Monday, April 30, 2007

Game 4: Warriors 103, Mavericks 99 (GS: 3-1)

I don’t know what to say, really. Three minutes till the biggest battle of our professional lives all comes down to today. Now either we heal as a team or we’re gonna crumble, inch by inch, play by play, 'til we’re finished.

We’re in hell right now, gentlemen, believe me. And, we can stay here -- get the s--- kicked out of us -- or we can fight our way back into the light. We can climb outta hell one inch at a time.
- Al Pacino, Any Given Sunday

The Mavericks are hanging on to a cliff. Below them, if they fall, is a chasm known as “the biggest embarrassment in DFW sports history”…Also, below them, might be “the biggest embarrassment in NBA history”. They are not sure they can hold on much longer. The arms are tired, and the fingers ache, and they are starting to realize it might be easier just to let go and end it.

The Following are the notes of Game 4’s loss – What might go down as the most disappointing loss since Game 6 of the 2007 NBA Finals:

• You knew they were going to respond. You knew the Mavericks were going to bring as much rain as they had. What is so concerning about being down 3-1 to Golden State right now is that they threw a punch last night that they thought was pretty hard. Trouble is, Baron Davis took the punch, smiled, and punched back even harder. Doubt is creeping in to the Mavericks head. As hard as it is to believe, a team that lost 40 games this season has the Mavericks terrified. How they allowed this team into their head makes you wonder what we saw all season long. Remember when we thought this team was on a mission? They were not going to be satisfied or sleep until they had avenged last season’s debacle. Now, they look as powerless and as hopeless as we have ever seen them. I cannot explain this any better than I can explain nuclear fusion.

• There is no excusing Dirk Nowitzki any longer. He is playing lousy basketball and you know what is going to happen, right? He is going to be announced as the MVP this week and that is only going to compound the embarrassment of it all. He doesn’t want the ball. He doesn’t know what to do with it. He wanders the court and doesn’t impact the game for several minutes at a time. He is lost. And as much a defender of Dirk as I had been, he is giving back every shred of credibility he earned last spring in about 1 week of M.I.A. playoff basketball.

• We will never match D-Wade ’06 in the category of “guy who would not be stopped by Dallas in a 7 game series”. But, McGrady ’05 was the reigning single player performance before that, in my opinion. But, Baron Davis is making a name for himself. Davis is making everything. He is willing his team to victory. He is clearly the MVP of this series.

• With 7:21 to go in the game, Jerry Stackhouse scored to put the Mavericks up 88-81. I then count 11 missed shots, 4 turnovers, and 1 basket - The rebound 2 footer from Dirk. Finally, inside the final minute trailing 94-90, the Mavericks hit 3 3’s, but since they also surrender 9 points in the final minute, they cannot make up the lost ground. 1-12 from the Field with 4 turnovers. I suspect that any reader could grab 4 co-workers and go 1-12 in that situation.

• Josh Howard was amazing last night. Until halftime. After the intermission, he scored on 2 free throws.

• Don Nelson is abusing Avery Johnson. Avery looks like he has no more answers than I do.

• Seriously, I am not trying to take anything away from Golden State, but are you kidding me? They are up 3. There is 30 seconds to play. And they decide to get Matt Barnes a 3? And he drains it? That makes no sense on any level. When you have Jackson, Davis, and Richardson on the floor, why would you ever consider the biggest possession of the game going to Barnes? And he made it!

• Greg Buckner and Devean George are proving to be worthless in this series. So much for those big offseason additions that were going to provide that little extra.

• I am not sure what he has in his bag, but Mickael Pietrus appears to have an impressive vertical jump. Although it is a given that most players in the NBA can leap, I would put him at the top of the chart.

• I admit I got this series wrong. Way wrong. But to the 5 people that keep emailing me and want a formal apology, wasn’t about 99% of the rest of the free world picking the Mavericks? Was it really crazy to pick the Mavs to beat an 8th seed? I admit I got it wrong, but with the evidence the same next time, I would do it again.

• Let me say this: It isn’t over yet. Yes, Johnny Cash may be clearing his throat, but let’s not act like teams never come back from 3-1. Phoenix did it last year. It happens. But can it happen with this team playing like it is playing? I wouldn’t bet my house on it – but let’s wait a few days before the funeral.

• I’m so scared, baby.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Game 3: Golden State 109, Mavs 91 (GS 2-1)

I have never been at a complete and utter loss of words for the Avery Johnson-led Dallas Mavericks. Sure, they have lost before, but there has never been an unmitigated moment where they just got their butts shot off. Until Friday.

What would we call that? How can you face such a key game at a key moment and not show up? How can you still act like Golden State isn’t a threat to you? That is just sad.

After getting pounded for 48 minutes on Friday night, the Mavericks can welcome doubt to the locker-room. Between now and Sunday night, we are going to see what our boys are made of. Let’s hope it isn’t what most of America saw last night. Never has a #1 seed lost a best of seven series in the first round. Never has a 67 win team lost in the first round. This team would be forever immortalized as the biggest choke job in NBA history. Not the legacy we had in mind.

