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Sunday, December 26, 2004

Tinsel Burn and Reindeer Bites

Ho Ho Ho, Merry Xmas from the world's sports pages ...

Mavericks' Presence Felt All Over the League

Last summer, Dallas was the hub of basketball business. The moves and misses by Mark Cuban, the Mavericks' owner, seemed to make him the unintentional benefactor of other teams in the league.

This season's early returns might best be viewed, then, through Cuban's ever-changing prism.

It is hard to see Steve Nash as anything short of brilliant this season. He left his best friend, Dirk Nowitzki, for greener deserts in Phoenix - nearly $30 million more than what Cuban offered him. Meanwhile, Shaquille O'Neal, the league's biggest trading piece, considered Dallas as a destination. But instead, the Los Angeles Lakers let him go wading in the warmer waters of the East.

Danny Fortson is adding a solid post presence off the bench for Seattle. Antawn Jamison, a Maverick for less than 11 months, landed in Washington in a trade and has helped foster the Wizards' renaissance. In exchange, the Mavs received an aging Jerry Stackhouse and a slowly aging rookie point guard, Devin Harris.

After losing Nash, the Mavericks grabbed the coveted free-agent center Erick Dampier in a sign-and-trade deal after the 12-point, 12-rebound career year he averaged in Golden State while gunning for a new contract. Now with more than $67 million in his pocket for seven years, Dampier's numbers on the court have plummeted to what they were before - 8.2 points and 7.5 rebounds.

If Nash is the biggest boon out of the summer dealings, Dampier may be the biggest bust (with special mention going to Zach Randolph of Portland). Cuban and Don Nelson, his coach and general manager, believed they had found a playoff solution to fix the small-ball problem, but Dampier has yet to find his way.

"This year we have guys who can put the ball in the basket, we have four or five guys on this team who can rebound," Dampier said last Tuesday before the Mavericks trashed the Knicks, 123-94. "I'm still trying to work through it." Dampier had a modest 11 points and 6 rebounds in New York.

In the Mavericks' letdown the next night - against Atlanta, then 4-20 - Dampier had 4 points and 8 rebounds. Antoine Walker, whom Cuban traded to Atlanta for Jason Terry, scored 25 in the 113-100 victory.

The Mavericks, having lost six home games, are 17-10, which is still better than the alternative in Golden State for Dampier. "It feels good to be on the opposite side of the spectrum," he said. "This is what I wanted. It's up to me to do the work every day to be consistent."

That is what frustrates Nowitzki most about his team. While he has emerged as the team's floor leader and the league's third-leading scorer, Nowitzki is also still searching for how to make up for Nash.

"It's a big adjustment; he's so good at penetrating and giving us open looks," Nowitzki said. "We don't really have those open shots any more. We all have to work a little harder. We have games when we have seven or eight assists, and last year that was a quarter for us. Of course we miss him, but we can't cry around, we got to do it without him now."

The Suns won 10 straight games and have the best record in the league (23-3 entering today's home game against Toronto). Nash, who had 11.7 assists during the streak, also had 18 assists and 17 points in a 107-101 victory in his first game back in Dallas last month.

Terry has been inconsistent as the Mavericks still search for an answer. The best point guard they acquired over the summer is Avery Johnson, their assistant coach and heir to Nelson, who came from Golden State in the deal with Dampier.

Cuban is sticking to the rationale he used last summer to support why he let Nash go: age and durability. Nash is 30. Dampier is 29.

"Short term, the way I looked at it, I didn't want to have a 35-year-old team," Cuban said in New York. "There was a price I was willing to pay out of loyalty. But I looked at other teams and how old they would be, that was the issue. I wouldn't do it any differently.

"I made what I thought was a very, very fair offer," Cuban said of Nash, whom he offered $9 million a year for four years guaranteed. Nash received six years for $65.6 million from Phoenix.

"More credit, more power to Steve for being who he is. But all I know, years are forgotten the minute they end. You just got to look at the bigger picture. I think we have a team better suited for the playoffs."

But so do other teams in the league, thanks to the Mavericks.

Liz Robbins is about the third NBA scribe to write that same story over the last coupla weeks. Does she not know we all have the internet? Devin Harris returned to UW over the holidays and took in a Badgers' game, even got a standing O from the home fans. Here are some quotes from the Wisconsin papers -

"I'm not a high grade like I used to be, but I'm learning, I'm getting better," Harris said. "I think (I'm) just struggling with some of the things that I was good at here."

His biggest adjustment has been the number of games NBA teams play. "I think we've played almost a whole college season right now and we still have 60-some games left," said Harris, who received a standing ovation from the crowd when introduced with 7 minutes, 51 seconds left in the first half.


And Harris is still learning, too. Although he's no longer in school at Wisconsin, Harris pointed out that he's studying as much as he ever has.

"Basketball is school right now," said Harris, who is averaging seven points, 2.5 assists and 1.4 steals for the Mavericks. He's shooting 37.8 percent overall and 27.6 percent from 3-point range.

"There's so much studying involved and watching so much film," added Harris, who said all the time he spent at Wisconsin doing math and history homework is spent at Dallas "going home and watching film and studying guys and studying myself."

Harris is learning and getting better under the guise of Mavericks coach Don Nelson, who has developed a reputation for being hard on rookies.

"He's only hard because he knows how good I can be and the potential I have," Harris said. "It doesn't bother me. It just means he cares about how much of an impact I can have on the team."

Harris admitted he misses everything about his experience at Wisconsin.

"Just the excitement of it, being out there with the guys, being with a coach like Bo (Ryan)," he said. "You don't get many coaches like that. And just being home....Wisconsin, you can't any better than that."

Harris said there have been moments when he wished he could return to the Badgers. But reality always sets in. "It crossed my mind but the deed is done," he said. "There's nothing I can do about it now but concentrate on what I need to be doing now."

All things Badger ... the Dallas Observer's John Gonzalez wrote about Devin Harris this week as well. Here's an excerpt before you head over to read the article ...

"I haven't gotten much feedback from him," Harris says when asked whether Nellie talked to him about sitting down for a while. He says it softly, speaking the way he looks--like a kid who is unsure of his surroundings. "We really haven't gotten into it like this is what's gonna happen. But I didn't really need to get much to know that I wasn't performing. That's not his fault. He's the coach, and he needs someone to step up. I needed to step up. That's what I'm going to try to do."

Xmas? Me? I got a robe, 3 breakfasts and my photo taken waaaay too many times. What'd you get? Well, Dirk got interviewed again by the German press. Same old same old, but this excerpt might interest some ...

ABENDBLATT: Also are the many personnel changes in the summer a cause of the inconsistent start? With nine gone and eight joined, the team was completely restructured.

NOWITZKI: Naturally that's tough. In the past it was our strength that the core with Steve Nash, Michael Finley and me remained together, new players just came in around us. Now Steve is gone (moved to Phoenix; ed. note), and we have three new guards who don't get along right with coach Don Nelson's system. But they have potential. I hope that they'll get their act together as quickly as possible.

ABENDBLATT: Who are the surprises of this NBA season from your view?

NOWITZKI: Absolutely Phoenix and Seattle. I would never have thought that they'd break out like that, I never saw them as playoff candidates. But the new rules, where they decide faster on fouls, seems to suit both teams.

ABENDBLATT: Do they have also what it takes for the championship?

NOWITZKI: I have my doubts. The past has showed that in the playoffs, another, slower and more physical kind of basketball is played. Small teams are usually not as successful there. And under the baskets they don't have much to counter with.


NOWITZKI: The way we're playing right now, definitely not. For example, San Antonio showed us our limitations already twice this season. But there's a lot of talent on our team. If we succeed in playing up to our potential, we can play to the top.

Stop me if you've read this story before - how Holger discovered, created, and now guides Dirk's talent. You probably have, but Germany's Der Spiegel offers it up again for Christmas. Not my translation. A few new tidbits ... at least it's not that long ... sorta ...

Nowitzki's mentor Geschwindner -
Philosopher in the lumberjack shirt

By Andreas Kröner

Critics accused Holger Geschwindner of incompetence, megalomania and youth seduction. For German basketball star Dirk Nowitzki, the ex-national player is for him "manager, mentor, coach, friend and sometimes also second father". Portrait of a man who is glad to annoy.

Würzburg - Operation NBA begins for Dirk Nowitzki in March 1998 like a scene from "Aktenzeichen XY". A big man with light hair drives the car one evening and takes the 19-year-old to the airport. Both disappear. Only when the blond boy, a few days later at the "Hoop Summit" in San Antonio, as a player from a world selection shoots the best up and coming US talents out of the arena with 33 points in an almost single-handed attempt, the disconcerted German squad coaches know where their most talented player is off to.

While in America basketball icon Charles Barkley is impressed by the performance of the young German, hard reproaches come from the homeland: Accusations of youth seduction are aimed at the tall man with the grey hair, who enjoys a bad reputation in Germany: Holger Geschwindner has been Nowitzki's private teacher since 1995 and wants to mold an NBA professional out of the talent. His colleagues consider him megalomaniacal and hard-headed. When the national team coach at that time, Henrik Dettmann, appoints Nowitzki to the national team for the first time in 1998, and doesn't put him into the game, Geschwindner abruptly fetches him from the quarters of the national team and drives him home. This man is ruining a talent, fear the basketball experts - Geschwindner does not have the semblance of a coach.

