through this. Yes, I know the first basemen are hitting a combined .161 (last in baseball) with a .233 on-base percentage (also last). Yes, I know the first basemen have combined for five errors, tied for the most by any team's first basemen.
It's been bad. Well, here's the deal:
Broussard: From the time the Rangers decided to deal Mark Teixeira last summer, Broussard was Ron Washington's choice as a successor. Maybe that's because Broussard made a favorable impression while hitting .282 with four homers against Washington's Oakland team in 71 at-bats over the two years before he was hired to manage the Rangers. Maybe there was something else. Whatever the situation, Washington made a passionate and convincing case to the Rangers to get Broussard over the winter. They complied. You've watched and are well aware of Broussard's problems at the plate and in the field this year.
Now, Broussard and Washington are linked. If the Rangers end up making a managerial change, I wouldn't be surprised if they made two announcements at the same time; the second being designating Broussard for assignment.
Botts: Why did the Rangers' pull the plug on him so fast this season and designate him for assignment? Here's why: Botts simply has not taken advantage of any of the brief glimpses the Rangers have given him. In the last 75 years, there have been 3,341 non-pitchers to have careers of at least 300 plate appearances. Botts currently ranks 3,334th on that list in plate appearances-per-strikeout (3.02). He's right there with Russell Branyan and Jared Sandberg. German Duran and Brandon Boggs made immediate impressions that have the Rangers wanting to see more; Botts did not do that.
The truth is, Botts probably deserved more of a chance to get regular at-bats last year, but he didn't get them. That said, if Nelson Cruz, a far more athletic player than Botts, cleared waivers, there is a good chance Botts will also.
Davis: And so why not him? If the Rangers were going to rebuild, why didn't they begin Davis in the majors to start the season, at least having him split time at first and get some DH at-bats. It worked for Mark Teixeira, after all.
Well, I'll give you two reasons why they didn't do it.
If the Rangers had simply waited a month or two into the 2003 season, Teixeira wouldn't have had a full year's service time that season. That means that right now, he'd be a player with four-plus seasons of service instead of one with five-plus. He'd be in the same situation now that he was last year with the Rangers. In other words, the club would have been able to control him an additional year. It's what Houston did with Hunter Pence and Milwaukee with Ryan Braun. Instead of getting them for six years before free agency, they've got them for about 6 ¾.
Today, you are looking for any way to extend a player's commitment to you as long as possible. The Rangers wasted that opportunity with Teixeira. They won't do it with Davis. They may call him up before school is out, but it would have served no purpose to have him start the season in the majors.
The Rangers have learned that lesson.
Here is a Liverpool blog examining the Texas Rangers and their fanbase…
When Tom Hicks took control of the Texas Rangers midway through the 1998 season (making George W Bush rich in the process), the Rangers had a pretty good team. They had won the AL West division (which comprises 4 teams) in 1996 and went on to repeat this under Hicks in 1998 & 1999.
The results since then have been unbelievably poor, with the Rangers’ finishes in the division as follows:
It’s a situation very similar to that at Corinthians - initial success followed by a dramatic decline as mismanagement, poor decision-making and the quest for profits took a toll on the team’s performances on the field.
There’s already a post on this blog quoting Tom Hicks’ attitude toward his sports businesses: “It’s not about winning”. That’s not to say that he’s averse to winning - especially if it brings in more money and profit - but that winning only matters to Hicks in that it means more bums on seats and more consumers using their hard-earned wage to line his pockets.
Some may point to the infamous (even in the UK) $252m A-Rod contract as evidence that Hicks is a ‘big spender’. This act of gross mismanagement took place back in 2001, when poor performance led Hicks to attempt to jump start the money wagon with what was, essentially, a massive PR stunt.
But that’s not what Rangers fans wanted. They didn’t want a marquee player being brought in at the expense of the rest of the team. They wanted a (hopefully winning) team with players who understood what it meant to play for the uniform. Thus, A-Rod’s arrival generated only 30k in extra ticket sales in 2001 (certainly not what Hicks had expected), with a drop in total sales of 480k the following year and a further drop in 2003 of 260k.
Since that incident, Hicks appears to have reverted to his original philosophy - the “really trying” philosophy. Why spend so much on players when just giving the appearance of doing so might be sufficient? Consider the statment he made on taking control of the Rangers:
“This is one of the best franchises in the country. It’s in a world class facility. You don’t even have to win a championship every year to draw the fans. You just have to show you’re really trying.”
Now consider the following passage from the official MLB site in June last year:
“Daisuke Matsuzaka was in the visiting clubhouse on Friday. The Rangers really expected him to be in their clubhouse when they submitted a $27 million bid when he was posted this winter. The Rangers were shocked when they heard the Boston Red Sox bid $51.1 million.