The following are a few of the notes that popped in my head for Game 3:

• I believe I was on record saying that Jason Richardson would get 30 a few times in the series. You want to talk about a player who could not miss last night, there he was. The Michigan State leaper is a special talent, and he was mostly anonymous in Dallas. But last night, he wanted the ball anywhere on the court, and add him to the list of players the Mavs appear to have no answer for.

• Also on that list, Baron Davis. Look, he wants to drive. He wants to drive to his left. He wants to drive to his left 80% of the time. Now if I can figure it out, do you think the Mavs may? They are doing a good job making him look like the most unstoppable force in NBA history. Sadly, he is only Baron Davis most of the time.

• Jason Terry is needed. Could someone direct the “Jet” to the airport?

• That building was really, really awesome last night. It must be nice to have no expectations for your team. Then you can enjoy the wins as they come. Compare them to the Mavericks ’07 crowd, which was booing midway through Game 1 on Sunday. I am guessing the Mavericks crowd believes they deserve to see wins. The Golden State fans are just happy to have a game to watch late in April. I am not
saying which side is proper, just an observation about how wins change fans.

• If the Mavericks have any pride, they would use the confetti party after Game 3 as all the motivation in the world. That should insult them, if they hadn’t already mentally checked out.

• Isn’t it now clear that the Mavericks athleticism is limited to Josh Howard, Diop, and perhaps Devin Harris. Harris is a great athlete, but I guess everyone at his spot is in the league. For instance, is Monta Ellis not just as athletic? But elsewhere on the floor, it is Josh Howard against the jumping jacks of the Warriors. Good luck, Josh. Against the Spurs, this isn’t a big issue. But the Warriors have really put together a team that would excel at track and field, too.

• Dirk was ok. He still looks largely uncomfortable, but at least he looked like he wanted the ball. Still a far cry from looking like the Most Valuable Player in the NBA, And that will need to change Sunday.

• I think Don Nelson is smirking again. Who can blame him?

• How would you like to be Mark Cuban this morning? Don’t you have to worry about the poor blood vessels inside his body? What stress he puts on them!

• I seriously contemplated turning that garbage off last night. If you know me, that says quite a bit. Those 12 guys are going to have to decide how bad they want this. Even the most loyal fans are now doubting them. If they want to get out of this hole, they will need to look inside themselves to find whatever is there. There is no easy way out of this mess….And how much energy are they burning in the first round if they do survive?

Friday, April 27, 2007

Friday, April 27

OK- Here is the situation. I have done a full week’s worth of Draft work this week (thank you to the Stars to freeing up my time to allow for Draft prep). I have my thoughts on the Cowboys draft – the biggest of which is this: The Cowboys can upgrade in many spots. There is no wrong answer at #22 for me. I like the WR idea. I like the Safety idea. I like the CB idea. And if Alan Branch or Marshawn Lynch get there, I love that, too. I disagree with Jerry Jones when he says this team is ready to play this week. I think there is an alarming void of big play makers on this team, and they can add a nice one at #22. Anyway, this morning I thought I would cruise through cyberspace and find what the “experts” think….

Pat Kirwan –

22. **Dallas: Dwayne Bowe, WR, LSU -- There certainly are a few good receivers left on the Dallas board, and it could be Ted Ginn or Dwayne Jarrett, but Bowe seems to be the consensus best wideout left on the board.

Vic Carucci –

22. Dallas: Jarvis Moss, DE, Florida
Moss is an excellent athlete who has the makings of an explosive and highly productive pass rusher, just the sort of addition that new coach Wade Phillips wants to make in his efforts to improve the Cowboys defense.

Todd McShay of Scouts, Inc

22. Dallas (9-7)

Projected pick: Dwayne Bowe, WR, LSU | Video
Needs: CB, WR, S, OT, DE, PK, C, NT, ILB, OLB

• The Cowboys have done a nice job of filling their holes during free agency, which gives them some freedom early in the draft. They have interest in moving down if they get the right deal. Otherwise, they will take the best available cornerback, wide receiver, offensive tackle or edge rusher at No. 22.

• In this scenario, Bowe is the best fit. The 6-foot-2, 222-pound wideout displays the size, agility and playmaking skills to develop into a quality starter at the next level. As a rookie in 2007, Bowe could serve as an excellent No. 3 option behind aging veterans Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn.

• Signing Ken Hamlin certainly does not preclude the Cowboys from using this pick on a safety such as Nelson, Griffin or Meriweather.
The Cowboys should also consider a cornerback like Ross, an offensive tackle like Staley or a 3-4 rush-linebacker like Spencer, if available.

Mel Kiper

22. Dallas Cowboys Dwayne Jarrett

Clark Judge – CBS Sportsline

22. Dallas Cowboys Reggie Nelson, S, Florida -- Wade Phillips can't pass up the safety.

Pete Prisco – CBS Sportsline ..

22. Dallas Cowboys Dwayne Bowe, WR, LSU -- They must get youth at receiver since T.O. and Terry Glenn aren't getting any younger.