Private life in the castle

"Despite the sum of my inabilities, I didn't succeed in destroying his talent," Geschwindner says today and grins, when he thinks back to the "somewhat substantial detractors" in the beginning. The satisfaction is not overlooked by the 1.95- meter-tall man, who is usually to be found on and beyond the basketball court in lumberjack shirts or sweaters. Indeed there are repeated inquiries by players and teams, but "the attempts to pull me in a little deeper into the basketball world have no chances of success. I have enough other things to do apart from basketball."

Geschwindner never committed himself to sport. In the Hessian Laubbach he went to school and did his first dribbling. After Abitur (a type of German high school - trans. note) and the German National Armed Forces he moved to MTV Gießen. With the Hessian traditional club he became German champion three times; at the same time, he studied mathematics and physics. He went to Munich in 1971, dedicated himself to philosophy and researched at the Max-Planck-Institut. With his later teams Bamberg, Göttingen and Köln he could always be assured of sufficient freedom to be able to participate concurrently with research orders. Although Geschwindner was Most Valuable Player of the European Championship in 1971 and after his strong appearances as captain of the 1972 German Olympic team was compared with Soviet and American players, the NBA was never a goal for him - contact to US professional sports would have cost him clearance for the summer games.

When the Methuselah at 42 years ends his active career as oldest Bundesliga player, he already has his own project management enterprise. Today his office is in an industrial park north of Bamberg, privately he lives in a castle in the surrounding countryside. His company works as a management consultancy, "where we not only tell how it can go, but also lead the projects through," explains Geschwindner. Just now he is about to draft a computation and a calculation program for an aerial ropeway manufacturer.

"You have to meet the right people"

Geschwindner is happy in the workaholic stereotype. If one converses with him, the cel phone rings frequently. Basketball is only in the center in the summer when he prepares Nowitzki for the NBA season. During the season both call almost daily, discussing training, games, and problems off the court. If Geschwindner's assistance is wanted, it happens very quickly: "One call is sufficient; I buy a plane ticket and I'm there."

When Nowitzki had problems in his first year in the NBA, Geschwindner visited him eight times in Dallas. And today he visits often. "He comes during the season for all of one to two months. He's known me for such a long time that he immediately recognizes little mistakes that creep in now and again," Nowitzki tells SPIEGEL ON-LINE. "We then practice for a half hour and the mistakes are worked out again." Although the last year passed very well for him, "It's very important to me that Hodge" - which is Geschwindner's nickname - "comes by like before".

On addressing future German NBA professionals, Nowitzki gives his considerations: "It's easy to find a 14-year-old who has talent. But to make an NBA player out of him is the real task. You have to meet the right people, who help you - I had great luck with Holger." In 1995 Geschwindner played with his "Band of retirees from Eggolsheim", as he calls his old men's team, in Schweinfurt. Before the performance by the seniors he sees a youth match "There was a tall, skinny guy running around who did everything right, that a good basketballer has to do. He had still no technical tools." When Nowitzki left the court, Geschwindner asked him. "Who is giving you the baskic skills?" "Nobody," answered Nowitzki. "If you want, we can do that," Geschwindner offers.

"82 million people, one NBA player"

When his "oldie troop" is to visit Würzburg three weeks later, Nowitzki expects him, along with his father, mother and sister. On the next day the unusual duo begins to train systematically. Geschwindner's methods are unorthodox, but successful. Dirk does push-ups on his fingertips to be able to accelerate the ball better in the shot and learns a completely new shooting technology, which Geschwindner developed at his desk: With differential and integral calculus as well as some derivatives he computes a shot curve in which the ball falls into the basket if Nowitzki makes mistakes. A friendly physician accompanies Project NBA.

Individual training in the team sport of basketball doesn't provide a contradiction for Geschwindner. The sequence is crucial: First the player must be brought to a certain level, then he can help a team. "Most teams have a firm concept. Whoever doesn't fit in there, tough luck. We go from the individual outward." Already in youth there is a team, a regional, and a federation coach, complains Geschwindner, "the classical systems aren't suited for the top talents - not just in sport." In addition, in Germany many teams deliberately kept players at a certain level, so that they wouldn't become too good and abandon the team. "That out of 82 million inhabitants in Germany we have only one NBA player says it all!"

For Nowitzki he has created a seven-stage plan. The goal: a basketballer who can play in all positions and is unpredictable for the opponent. Geschwindner measures the speed according to the development of his favorite: "When it went badly in school, we were even disengaged in the Matheaufgaben gym." The coach wants the basketball talent to develop also beyond the sports arena, "Even if that isn't easy for a person of the rap generation." He gave Nowitzki a saxophone and numerous books. "The requirements of an NBA professional today are not limited to ball dribbling. The stupid prejudice of the intellectuals who have nothing going physically, and the athletes who don't have anything in their head, is stupid stuff," Geschwindner says. One must also remain mentally mobile, in order to be able to function on a long-term basis in high level sport.

Although Nowitzki will earn an estimated 100 million dollars over six years, his coach refuses any payment for his services. "I have a company and can live well on it. That additionally has the great advantage that I can speak my opinion with controversies and not have to worry about my check coming the next month," Geschwindner says.

Don Nelson, Nowitzki's coach in Dallas, has known Geschwindner since 1998. "When Ben Franklin discovered electricity, he certainly looked pretty stupid, the way he did it with the kite and key in the thunderstorm. But then Edison continued the whole thing and everyone knows the result," Nelson says. On the narrow ridge between genius and insanity, in the long run the result is decisive, says the NBA coach. "there are some unorthodox things about Holger," Nelson admits, "but it's like this: If a coach loses, you can criticize him; if he is as successful as Holger, you can't."

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Two Routs, a Tank and a Sour Kraut

Just listened to the Hawks crush the Mavs. This is what it sounded like on the radio: "Mavs turn the ball over ... and another spectacular Hawk slam dunk!" Looking at the boxscore, the Mavs shot .375 from the arc in hitting 9 treys and they made 25 FT's on .806 shooting from the stripe. Good numbers for such a bad result. The 24 turnovers are what killed them - easy transition baskets for the Hawks and wasted possessions for the Mavs. Giving up 17 offensive rebs didn't help either.

So, the Mavs end up going 3-2 on Franz' 5-game challenge to show us something. Meh. Actually, had the Chicago kids not gifted the Mavs a 'W' it woulda been 2-3 instead. Double meh. So, for anybody that watched the Hawks game, which of the two Hawk Josh's will the Mavs regret most for selecting Devin Harris instead? [I'm bad]

I'm sure you've seen the frequent mentions tagged to the end of Mav game recaps this season regarding the consecutive game streak of made 3-pointers. Including the Hawk loss, the Mavs have now made a 3-pointer in 473 straight games. I got curious about whose fault it was 474 games ago that the counter got zeroed-out thus facilitating the streak's birth. So, I counted backwards [with Patricia's help] to February 26, 1999. This was the strike-shortened season and the Mavs were in Utah for their 9th game in just 12 exhausting days. I think you can smell what's coming, but allow Patricia to tell you herself ...

Dallas at Utah (February 26)

The Mavs came in with a game plan for the 2nd game of 3 in a row, and it wasn't pretty. Dallas had a brief lead at 10-9 with 6:30 left. Utah went on a 10-2 run. Utah led 19-14 after 1. Utah led 31-23 with 8 minutes remaining and went on an 11-1 run to go up 42-24 with 4:30. The tank was on as Dirk Nowitzki was the only starter to play in the quarter. Utah led 52-34 at the half. The Mavs were ice cold and only shot 4-18 FG in the quarter. The blowout continued in the 3rd quarter as A.C. Green, Shawn Bradley, Michael Finley, Steve Nash, and Gary Trent did not play in the 2nd half. Utah led 68-44 after 3. Dallas shot a woeful 2-15 FG in the quarter. The Dallas reserves did manage to pull Utah's lead into the teens in the 4th quarter, but were unable to get closer than 13. Utah won 80-65.

Dallas shot a pathetic 29.4% FG (20-68) including 0-8 for 3-pointers.


Jerry Sloan: "I'm offended sometimes when we play like the game is a joke. Some people may say that's old fashioned and demanding and all those things, but we have to play like we are interested and want to be here."

Sloan: "People don't want to see games like this. I've been in this league since 1965, and I've always thought it was important to do the job."

Bryon Russell: "Dallas didn't come to play tonight, but we did our job. They didn't present a challenge, but a W is a W."

Russell: "I don't think Dallas came to play at all. They didn't have any intention of trying to beat us, and that's too bad."

Don Nelson: "We tried to get some rhythm for the guys that didn't play and to rest my starters. I was hoping to stay competitive and stay in the game, but that didn't happen. So we did the next best thing and played the game out."

Nelson: "It was a game that I thought we had to be careful of. I don't want to burn up all of the starters and then not have anything left for tomorrow."

Nelson: "I used this as a game to hope that our reserves could keep it close, and have a chance to insert the starters back in. But when that didn't happen, I made the decision that I'm just going to let the reserves play it out and hope that they can get a good feel to their game."