“Absolutely,” Rangers owner Tom Hicks said. “I couldn’t believe it. We thought we were going to win at $27 million.”
Signing Matsuzaka would have made a significant difference in the Rangers payroll.
So would have signing Barry Zito, who turned down an offer that was potentially worth $99 million. Instead the Rangers open the season with a payroll of approximately $68 million that could rise to $75 million if Sammy Sosa and Eric Gagne reach all their incentives.
Only three teams in the American League have a payroll lower than the Ranges but Hicks said, “There wasn’t a player out there who we didn’t go after because of money. We went after the players we wanted. We just didn’t get a couple of the players we wanted.”
You just have to show you’re really trying!
And to emphasise this new miserly attitude - which has led to the Dallas Observer recently referring to him as a “billionaire buying knock-offs” - consider the following FACT: the Rangers are now ranked 21st in basic payroll out of the 30 MLB teams. When Tom Hicks took over they had the 5th highest payroll - more in line with their current standing as the nation’s 5th largest media market.
It’s this new-found frugality, along with problems caused by the global credit crunch, that point to a pretty bleak future ahead for the Rangers. Especially given that Hicks now appears to be more interested in the Glorypark development around the stadium - in which he is the primary investor.
The apparent indifference of Rangers fans toward what Hicks has done to their team (with very little in the way of public protest, etc) suggests that a lot have given up hope. Others - primarily his defenders - appear to be suffering from a form of ‘Stockholm syndrome’.
Now that his position is weak, perhaps it’s a good time for Rangers fans to wake from their slumber, join up with Liverpool fans and fight back?
What is the Stockholm Syndrome? …
Meanwhile, the hiring of Rick Carlisle seems inevitable …
Friday is the earliest that the Dallas Mavericks will complete the expected hiring of Rick Carlisle as their new coach, according to NBA coaching sources.
Sources told ESPN.com that Carlisle is scheduled to make his second trip to Dallas at week's end after two days' worth of interviews with the Mavericks last week which established him as the clear favorite to replace the fired Avery Johnson.
After Mavericks president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson turned down owner Mark Cuban's invitation to move to the bench, Carlisle was the first candidate to interview for the Mavericks' vacancy. Carlisle followed up last Thursday's sitdown in Indianapolis with Nelson by flying to Dallas for face-to-face meetings with Cuban and an introductory meeting with star forward Dirk Nowitzki.
Barring an unexpected breakdown in negotiations, sources said, Carlisle could be officially introduced as Dallas' next coach on Friday or Monday.
Multiple sources close to the process have described a forthcoming four-year contract as a "done deal," although Dallas continues to insist that it has no agreement in place with Carlisle, who is completing his first full season as an ESPN analyst.
"We are making significant progress," Nelson told ESPN.com
Over the weekend Nelson acknowledged that the "short list" of potential replacements for Johnson is "very short."
It's a list that does not appear to include Mike D'Antoni, with Dallas declining to take advantage of D'Antoni's sudden availability by following Chicago and New York's lead and requesting an immediate interview with the Suns' coach.
Cuban has yet to comment on the Mavs' search, but Carlisle told The Dallas Morning News in a story posted on its Web site Tuesday night: "My agent has returned from Europe, and we're still talking. We're moving in a good direction. Things are moving along."
Agent Warren LeGarie told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in another story posted Tuesday night: "It seems at this point we're moving closer. We're finding more in agreement than disagreement, more common ground. We're moving toward concluding a deal."
ESPN.com reported last week that Nelson was Cuban's first choice to replace Johnson, but club sources say Nelson does not want to leave his personnel post and that Cuban will not try to force Nelson to reconsider. In an interview last Thursday, Nelson did not dispute the idea that the job would already be his if he wanted it but also insisted, "I think there's better candidates out there."
That stance quickly led Dallas to Carlisle, who, according to team sources, plans to bring two recent former NBA head coaches -- Dwane Casey and Terry Stotts -- to Dallas as assistants on his staff.
If this widely anticipated marriage does not collapse, Carlisle and his new employers will inevitably face questions about his past personality clashes in Detroit and Indianapolis and coaching style that will be likened to the conservative, controlling Johnson. But Carlisle, 48, would also appear to offer the best blend of offensive and defensive pedigree after posting a record of 281-211 (.571) in stints with the Pistons and Pacers. Mavericks management -- and Nowitzki specifically -- have spoken of balance as a priority in recent days.
Remember when the Knicks and Heat screwed up basketball with 70-68 games? …It is back…
LeBron James sank behind a wall of bodies, barely visible or audible from even a few feet away, his usual regal presence muted by the crowd and the din that surrounded him.