Samaki Walker: "We couldn't get it going. Of course, we played a lot of reserves tonight. Who knows, there's no saying that if we kept our starters in we could have come back."

Michael Finley: "After the first quarter I kind of figured what our coach was going to do. He felt like he could give his major minute guys a rest and go out and try to win tomorrow."

Finley: "[Nelson's] philosophy basically was to pretty much save the guys that were getting major minutes for [tonight], being that we have to compete in a back-to-back-to-back. So I understand."

Ahhhhh, the infamous 'Tank Game' at Utah. So, it was Nellie's fault the 'made-3' counter got zeroed-out long ago. LOL. Of course, it's probably also Nellie's fault the streak has lasted 473 games now considering his offense isn't shy to step behind the arc and launch one. Sloan did not sound happy with Nellie's ploy, did he? Thanks again, PB.

After the Knick rout, I hoped that Lang Whitaker would have some decent comments considering the Slam Magazine offices are just around the corner from MSG. He did go, but didn't stay very long ...

See, my plan for today was to go to last night's Knicks/Mavericks game and to write a report about it for The Links today.

And then the game happened.

Did you see the highlights? Did you read the game reports? Ugh. That's about the best thing I can say. The Knicks started the game with consecutive airballs from Nazr Muhammad. And then things went downhill.

Before the game, I caught up with my man Jason Terry, who escaped from Atlanta and is now the starting point guard for one of the best teams in the League. We talked as he put on his five pairs of socks (which takes longer than you might think), and as we chatted his eyes were glued to a TV showing tape of the Knicks and the Jazz from Sunday. Avery Johnson then entered the room, and JT grabbed him as he walked past.

"Hey General, General," Jason said, "I was watching how the Knicks play the pick and roll, and I think we could use that hawk cut against them and get Dirk some easy looks."

Avery thought for a moment, then replied, "Well, I'd like to see us do that then. I'd also like us to use the other screen for that. I'll mention it to them," the Little General said, I suppose referring to the coaching staff.

I asked Jason if Avery was coaching that night.

"We don't know," he said.

What do you mean you don't know?

"We don't know before the game who's coaching. That last game he coached, we didn't know until the game started that he was coaching."

How'd you figure it out?

"We saw who was making the substitutions."

Which every player will notice, of course.

Anyway, whatever they were doing, it was working just fine. The Knicks looked drunk, like they'd spent too much time with Omar at our holiday party a few nights ago. And Dirk Nowitzki was amazing, draining threes from the wings, not even touch the rims. Josh Howard was also playing at full speed, going for 26 and 16, combining hustle with basketball smarts -- on one fast break, J-Ho was running down the wing and he got to the basket before Jason Terry got in front of the rim, so J-Ho ran backwards three steps and then back forward, correcting the spacing and getting himself an open basket.

I left at halftime, with the Knicks losing by 39. That's not a typo.

Sounds like a real tight ship, eh? The Mav coach = whoever is making the subs that night. Wonderful. Next you're gonna tell me that the franchise player is still questioning the owner's decision to jettison perhaps the league's best PG. Oh, snap ...

Dirk: Dealing with the changes

Nowitzki angry about his boss and unsuccessful experiments by the Mavericks

by Stefanie Boewe - Die Welt

Dallas/Berlin - The practice lasted three hours, and it had the character of a punitive action. Don Nelson, coach of the Dallas Mavericks, drew conclusions from the last weak performances of his players - and yet again reconstructed his team.

Jason Terry will immediately replace Darrell Armstrong as budgetary point guard and will thus become a regular co-player of German basketball star Dirk Nowitzki in the North American professional league NBA; again a new experiment by the Texans, who after seven weeks and with only 15 victories in 24 games, despite all their championship ambitions, only appear at sixth place in the Western Conference.

With great concern and a certain resignation, Dirk Nowitzki (26) eyes the continuous work of change. In the past three years the Mavericks changed the squad drastically each time, but this season Dallas registered seven entries: "It's already tough with so many new people," Nowitzki deplores the missing coordination, "especially as a point guard it isn't easy to play for Don Nelson. Nellie has a very, very difficult system. I think that it's still a very long way, until we're where we want to be," the national player says and warns: "If we keep playing like before, then it's an even longer way to the playoffs."

Above all, the surprising discarding of Steve Nash from the guard position in October took Nowitzki by surprise. While in the NBA the motto generally prevails that championship crews must grow together slowly and be developed carefully, the ambitious Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, with his quick draws, time and again appears to be the biggest opponent of his own team.

"In the past years it was always our strength that at least the most important players, Michael Finley, Steve Nash and I, were always together and the new ones always only came in around us," analyzes Nowitzki. "If the most important players stay together, then the rest can adapt to the game relatively quickly, but now in the important guard position we have three new players who all don't yet know our system right and can't execute it right."

Nowitzki opposed Cuban's personnel decisions, above all, because the fired Nash dashes from one victory to the next with his new team, the Phoenix Suns, and leads the NBA; in November Nash was named Player of the Month. "For everyone here it's very painful," Nowitzki says crossly, "when we see how Steve is playing for a great season in Phoenix. Naturally we could really use that very well too. But we have to get along now with what we have."

In addition the Mavericks have another problem: At beginning of season new rules went into effect, according to which even small fouls are punished immediately - a rule which, quickly, profits light and mobile players. Big, massive and thus ponderous athletes get along worse with the new regulation.

In defiance of the general trend, the Texans meanwhile built in bulk with player purchases, and with center Erick Dampier made a veritable mistake. In the meantime the Mavericks tried to use their lighter participants more powerfully but the victories didn't adjust accordingly. The home clouds fell at the same time: While the Mavericks had lost only five games altogether in the American Airlines Center last season, they have already lost six times this year in 13 home games. "That is very, very frustrating," Nowitzki says.

As second on the NBA top scorer list the Würzburger can at least be content with his own achievement - meanwhile it doesn't make him happy. "What use is it to me, if I make a lot of points and the team still doesn't win?"

Not my translation. Sorry for the clunky way it read, but y'all probably got the gist. I'm sure the German press is hyping Dirk's lack of conviction a tad, but it's never good to hear that the franchise player is harboring doubts. Keep an eye on Dirk's chin if the Mav mediocrity continues.

Ran across an interesting article in the Israeli press about the Russian team for which former Mav interests Oggy Askrabic and Jan Steffanson now play. Some of the St. Petersburg coach's comments make me think that Jan is still in the Mav's plans. Whoop-de-dam-doo.

I've been a Monty Python fan for over 30 years now. John Cleese was always my favorite, and his Fawlty Towers sit-com was perhaps the best ever made. For any other Cleese fans, did you know he has his own website? Neither did I.

During my college daze I discovered Kurt Vonnegut, read all his books. 'Be nice to people' was his basic message, hard not to disagree with the boy. I hadn't read any Vonnegut in probably 15 years when I ran across an essay of his the other day. He still fights the good fight, but that is one crotchety pessimistic old man, Jack. Decent read if you're a fan.

And speaking of fans, EVERYBODY should be a Dread Zeppelin fan ... here's why. I actually saw them live about 15 years ago. It was an outdoor afternoon beer chug at a cement park in downtown Houston. Who knew I was witnessing greatness?

This just in ... the Houston Rockets just lost to the lowly expansion Charlotte Bobcats for the 2nd time in 5 days. The Bobcats get their first-ever road victory ... and another Angel gets it's wings.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

NYC Press on The Rout

I'm gonna surf the NYC papers anyway, figured I'll link any decent stories I find for others to enjoy ...

Excerpted from the NY Daily News, Frank Isola's game story included ...

Last night, Thomas was patting his players on their backs, telling them to "stick together."

"I look at the way the guys tried to play," Thomas said. "They tried to do as well as they could tonight. It just wasn't there."

Thomas was being rather kind because it is debatable whether the team actually tried. The Mavs led wire-to-wire, opening a 12-2 lead that ballooned to 75-36 by halftime.

"It felt like an NBA video game," said Josh Howard, who led all scorers with 26 points.

Stephon Marbury stared at the scoreboard as the Knicks were being blown out in the first half and couldn't believe his eyes. "I just said, 'We're getting our (butts) kicked,' " Marbury said. "It's kinda like when your mother is giving you a spanking and you just can't wait for it to get over. Then she starts thinking about more stuff to spank you for. You just keep getting whupped and whupped and whupped and eventually it's over with."

The Knicks were booed off the court at halftime and most of the crowd stuck around until the start of the fourth quarter when the Knicks fell behind 101-64. Those who stuck around cheered loudly when reserve center Bruno Sundov scored his first points of the season. They chanted, "Brew-no, Brew-no" as Sundov scored seven points in garbage time. Now that's entertainment.

At least Sundov played with passion. Some of his teammates could be found guilty of not showing up. Kurt Thomas went scoreless in 29 minutes, missing all seven shots while trying to chase around Dirk Nowitzki. Jamal Crawford scored seven points on 2-for-11 shooting with one technical foul. Marbury finished with 12 points, seven assists, four turnovers and missed nine of 12 shots.

Nowitzki scored all of his 23 points in the first half and Michael Finley had 21 for Dallas (17-9). The Mavs' 75 first-half points were nine shy of the record by a Knicks opponent set by the Lakers on Jan. 15, 1966. Nowitzki and Finley outscored the Knicks in the first half by four points.

Nowitzki opened the game by hitting a three-pointer and the Mavs never looked back.

The Knicks missed seven of their first eight shots and were content to shoot jumpers rather than attack the basket. Long jumpers turned into long rebounds that the Mavs converted into easy transition baskets.

Throughout much of the first half, James Dolan, the Garden chairman, sat slumped in his chair as the onslaught continued. At one point, he left his seat and chatted with Thomas, who was standing in his customary spot, the tunnel at center court.

Dolan and Thomas were both smiling. Perhaps the owner was reminding the Knicks boss that it was performances like this that prompted the franchise to go out and hire Thomas in the first place. "Clearly," Thomas said, "this isn't what anybody wanted to happen."

The NY Post called it 'Madison Square Garbage' ... LOL ...

December 22, 2004 -- A year ago, Isiah Thomas took over the Knicks. A lot has changed since then, but it's obvious his club still can't hang with the NBA's big dogs.

Last night, the Atlantic Division leaders stunk up the world's most famous arena with a disgraceful performance during a 123-94 bloodbath win by the Mavericks.

Dallas ran rings around the Knicks and shot the Garden's lights out, while the home team arguably produced their worst "effort" in years.

They avoided the worst home loss in franchise history — a 43-point defeat to the Hornets two years ago — and barely outdid a 34-point defeat in their home opener to the Celtics this year because of a garbage-time comeback.

But they didn't avoid embarrassment.

"We just got our [butts] kicked tonight. Period," Stephon Marbury said.

Dallas built a 30-point lead and doubled up on the Knicks (13-12) before halftime, leading 75-36 at intermission on 61.9 percent shooting. After the home team went to the locker room to a chorus of boos, some Christmas shoppers undoubtedly were wondering if they could make a fast break for Macy's.

In one year, Thomas has remade the roster almost completely, turning the Knicks into a normally exciting squad with the star power of Marbury and the promise of Jamal Crawford. Both guards were invisible when they weren't dismal, much like their teammates.

Although it's an unfair one-day barometer, the inability of the Knicks to even compete against has-beens Alan Henderson and Shawn Bradley during the second quarter was telling. Last night showed they can be dominated both physically and psychologically even at home, exposure that must infuriate Thomas privately.

Publicly, he flashed his characteristic smile and downplayed the disgrace.

"It just wasn't there," Thomas said, displaying no anger whatsoever. "They were better.

"We're still in first place. It's just one of them nights."

Dallas' ball movement simply exposed the Knicks' limitations. Early in the second quarter, Lenny Wilkens put out a quintet of Allan Houston, Michael Sweetney, Jerome Williams, Moochie Norris and Trevor Ariza.

Was that the substitution lowlight, or was it Vin Baker getting off the bench in the first quarter?

Wilkens hated the energy his team showed in a seventh straight loss to Dallas.

"We weren't there mentally in the beginning," Wilkens said. "Guys were trying. We weren't happy with our effort ...

"It's surprising we came out as lax as we were. You gotta play with energy."

The Mavs built a 41-point lead on Erick Dampier's bucket within the first minute of the second half and reached the century mark by the end of the third quarter.

When Dirk Nowitzki drained a 3-pointer from the right wing less than a minute into the game, the Knicks' worst nightmares began. Nowitzki turned into his usual problem: a matchup nightmare.

He managed all 23 of his points in the first half on 7-of-11 shooting, each time taunting the Knicks' inadequate defenders with his long-range accuracy.

"We all shoot the ball well, and they have to leave someone open," Nowitzki said. "It didn't really matter who they left open, we really stroked the ball good."

Josh Howard (26 points) and Michael Finley (21 points) were nearly as deadly and posed the same matchup problems.

Bruno Sundov's third appearance of the year in the fourth was actually a highlight, as he scored seven points to chants from the remaining fans in the stands.


December 22, 2004 -- Dirk Nowitzki had a couple of brand new teeth in his mouth last night at the Garden and if his performance against the Knicks was any indication, the Dallas big man might want to get fitted for new choppers before every game.

"That happened before to me," Nowitzki said. "It's no big deal."

Nowitzki lost a pair of teeth in a collision with Jason Terry and Jason Collier Saturday against Atlanta and played his first game last night with the replacements in, which only seemed to improve his already-impeccable long-distance accuracy.

Nowitzki, challenging to become the first Dallas Maverick to win an NBA scoring title, dumped in 23 points in 25 minutes of work in a dominating 123-94 win over the Knicks.

So thorough was the beating Dallas laid on the Knicks, Nowitzki played only eight minutes in the second half, saving the home team further embarrassment and allowing his assorted bumps and bruises some extra time to heal.

"He was banged up," Dallas head coach Don Nelson said. "It was just what the doctor ordered."

Both the teeth and a balky ankle had slowed Nowitzki lately — after scoring 53 points in a game earlier this month — but last night there was nothing slow about the giant German sharpshooter, who came into the game third in NBA scoring behind only Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson.

Nowitzki made a mockery of the Knicks' defense, hitting back-to-back threes in the late minutes of the second quarter from the same spot on the floor to give the Mavs a 57-31 lead. And on a night the home team was lifeless, Nowitzki drove the biggest spikes in their hearts.

He went 7-for-11 (4-for-6 from beyond the arc) in the opening half, in which he mostly victimized Kurt Thomas inside and out of the lane. In his limited second-half action, Nowitzki missed all four shots he took.

"They put the clamps on him," Nelson said.

Yeah, when it was far too late to really matter.

In Newsday, they wonder ... Should be some teeth gnashing over letting Nash walk ...

They still talk a lot, at least twice a week. Dirk Nowitzki will flip on the television in his hotel room, see Steve Nash leading Phoenix's high-octane offense to another big win, and then reach for his mobile phone.

"I call him all the time," Nowitzki said of his close friend and former teammate. "What he does with that Phoenix team, the way he penetrates and gets everyone involved - they're a fun team to watch. He's doing really well."

There's a decidedly nostalgic, almost sad tone to Nowitzki's voice when he talks about Nash, the point guard he played with for six years in Dallas. Nowitzki freely admits he thought they would grow old together, that they would be their generation's Karl Malone and John Stockton.

Instead, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who had never before balked at dipping deep into his wallet, decided not to pay the big bucks to retain the 30-year-old point guard. Nash signed a $53 million, five-year free agent contract with Phoenix. And Cuban, looking to build a younger, more defense-minded team, once again reconfigured his roster - adding Erick Dampier and Jason Terry while trading Antawn Jamison and Jerry Stackhouse.

The results of Cuban's most recent roster remake have been mixed, though you might not know it from the way the Mavericks destroyed Knicks, 123-94, last night at Madison Square Garden.

At this point, the Mavericks are not a championship contender.

Yes, they're better defensively, but they still don't rank anywhere near the top defensive teams in the league. Their offense, for the most part, is decent only because Nowitzki is an MVP-quality player.

Last night, the Knicks couldn't do anything to slow Nowitzki.

He did absolutely everything he wanted to in the first half - he drove, he dunked, he hit a three-pointer on his way to 23 first-half points. Nowitzki entered the game as the league's third-leading scorer with 26.0 points a game. Yet, he also entered the game with a lot of questions about his team and where they were headed. "I think we have a lot of potential, but we haven't been showing it over the last 10 games," Nowitzki said. "We've already dropped like seven at home. We only lost five home games all last year."

The Mavericks headed into last night's win with a 16-9 record, which is not bad, but the Mavericks were looking to be much better than not bad. If the Mavericks have any hope of going deep into the playoffs, they can't be losing to Golden State at home like they did last week. "With this team, we can't be satisfied with the record we have and the way we're playing," Nowitzki said. "We can't settle for that. We've got to be way better than that."

The Mavericks would have been much better than that if they hadn't traded away Nash. Cuban didn't want to keep Nash until he was in his late 30s, but it's hard to look that far down the road when you think about how good they could have been now if they had Dampier, Nash and Nowitzki in the starting lineup.

Jason Terry may be a good young point guard, but right now Nash is the best point guard in the league. With the way he's resurrected Phoenix, he's an MVP contender. That would be some kind of irony if the two good friends were separated only to both finish high in the MVP balloting.

Nowitzki knows how much the team misses Nash.

"It's hard," Nowitzki said. "We have a lot of new guys. Steve was with [coach Don Nelson] for so long. He knew the system. He knew what Nellie wanted. It's been rough, but our record has not been bad. We need to find a way to win a couple of games." Last night's win against the Knicks might be just what they need to start them on their way.

The NY Times story wasn't even worth pasting, but this Cuban quote was kinda funny ...

Noting the importance of the New York market, Cuban said a good Knicks team was good for the league. "Purely from a business perspective, there's more media coverage here than anybody else," he said. "It's a win-win situation when the Knicks are better. Do I think the N.B.A. would do anything to help that along? No. I don't think they'd know how if they wanted to."

BTW, what's with all this white stuff fallin' outta the sky?

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Michael Finley SUX!!