This was James, crouched in a corner of the visitors’ locker room late Tuesday night, a defeated figure. The scene had been much the same on the parquet floor, where the Boston Celtics harassed James into erratic playmaking and poor shooting and took a 76-72 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers to open this Eastern Conference semifinal series.
In what qualified as the worst game of James’s playoff career, the Cavaliers’ star
missed 16 of 18 field goals and committed 10 turnovers. He finished with a near triple-double (12 points, 9 rebounds, 9 assists), but it hardly seemed relevant.
So James, who typically is the last person to speak after a game, and always does so from a podium, instead spoke briefly at his locker, sitting down.
“I missed a lot of shots that I usually make,” he said. “I missed a few layups that I know I can make. I missed a few pull-ups I know I can make. Give a lot of credit to their defense. They’re very good.”
The Celtics won a league-high 66 games because of their suffocating defense, and they never needed it more than they did Tuesday. Two of their three stars were as bad as James was. Paul Pierce (4 points) went 2 for 14 from the field and had six turnovers, and Ray Allen went scoreless in 37 minutes.
Of the four superstars in the building, only Kevin Garnett had the numbers and the clutch plays to match his stature. He finished with 28 points, including the eventual game-winner, a spinning lay-in past Joe Smith with 21.4 seconds left that gave the Celtics a 74-72 lead. James Posey, who defended James for much of the night, provided the final 2 points from the foul line.
James missed a driving layup and a 3-pointer in the last 20 seconds, and the Celtics — who survived a grueling seven-game series with the Atlanta Hawks — pulled out the win.
Spurs up against the wall …
When it comes to the postseason, the Spurs have seen it all and done it all. Headed into this year's Western Conference semifinals, that was supposed to be their big advantage over a neophyte New Orleans team ensconced in its first playoff foray as a group.
Even Hornets coach Byron Scott saw the contrast.
“They've done it over and over again,” Scott said of the Spurs. “They aren't fazed by anything.”
That hypothesis will be put to the test as the series shifts to San Antonio for Game 3 on Thursday, with the Spurs staring up from a startling 2-0 hole that only feels deeper.
The defending champions weren't just twice beaten in New Orleans. They were run out of New Orleans Arena in consecutive second halves, blown away by 19 and 18 points.
In the grim wake of their fourth lopsided loss to the Hornets this year — joining defeats of 24 and 25 points in the regular season — the Spurs tried not to sound too shaken.
“They did their job,” point guard Tony Parker said. “They won their two games at home, and now we have to try and do our job and take care of our home court.”
Still, the Spurs' inability to solve the Hornets — let alone stay within double digits of them — has to be a bit unsettling for the team that would not be fazed.
After two nights in the Big Easy that were anything but, Team Experience is now headed home, looking to accomplish something it never has before.
The Spurs have faced a 2-0 deficit in a seven-game NBA playoff series on five other occasions. They've never recovered to win the series.
Their most recent attempt came seven years ago, when the Los Angeles Lakers won the first two games of the conference finals en route to a 4-0 sweep.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich admits the task ahead is a tough one. “It would be tough if we were up 2-0,” he said. But this is where the Spurs hope their playoff experience kicks in.
They almost boast more postseason seasoning in one player (Robert Horry) than the Hornets have in their entire team. Their core of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Parker has been together for three NBA titles.
Kobe is MVP …
Radio Ratings? Who needs em …
They just keep doing the unintentional comedy …
And then there is this:
FSN SOUTHWEST TO REPLAY GAME 6 OF STARS-SHARKS
PLAYOFF SERIES IN CONDENSED FORMAT ON THURSDAY
FSN Southwest will replay Game 6 of the Dallas Stars’ thrilling 2-1 Stanley Cup playoff victory over the San Jose Sharks in a two-hour condensed format on Thursday, May 8 at 11:00 a.m. CT as part of its LUNCH TIME series. The win, clinched on Brenden Morrow’s power-play goal 9:03 into the fourth overtime period early Monday morning, advanced the Stars to the Stanley Cup Western Conference Finals against Detroit.
The game, featuring Stars announcers Ralph Strangis and Daryl Reaugh, will be condensed to showcase pivotal moments, dramatic plays and turning points in a sequential fast-paced form. Postgame interviews with key contributors also will be incorporated into the coverage.
FSN Southwest launched its LUNCH TIME series in April that features condensed replays of the previous night’s featured event telecast. The series allows fans to keep up with their favorite team while on their lunch break. It also gives those who may have missed the game a chance to watch it in a quick and an exciting format.
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