We all love Ro Blackman, good player, good guy. Tons of Mav fans hate Mike Finley, decrepit player, boring guy. Curious. I wondered, how do Fin's numbers look stacked up next to Ro's totals? Well there, Sparky, let's take a look-see ... remember, Ro played 980 games, Fin began the 2004/2005 season with 671 games - they both started their NBA careers at 22 years of age.

Ro - 13 seasons
Fin - 9 seasons so far

Career Points
Ro - 17,623
Fin- 12,971

Career Assists
Ro - 2981
Fin- 2581

Career Rebounds
Ro - 3278
Fin- 3477

Ro - 18.0 PPG, 3.3 REBS, 3.0 ASTS, FG% .493 and FT% .840
Fin- 19.3 PPG, 5.2 REBS, 3.8 ASTS, FG% .451 and FT% .806

Ro's numbers fell off a cliff during the season he turned 34, playing for the Knicks.
Fin will turn 32 this March, his contract expires in 2008, when he'll be 35.

Fin's steals and blocks totals are already better. He rebounds and passes better, too.
Ro could shoot that pill, though, his slightly lower 3-PT% due to the old school distance most likely.

Fin plays in a more physical era and suffers constant post-shot contact.
Ro wilted in the very spawning vat of the modern physical game - Riley's Knicks.

Ro's career avgs suffer from his last two aging seasons.
Fin will probably also have a coupla poor seasons in his greying years, biting into his averages.

Ro wore short shorts.
Fin is under contract with the guy who invented the long shorts.

Final conclusion? A bagel with cream cheese is indeed a tasty thang. And so is Michael Finley...

Michael Finley has made wishes come true. He's flown thru the spares with the greatest of ease and his career has been a mural of professionalism. Fin's class speaks for itself. Y'all loves y'all some Fin, he deserves it.

"Get in mah belly!"

Protesters in Fallujah - can YOU spot the NBA fan among them?

Wanted: one vomit bag ... guess who is singing here. Hint - he's 'Hard to Kill.'

Wanna laff? Go here, type in "Yo Twan, pass the dam ball" and hit the 'say it' button.

In honor of the Vince Carter trade ... how do you say, "Deez nutz" in French?

I sometimes scan the club ads in the back of the Dallas Observer looking for the latest in band naming creativity. Let's see ... Emcee Squared, Flesh Pilgrims, 99 Names of God, Back Porch Mary, Spitfire Tumbleweed, The Hundred Inevitables, Grand Champeen, Two Cow Garage, High School Caesar, Valume Nob, Moonfluid, The Dog Kickers, Fruitcake Superbeing, Darth Vato, Fair to Midland, Faktion Upside, Ahummin' Acoustical Acupuncture, Pistol Whippin' Ike, Special Edword, Dying Fetus, Misery Signals ... to name a few.

BTW, along these same smoke-filled, blurry lines ... over at Cuban's blog he claims he invented the Deep Ellum scene. Puh-Lease ...

Mavs play the Knicks tonight. So far they're 2-1 during the 5-game stretch where I challenged them to show me something. Sorry, no excuses accepted. Win da stinkin' game and play some defense.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Thank You, Lord, for Lasagna, Mommy and Steve Nash

Bouncing around the nation's Sunday sports pages, the Mavs' revolving-door PG situation seemed to be an attractive target for NBA writers. DA ain't bad, but gold dust is still just dust. Terry is strolling thru his Mav experience without a care, and without busting a sweat. 'Future Cornerstone' Devin Harris' reed-like frame = WYSIWYG. His quickness surprises a few people between the circles, but is really just aimless rocketry. His shooting form is bleak. His handle is loose in traffic. I see too much standing, his arms hanging straight down by his sides too often when off the ball. I see zero rebounding want-to. I see weak hoop fluidity and savvy. Homeboy has miles to go before he shows me something. And I don't mean stuff like that sick freakin' jam he had against the Hawks. Beno Udrih will NEVER have a highlight so spectacular, yet there's no doubt which between the two is currently the better PG prospect...

Finding His Place in Larger N.B.A. Community
NY Times
Published: December 19, 2004

Beno Udrih, his brother, Samo, and his father, Silvo, are the first family of basketball in Sempeter, Slovenia.

"Well, yeah, in my town it's easy to be known," Udrih said. "There are only two million people in Slovenia and maybe 5,000 people in my town. It's more like a village."

It took more than a village for Udrih to get to the San Antonio Spurs. With what is perhaps the N.B.A.'s most complete team, he is a fast-rising rookie point guard, a left-hander backing up another lefty import, Tony Parker of France.

Udrih's father played in Yugoslavia's second-division professional league. Udrih and his brother began their careers in Slovenia's pro league.

"My father didn't force me to play basketball," Udrih said. "I played handball, football, soccer. I came home one day and a basketball coach asked me to come try out for a team when I was 9."

By the time Udrih was 17, he was a better basketball player than his brother, who is three years older.

Samo Udrih plays in Israel's second-tier league.

"Sometimes you don't need to be better, you got to have some luck, too," Beno Udrih said. "I had a little bit of luck."

He had some hard luck, too. After a promising debut with Slovenia's top team, Olimpija, Udrih struggled with injuries and consistency when he played with Maccabi Tel Aviv.

He moved around last season, starting with a team in Russia and finishing in Italy. At the N.B.A.'s predraft camp in Chicago, he impressed teams that had not paid attention to him.

The Spurs drafted Udrih at No. 28, the same slot they used to choose Parker in 2001.

"We didn't think he'd still be there," Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich said of the 6-foot-3 Udrih.

Udrih and Parker, each 22, complement each other well. "Tony is an outstanding defender and very explosive; Beno spreads the court a little more because of his shot," Popovich said.

Udrih has averaged 13.5 minutes a game. When Parker was limited to 29 minutes last Wednesday against Orlando because of a groin muscle injury, Udrih sparked the Spurs' 10-point fourth-quarter comeback. He hit two 3-pointers and two free throws and had seven assists in the victory.

"He's a natural point guard, really understands the position," Popovich said. "He's got a great pace about himself: when to speed up, speed down. He's a grade-A passer: hits people on time."

Udrih has so far dispelled the Spurs' doubts that he could handle the physical N.B.A. game.

"The bonus is, we didn't know he was a 3-point shooter," Popovich said.

Through Friday, Udrih was shooting 47.2 percent from 3-point range, fourth in the N.B.A. But his cool court savvy is his calling card.

"He brings a different look, he's got great passes," the Spurs' Rasho Nesterovic, a fellow Slovene, said. "He sees that open guy when nobody sees him. He's just an all-around player."

Udrih comes by it naturally.

[So far, I just think Beno has a far better chance of someday reminding us of Steve Nash than Harris does. Speaking of Steve Nash, from the Memphis Commercial Appeal ...]

Nash has Suns stock on the rise

Mavs, meanwhile, floundering at PG

By Ronald Tillery
December 19, 2004

For an astute assessment of how much Steve Nash means to the team that signs his checks, look at Dallas.

Yep, Nash plays for the fast-breaking, awe-inspiring, you'd better-start-believing-in-the Phoenix Suns. Still, it's Nash's absence in Dallas that speaks volumes about his play in Phoenix.

He's only doing what Dallas owner Mark Cuban wouldn't pay a non-maximum contract for, and the Suns -- not the Mavericks -- are championship caliber.

Talk about lucky No. 13.

The Mavs tried their third starting point guard, Jason Terry, Saturday. Terry stepped in because recently acquired Darrell Armstrong didn't ignite any fire, and rookie Devin Harris proved to be nothing more than a 30-second sparkle to start the season.

Nash, meanwhile, led the NBA as of last Friday with 11 assists per game, proving that a team's success is nothing without the high-paid leading man providing quality with the quickness.

How much of an impact is Nash having on his new team?

New York Newsday's NBA writer Barbara Barker recently revealed that Zach Sarver, the three-year-old son of the Suns' new managing owner, Robert Sarver, included in his Thanksgiving Day prayer a hearty thanks for "lasagna, Mommy and Steve Nash."

Signed as a free agent this summer, Nash fit right in with teammates Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion to produce the league's highest octane offense (109.4) and biggest early-season surprises.

This is the same Suns squad that won 29 games last season.

Nash is making the type of difference Jason Kidd did when he joined the New Jersey Nets before the 2001-02 season.

"Their whole team feeds off of him," said Cleveland coach Paul Silas, whose squad beat the Grizzlies in FedExForum last week. "He just changed the complexion of the team. They're a throwback to the old days where teams just run-and-gunned, played pick-and-roll. 109 points in the NBA today? That's awesome."

Took the words right out of Cuban's mouth.

Errrrrrr ... thanks for the hoop, Pops.

What does nose hair smell like?

At the end of the game, both the Kings and the Pawns go into the same box.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Postcards from the Ledge

Crushed by Golden State. Okay, not exactly crushed, but still ... wow. Even Dun-Dun's taking shots at us. -->

Over the last 10 games, the Mavs are 6-4 with a team FG% differential of minus .022. Dirk is shooting a .400 FG% over this stretch. The Mavs claim exhaustion and minor dings to Dirk have hamstrung their title run temporarily. Okay, we'll give them some wiggle-room - now just show us something over the next 9 games since you have the luxury of 30 days to stroll thru them.

A fellow Mav fan admitted to me the other day that he rarely bad-mouths Mark Cuban publicly on the internet despite often disagreeing with his Mav maneuvering. He does this because deep down he believes a chance exists that Cubes will someday recognize his genius and offer him a job in the Mav front office. Now, he's obviously kidding, mostly ... but you just know there's a sliver of truth behind his admission. This tickled me, and the more I thought about it the more I wondered what Mark Cuban would think about it. So I asked him ...


I have an NBA-fan cyber-buddy who won't say anything negative on the www about you, your NBA ownership, or your personnel management. He often disagrees with the things you do -- he just fears that you or your minions are possibly watching him and will cross him off the Mav Xmas card list if you detect evidence of any Cuban hating. You see, he harbors a deeply held fantasy that someday you will notice his genius Mav cyber-observations and invite him to join the Mavs' front-office - like a knight in shining armor riding in on a white horse to save the franchise's day.

My request to you, mostly tongue-in-cheek, is ...

... if he were standing in front of you right now, knowing what I just told you, what would you say to him regarding his fantasy and his tight-lippedness toward your Mav machinations?



About 1.5 hours later, The Benefracture replied ...
I read the LMF franz.... dont see a whole lot of genius on there..
But then again, Im part of the MBT, what in the world do i know :)

seriously, we have enough opinions already. thats the easy part

LOL. Greatness. A few things ...

  • What does a billionaire do on Saturday afternoons? Answers his e-mail, promptly.
  • IIRC, it used to be that Cuban signed everything with a lower-case 'm' ... hmmmm, does the upper-case 'M' above indicate some kind of touchy sea-change regarding a new-found need for cyber-respect? And likewise, the lower-case 'f' in 'franz' ... have I been dissed by a billionaire?
  • Billionaires ain't got time for no stinkin' apostrophes.
  • Richard's 'MBT' mantra has migrated from the dusty, cactus-strewn plains of his relentless West Texas determination into the lexicon of the MBT it's own dad-burn self. LOL.
  • To the mystery Mav Fan whose admission started this ball rolling - will "seriously, we have enough opinions already. thats the easy part" loosen any Cuban-hating venom held back up-till-now by fear of killing a dream career opportunity?
Seriously, I hate on Cubes as much as anybody, but even I will admit the guy's a pip.

Found a pretty interesting article at about the 'next Yao Ming' - some dude from South Korea named
Ha Seung-jin.

I found this pic and I just thought it was the bee's knees ...

Poke at own risk.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

A Trotter's Tale

I live close enough to the edge of town that I can be jogging down a country lane within a few minutes of such a desire's arrival. Pastures to the left of me, fields to the right, a low winter sun ... gots all I needs for a real pleasant time. I've always liked to travel. Running is just another form of travel, with maybe the journey being more the destination.

Last weekend the setting sun had me hurrying out the front door, shoo-ing me into the fields before darkness came for a quick 3-miler.

Still, cool, a paucity of traffic ... things were awesome for the first 2 miles ... horses, cattle, vast country lawns and patches of woods. I knew a goat pasture was just around the bend and my thoughts drifted.

Suddenly, I realized that the shouting of children and the barking of dogs had consumed the tranquility. When I looked to the right, my vision held two dogs running at me, furious, obviously not big jogging fans. These guys were not happy, Jack, and they were not small, and this was NOT looking good at all.

As the first of the pair ran under the lovely, red-bowed Noel wreath hanging from the open gate of their lair, it struck me that the desperation in the voices of the children behind pleading for their return was not a welcome clue as to their opinion of my odds in the 8-legged, snarling confrontation barreling my way.

Now, I've been approached by my share of beasts out on the open road, part of the price you pay, but the combination of fury and size that rapidly neared sorta left me with a big question mark about this situation's outcome. My date with the goats was looking iffy at best.

You know how Roy Williams will launch himself at any opposing wide receiver running a crossing route in his vicinity? You know the obvious conviction his momentum has that the target is to be pierced rather than met? Well, my new furry friend musta been a Roy fan, 'cause he had obviously decided to run through me rather than up to me.

Homeboy definitely had a lot of German Shepherd in him, but he was taller and lankier than a pure breed - looked a little like Rin Tin Tin on stilts maybe.

Now, as I nimbly side-stepped his initial lunge, kicking my fetlocks just clear of his jaws, you'd think the clicking of his scrambling paws on the road surface and the spray of saliva that hung in the wake of his thrashing head woulda had my full attention. Well, you'd be wrong there, Sylvester. What had my full attention was dog numero dos ... or as I like to call him, Seattle Slew.

Now Rin was in my kitchen and regrouping rapidly for another lunge, but mere death up to your waist pales quickly in comparison to death up to your armpits. Standing in the road, enveloped by writhing irritable Alsatian, I can assure you all my focus ... all my thoughts were on what can only be described as both Great and Dane. At a molecular level, the horrible reality behind the 'Marmaduke Myth' raced through me.

'Help' is the word that you might've perceived lay whimpering on my lips had you been witness to Slew's lumbering arrival upon my already-full dance card. Thoughts swirled, anger grew, mine eyes clouded dark and a lightening recoiled within, its furious unleash a foregone and uncontrollable conclusion.

About the time I realized that Rin Tin Tin had ceased nipping at my Achilles, about the time I realized that a Great Dane can actually form a startled expression on his horsey mug, about the time I had decided that an innocent desire to see some goats might be the last conscious thought to pass through my mind ... a glimmer of hope peeked it's timid eyes out from behind the looming heads of my assailants. I sensed a hesitancy, an opening to prevail against the odds.

Hope rode in, my friends, not on the wings of an avenging spirit, not carried on the edge of some Angel of Retribution's sword, bent on protecting me and guiding me from the abyss of certain doggy peril. NO my friends!! Hope rode in on ... my tongue. My filthy, low-down, gutter-mouth tongue.

For some reason ... at death's door, at the twilight's last gleaming, ol' Franz started cussing a blue streak. There are entire platoons of Marines that would faint with shame had they been within earshot.

I let the dogs know how I felt. I let the children know how I felt. I let the fields and the pastures and the wooded glens of verdant Denton County know how I felt.

I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever that a quarter-mile up the lane the goats knew exactly how I felt.

And as I jogged passed those goats a coupla minutes later, unscathed, safe, floating along on adrenalin-fueled jet-packs for legs, a quiet respectful air could be felt in their observance of me. A recognition of the true majesty of nature's force.

And I reveled in the contentedness which washed over me ... lapping against the searing of my throat and the dry tingling of my exhausted tongue.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Every Time the Rockets Lose an Angel Gets Its Wings

I really enjoyed getting to watch the Mavs/Rockets game Sat nite, having no cable sux - won't see another TV game for two weeks. I haven't missed watching the Mavs too much so far because they really haven't been entertaining at all during the few broadcasts I've managed to catch. However, that Mav team that beat the Rockets was fun to watch. I might have to figure out a way to see more Mavs games if Fin's return and DA's addition means entertaining hoops again.

The Rox game might be the first W this season that Dirk didn't primarily win -- Fin was on fire. He showed intensity and leadership, loves me some Fin. One time, Houston was setting up to inbound the ball on the side and Fin noticed that nobody on the Mav bench had called the defense out. Fin SCREAMED at the coaches for help and got the team set up defensively - nice leadership. Watching what Fin added, I found it a bit sad that the Mavs' most court savvy player now is perhaps Michael Finley. That's just another thing Nash's departure cost the Mavs - court savvy.

Darrell Armstrong looked like he'd been with the team forever - he stays very attentive and gung-ho - has decent savvy and guile. Comparing his play against the Rox vs the laziness of Terry and the ignorance of Harris in garbage time was eye-opening. Between DA's fine play and Terry's competence off the bench, I'm not quite sure what Don Nelson is doing running Marquis Daniels at PG so much. NBA coaches can be stubborn - everybody but Hubie knew his minute management needed tweaking - everybody but JVG knows that Yao is being wasted in his crap offense - everybody but RudyT knows a one-man show ain't gonna go nowhere. Same with Nelson - Daniels at point should be an emergency, Dirk should get a quicker rest in the 2nd Q, sometimes Bradley should be on the court more, Jerry Stackhouse should only play heavy mins if others are cold or unavailable. Stubborn I tell you.

The Mavs ran a new play with DA at PG - never seen it before. DA starts at the left wing, Josh distractingly loops around the key and down to the left baseline, and Dirk and Damp BOTH line-up to set a devastating high double pick as DA rolls right across the top of the key. Then Damp dives toward the hoop and Dirk and Josh flair. DA can hit any one of them or take it to the hoop if the waters part. Nice stuff, don't recall Nelson ever running this set before. Rockets looked lost defending it. I don't recall Terry running this play - they mostly just did high screen and rolls for him - back and forth until he could rub off his defender enough to worry the help defence into leaving somebody. Nice win, just looooove to see the Rockets lose. You know that warm little glow you get every time you swat a mosquito? I get that same feeling every time a Rocket shot clangs off the rim.

Moving on ... it seems some Canadian guys got together with some German guys and came up with a hoops board game. Dirk is their major endorser. The game is called Crunchtime, it'll set you back about $40. BTW, that's clearly a foul -->

Ever get the feeling that maybe you're just a little too liberated, just a little too free to pursue happiness as you choose it? Do you feel an emptiness in your life that only mental and emotional shackles would fill? Well, let Jackie Christie help you out.

The Texas Rangers signed FA OF'er Richard Hidalgo over the weekend. The Transaction Oracle thinks it was a much better signing than the Dye signing. If the Rangers could snag Delgado now it would make me a happy man.

Next Spring a brand new soccer stadium will open in Frisco. The 2005 MLS Cup is already on the stadium's schedule. WC qualifying and major international matches have been attracted by it's construction as well. Very nice, bet the FC Dallas boyz are gonna be pretty happy with there spiffy new 20,000 seat home turf. Check out some architect renderings.

Ha Ha Ha, Ho Ho Ho and a couple of tra la la's.
That's how we laugh the day away in the Merry Ole Land of Oz!

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Mirth, Wind und das Kaiser

Went to Half-Priced Books last night at Northwest HWY and Central. If you were there, I was the guy who audibly farted in the magazine section bringing all conversation at the nearby information desk to an abrupt halt. Loooooooove gettin' old. Anyway, I ran across this book I'd never seen before -> The Dallas Mavericks '87/'88 by Steve Pate. It was packed with great action photos of all my old heroes. There was one odd photo that appeared to show Isiah Thomas giving birth to Mark Aquirre right on court I suggest looking for that book next time you're in a bookstore, the pics will bring back a bunch of memories. The 87/88 Mavs were beaten by the Lakers in 7 games in the WC finals. The Lakers went on to beat Detroit in 7 in the finals. Dallas was STACKED that year - Aguirre, Ro, Harp, Perkins, Tarpley, Donaldson, Davis, Schrempf. They had decent health and a real rotation. I don't see how they lost the Midwest Division to Denver considering the Nuggets finished with a team FG% of .474 vs their opponents' .490. Queer that.

Ran across this pic of a young MJ sporting UNC togs and a fully distended tongue. Pretty cool pic. Made me wonder what his kids are up to lately. A few clicks later and I ran across this article from the Sun Times ...

Son kind of player: MJ's kid a rising star

November 29, 2004

BY TINA AKOURIS Staff Reporter

The name is Jeff Jordan -- it's no longer Jeffrey. And the oldest son of Michael Jeffrey Jordan is fast making a name for himself at Loyola.

Playing as a sophomore on the Ramblers' varsity basketball team, Jordan scored 23 points (the number worn by his dad) in his first game last week, a 78-69 victory over Barrington in the Mundelein holiday tournament.

Jordan wears No. 32, the number he wore as a freshman on the Ramblers' sophomore team last season. He also plays football (he was a receiver -- and wore No. 18 -- on the Ramblers' sophomore team).

On Friday, Jordan scored a team-high 21 points as the Ramblers beat Mundelein 86-66. He scored four points in limited action Saturday as the Ramblers rolled to the tourney title with a 66-35 victory over Round Lake.

"I'm adjusting pretty easily to being on varsity,'' Jordan said. "The pace of the game is a lot different. I thought it was going to be harder with all the hype about playing on varsity.''

But even with his famous father, who has attended all of Loyola's games this season, Jordan's emergence hasn't caused much of a stir. At Mundelein, MJ entered the gym through the back and blended into the crowd. It was a stark contrast to a year ago, when his attendance at a sophomore game at Brother Rice created a buzz among Rice fans and the media.

"I'm used to it now with all the questions,'' Jordan said. "The questions, the random people asking, fans heckling. I try not to listen and just tell myself to go out there and play my game.''

Loyola senior guard Doug Kadison said the novelty of having a teammate with a famous name is wearing off.

"[Jordan's] freshman year, it was crazy, and a lot of people were in shock,'' Kadison said. "People were asking a lot of questions, but it's not that big a deal anymore.''

Although he's on the football team, Jordan wants to make basketball a priority. Loyola coach Bryan Tucker sees a lot of potential in the 6-1 guard.

"He's so talented that he can do a lot with basketball,'' Tucker said. "He creates a lot of offense for himself and his teammates.''

Unlike his father, Jordan is a left-handed shooter. He jumps center for the Ramblers at the start of games even though he isn't their tallest player. He doesn't show much emotion on the court and isn't vocal with his teammates. That could change as Jordan gets more comfortable playing on the varsity level and alongside his teammates.

"Both of my parents keep me grounded,'' Jordan said. "I try not to get a big head about anything.''

Kadison said Jordan is fitting in well.

"I don't even look at him as a Jordan anymore,'' he said.

That's just the way Tucker and the school want it.

"He's a high school kid just like anyone else, and Jeff just wants to have a normal high school experience,'' Tucker said. "Jeff's just a great kid, and his teammates are his friends. Mr. Jordan has been really supportive, just like any parent.''

And as for the challenge of being the child of a famous parent?

"He's grown up with that,'' Tucker said. "We're the ones that are trying to adjust.''

Jordan and Loyola will get a stiff test Friday when they host 21st-ranked Brother Rice, led by North Carolina-bound star Bobby Frasor. On Feb. 25, Loyola will play De La Salle at the United Center as part of the Bulls' Preps With Pros series of games. The high school game is in the afternoon, and the Bulls face the Wizards, the other NBA team Michael Jordan played for, that night.

Jordan isn't the only sophomore with a well-known name on the Loyola varsity. Joe Suhey, whose father, Matt, was a star fullback for the Bears, scored 11 points in the Ramblers' victory over Barrington and was a starter for the football team that made the state playoffs.

Jeff Jordan also soon could be sharing the spotlight with younger brother Marcus, who at 6-3 already is earning rave reviews as an eighth-grade player.

[Not a big fan of Dad's, but I'm kinda lookin' forward to seeing his kids play ball someday. - FK]

Found and stole a freshly translated German-language interview with Dirk by Kieler Nachrichten...

Dallas - Dirk Nowitzki remains humble, although he is at the moment the most successful NBA player this season. The Dallas Mavericks won Tuesday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves 97:87. The high scorer was once again Dirk Nowitzki with 34 points.

The Würzburger is playing his seventh season in the NBA, is better than ever and stands after approximately a quarter of the season in first place on the scoring list. Dirk, you obtained 53 points last Thursday in the game against the Houston Rockets and thus took over the top position among all scorers. You set up a new personal as well as a new team record for Dallas. You are first place on the Maverick scoring list. How do you feel in view of these statistics?

That's really a rather good thing, but the most important thing is that we win the games. See, before the victory in Minnesota we lost at home against Detroit. I had 27 points, that's good, but its of no use at all, since we went off the court as losers. We had four home games in a row and won only two. Last season we lost altogether only five home games, now there's already four defeats. We really have problems at home.

You're going to the free throw line much more often this season. On average ten times per game. Against Houston there were 22 attempts; of those you made 21. Was that one of your goals before the season?

In the past everything was different. When Steve Nash was still our point guard, I had a lot of freedom. I could often shoot without pressure. Now it's not like that anymore. So I have to play more aggressively and therefore I get fouled more frequently. I try to be productive for our team. Going to the free throw line frequently is normally a good way this can be done, since that way I also force the opposing players into foul trouble faster.

Another significant difference between your past career and this season is the rebounds. Your season best mark was 9.9 Rebounds per game, this autumn you have almost 11. How do you explain this?

I'm actually not doing anything different than before. The difference is that we have a really good, dominant center under the basket in Erick Dampier now. So it was clear that we would be a good rebounding team. It's not at all important who grabs the ball down. And Josh Howard does a very good job in this regard. The bottom line is it's really only important that we fulfill our obligations as a team.

Do you thus have more freedom under the basket, because now with Erick Dampier a big, strong man is clearing out there?

You can say that, probably at least in defense. He blocks away the tall players, so they don't even come close enough. In the last years it was always busy under the basket, but with Dampier this is now totally different. That makes my task a lot easier.

You have at present nearly 28 points per game, far and away your best figure on average since you started in the NBA in 1998. Your coach Don Nelson, however, said now that it was not in his interest for you to always make 30 points and get the scoring title. What do you say to that?

In principle he's right. Five players of a team always stand on the court, and in the long term we can only win if everyone contributes. Anyway, the scoring title isn't the title that interests me. I want to get the championship with the Mavericks.

Since July you've trained with your friend and mentor, Holger Geschwindner? What does an All-Star player like yourself still work on?

I improve little things, a few moves, the foot work, athleticism. I have to become faster and more energetic in defense. Then we worked on my mindset.

On your mindset?

If my shot doesn't go from the start, my whole game goes down three levels. I don't get into a rhythm. I have to learn to find my way over the defense in the game.

You work in the USA, and spend your free time in Germany. In both countries you have to constantly deal with the media. Where do you see differences?

Here my private life is important, although everyone knows that I don't like to talk publicly about my private life. The Americans are only interested in basketball. I don't know the last time a US journalist asked me whether I had a girlfriend.

From Dirk Nowitzki there's currently not just a calendar, but also bobbleheads, a board game, a Lego man and a bedsheet. Do you have things with your likeness at home?

I don't have them. But my mother collects everything, every article that was in any little newspaper. My parents are still my biggest fans.

[Awwwwwwwwwwwwwww...belch. - FK]

Friday, December 10, 2004

Perspicacious Prevarications

If you've wondered what some of the Internationals drafted recently are doing overseas, well, then you oughta at least scan this list. Two things that popped out at me were that the freaking Spurs' boy, Luis Scola, is getting 17 pts, 8.4 rebs for a supposedly stacked Tau Ceramica team ... sigh, the rich stay rich. The other thing was that, for some reason, I've been working under the impression that that Sasha Vujacic guy on the Lakers was Yugo star Milos Vujanic. Wrong. Anyway, the list is supposedly up-to-date and worth a scan.

The Mavs have played 21 games so far. FWIW, going by Sagarin, 8 of those games came against the top 6 teams in the NBA besides the Mavs. They went 3-5. Eh, so-so, but it looks better if you consider Dirk being out injured probably cost them a loss to Minnie. Sagarin ranks their schedule as the 5th toughest to date. Between the schedule getting easier, Fin getting healthy, Armstrong replacing Harris and Damp/Terry/Stack getting acclimated maybe there's reason for hope in the coming weeks. After Houston Sat nite we face 5 dogs in a row. 5-0 would impress me. Turning around the spiralling team FG% differential trend would REALLY impress me.

So, Sefko mentions that Dirk is on a postage stamp but doesn't provide a link. Nice. I give because I love. Kinda cool, until you notice that Adonal Foyle has his own stamp, too. Who remembers the last Mav LEGEND to have his own postage stamp? Heh. Speaking of Adonal Foyle, Q: what do you give a 7-year vet center with a career total of 20 double-doubles? A: 6 years $41.5M ... dag, yo. BTW, Damp has a total of 107 career double-doubles. What a bargain at only 7 years $73M. sigh...

I'm a fan of high-level mountaineering. The Washington Post has a long but interesting article about a tragic death that occurred a few months ago on Mt. Everest. Use my BugMeNot link to access it. BTW, climbing the 8000M+ elite mountains has become so routine for some of these idiots that their next project is climbing them all DURING THE WINTER. Morons. I suggest lots and lots of hot chocolate.

Decent read about a guy whose daily workout routine includes more than 1,600 shots at the basket ... from a wheelchair. I think I saw this guy play during the Mavs' pre-season not too long ago. Nash on wheels he was.

Followed my nose and found some pretty bodacious photos of Tiger Woods putting on a show for some A-RABS. You gotta see these pics. [brought to you by 250 lbs of twisted steel, AKA mooseman]

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Flights of Fancy

This is the Mavs' team plane. I saw where Manchester United flew it around the U.S. during their 2003 pre-season exhibition tour. They seemed to appreciate the headroom. LMF oughta rent that muthah out just once a summer to treat his regs to a long weekend in Fiji or something. Cheapskate.

Over the 10 games leading up to the Seattle home loss the Mavs def FG% was .443. Over the last 5 of those games their def FG% was .460. Seems like a pretty odd time for the DMN's Eddie Sefko to write:

"Defense making the grade: The Mavericks have a goal of holding opponents under 42 percent shooting for the season. They aren't quite there yet, giving up 42.7 percent through 20 games. But it's a major improvement on last season's 45.9 percent. And it's showing up in how the Mavericks are winning."
Understand that Sefko spends beaucoup time amongst the team. He sees tons of stuff most fans can only dream about. After all that quality time the best he can do is this? Amazing.

Since Dirk returned from his brief ankle injury he has averaged 30.4 pts and 11.8 rebs per game. He set a franchise scoring record against Houston and his 34 points on the tundra turned KG's tears into post-game whine. Awesome, right? Well ... for these 8 'post-sprain' games Dirk is shooting .411 from the field, including a woeful .308 from the arc. C'mon Franz, his stats are warped by one bad game against Detroit. Okay, I'm sorta with you there. Lessee, take out his Piston clank-fest and he shot .436 from the field and .364 from the arc. Meh. He shot a respectable 8-17 vs Seattle, but is leaning so hard on Dirk turning him into a 7-foot Allen Iverson? Worth keeping an eye on.

Staying with the AI theme ... picture a corn-rowed tattooed Dirk discussing losing the Canadian hairball: "We talkin 'bout Raef-money. Not a max-out. Not a max-out, but Raef-money."

I have yet to viddy Darrell Armstrong in a Mav unie. Darrell is so gangsta.

Nobody shoots like me. Not Dirk Nowitzki, nobody. I know nobody can do the things I do." Easy there, Sparky.

Got Milk? Is it just me or is there something a little amusing about Jon Steffanson having Oggy Askrabic as a teammate?

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Sky: Falling?

Granted, the Mavs are missing Finley, but ... over the last 10 games they are 5-5. Their scoring differential is -2.3 for that span. Gulp. I fear that what we're seeing is what we will be getting for the rest of the season. Over this 10-game span ...

  • defense is up from last year - 14th in the league - but at a horrible cost to their vaunted league-leading offense, which could merely manage a putrid 19th in the league.
  • ...they're 26th in shooting %, and are showing themselves to be merely average defensively at 15th in def FG%.
  • ...they're average FT shooters, average rebounders, league worsts in 3-point % and assists/game.
  • ...they're decent at stealing and blocking shots, good thing since they can't take care of the ball.
And they managed to do this with one of their players playing at an unbelievably high level over this 10-game span - Dirk.

The Mavs are a mediocre team, the record and stats over the last 10 games show that. Fin's return will help, especially if it means Stackhouse is benched, but I doubt he raises them outta the middle of the pack. The Mavs are currently 5 games over .500 - I'll take that right now after 82 games, it would probably mean a playoff spot. But if Dirk or Fin get hurt again for any length of time ... then it's lottery time, that is if they had a pick in the draft.

Millions dumped into a moody inconsistent 30-yr-old center with horrible hands. Jamison traded away for a selfish moron who can't shoot and a BUST of a 5th overall pick - I'm watching Luol Deng in the boxscores and wondering 'what if?' Cuban suicidally refusing to give Nash Raef-money. Fin's health apparently starting to decline. Josh still needing a shooter's touch. Big money dumped long-term into his twin - a sleepy-eyed inconsistent undrafted combo guard with a perpetual limp. All coached by a guy so unconcerned with doing his best that he threw Golden State's 3rd string PG last season out there against the planet's hoop standard from San Antonio to coach instead.

Ugh. IMO, Cuban has always shown HORRIBLE judgement in public. My fear was that this horrible judgement would translate into ruining my favorite team behind the GM's office door. Granted, I'm painting an overly pessimistic picture, but I'm wondering if Cuban is starting to give Mavs fans exactly what they deserve for trusting him.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Vonteego, Where Art Thou?

For some reason, Vonteego Cummings thoughts passed thru my head just now. So I googled him. Vonnie's playing for Hemofarm over in Yugoslavia. Isn't Hemofarm where Darko played? Anyway, he's getting 11.6 pts and 28 mins per game. There, you can rest yer pretty head now that you know that.

Speaking of Darko, the Detroit News has a write-up about how he's actually starting to show progress. He even got 14 mins in the Pistons rout of Miami this weekend. The article gushed enough that I checked the boxscore - 1/5, 2 pts 1 reb. Wowee. I'm sure Bruno Sundov got a similar write-up in the Dallas press back in the day when he was slinging a towel over his head way down the Mav bench. Actually, it occurs to me that Melo's moronic ways have actually cracked a window of opportunity for Darko to shut some people up about what a disaster it was to draft him 2nd. All he has to do now is progress enough to get meaningful minutes. Maybe next year ... by then Melo should be in the penitentiary, leaving the window WIDE open.

I finally got to see the game where Dirk scored 53 pts against Houston. The word/feeling I got watching the game was 'lonely' -- which is how Dirk must feel on the court sometimes knowing there literally isn't a hoops peer within the galaxy. Holger was right - Dirk has virtually got to throttle back his game at times or his teammates can't keep up. The Mavs really need to learn how to play off him better or he's gonna spontaneously combust right on court someday.

If you told me that when Fin gets back I'd never see Stackhouse again I'd take it. Don't worry about a trade, addition by subtraction. Give him to the Spurs for free and watch him bring them back down to earth.

Jason Terry is lazy. Daniels is in a neutral limp. Damp played great in the Houston game but sucked against the Spurs - up and down is his M.O. though. Josh shows flashes but he's a sophomore. Fin really needs to help Dirk out when he returns. I didn't see the Utah game, but the Mavs' 'best' performance to date came against a desperate road squad in a downward spiral. Nice, but lets try to look like we're turning into a machine, can we guys?

One problem is that nobody but Dirk 'wins' games really. Damp can clog up the middle most games enough to prevent an opponent from 'owning' the paint - good, yeah, but it doesn't 'win' games. Stackhouse has 'helped win' about 3 games so far - disappointing to say the least. The PG's don't 'win' games around here - Terry had nice stats vs Utah - but I can't judge what I didn't see. Daniels can't 'win' games if he's limping. Josh is the closest thing, and he does it by being the only one who can actually match Dirk effort-wise. Dirk 'wins' games.

Our PG's don't win games. Our paint play doesn't win games. Our 3-point touch CERTAINLY isn't winning games. Our passing isn't winning games. Nellie ain't winning any games.

is winning games. ONLY DIRK. I don't like that. Not at all.