The War Room – The Sporting News

22. Cowboys: Jarvis Moss, DE, Florida

The Gosselin Top 100 …All you need for Day 1 of the draft…

At the Sports Bullies blog, they look at all the Cowboys scenarios

A few more highlight films:

Aaron Ross – Texas

Alan Branch – Michigan

Marshawn Lynch – California

---Meanwhile, in Oakland, the Mavs try to get one back on the road tonight. There is no question that it will be a hornet’s nest tonight. They haven’t had a home playoff game since Dirk was in 15 years old. Prepare for two tough games in which you hope to be in the mix with 5 minutes to play, and then count on your MVP to get you hoops, and your defense to get you stops. A split is not a bad weekend, folks.
Warriors call on Harrington to start impacting the series

The Warriors are looking for a big game out of Harrington, who was the key to their smallball lineup during the final month of the regular season but has yet to get on track in the playoffs.

In two games Harrington has scored 12 points on 4-for-22 shooting from the field. The 6-9 forward-turned-center has had all sorts of trouble finishing inside against bigger players, especially Mavs center DeSagana Diop.

Harrington has missed numerous layups and baby shots and is also 0-for-4 from long distance after finishing as the eighth-best three-point shooter in the league at 43 percent.

Not surprisingly, Harrington said he was "not at all" happy with his performance so far.

"I just got to force the issue a little bit," he said. "I think I'm letting guys off the hook by just spotting and looking for threes. I've relaxed too much, just sitting and waiting for outside shots instead of playing my game.

"The three-point shot just came this season, but before that, I was a post guy who drove the ball. I got to find a way to get to my comfort areas and attack."
"I don't think it's a tough matchup, I just think Al has the ability to change his feet," Jackson said. "Diop is really not a good defensive guy as far as sliding. Al's a great ballhandler for his size, so I think Al can use that to his advantage to bring him out a little bit and use his game."

Nelson was quick to point out that Harrington isn't the only one struggling. Richardson has yet to find his stroke and Mickael Pietrus has had no impact off the bench. Ellis, the newly crowned NBA Most Improved Player, had a stellar first quarter in Game 2 before falling off.

The Warriors are looking at their home crowd for an instant fix.

"Yeah, we're at home, baby. We're a good home team," Nelson said. "And we haven't had a playoff game here in a long, long, time. We need the support, really, of our fans, to get us through these next two games."

Nelson fines Baron, Jackson

As the Warriors await word from the league on whether Stephen Jackson and Baron Davis will face any additional fines or suspensions for their Game 2 ejections, coach Don Nelson lowered his own boom Thursday.

Nelson is fining both players a "substantial" amount for getting themselves thrown out of Wednesday's playoff game, thereby hurting Golden State's chances of going up 2-0 in their series with the Mavs.

"It doesn't make any sense to me, as hard as we worked to get to the playoffs, to all of a sudden get there and not be able to play because of ejections and not controlling our emotions," Nelson said.

"I want to play with passion. I want to play with emotions. But you have to have respect for authority out there. The referees are the authority. And it's just like when I make a decision, I just expect the respect to be there for me."

Davis received his second technical foul after he failed to stop clapping in sarcasm despite warnings from both Nelson and official Bennett Salvatore. Jackson's second technical came after arguing with official Jim Capers on a foul call.

Nelson said "everybody's on board" with the fines, though both players avoided direct answers to questions about them. Davis said the incident was in the past, and Jackson said he was only concerned about tonight's game.

The coach wouldn't say how much of a monetary hit his players will take, but because players cannot be fined twice for the same offense, it may depend whether the NBA adds anything to its standard punishment scale.

In Rangers news, they suck.
A-Rod could do Tom Hicks a solid

The Rangers won't say it publicly, but they are hoping Rodriguez has another flip-flop left in him. When they traded him to the Yankees, the Rangers agreed to pick up $67 million of his remaining contract, with $24 million of that in deferred payments. They have to make those payments no matter what, but if A-Rod opted out, they would save $21 million in salary they owe him over the next three seasons.
They cannot, however, get their hopes up.

"It's something we're completely uninvolved with outside of our trade agreement," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "It's not something we think about actively, but I'm sure we'll pay attention to it at the end of the season."
Since arriving in New York, A-Rod has had a love-hate relationship with Yankees fans. His star power is classic Broadway, but he is denigrated for what he is not -- and that is Derek Jeter.

His month of April is one of the most prolific in baseball history. He leads the major leagues in home runs (14) and RBI (34) and tops the American League in batting average (.378).

Save the Rangers $21 million? That is $21 million more for the Rangers NOT to spend on players! Awesome.

Elias points out the Sammy Homers in losses more than anyone

Sammy Sosa hit two home runs in the Rangers' 9-4 loss at Cleveland. It's the 25th time that Sosa has hit at least two home runs in a game that his team lost, easily the highest total for any player in major-league history. Nobody else has done that even 20 times. Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth combined for fewer multi-homer games in losses than Sosa (they each had 12).

In hockey, Guerin and the Sharks beat Detroit in Game 1. And Luongo sure looked human in Game 1 against Anaheim when he was a sieve. Good stuff in the NHL round 2.

I doubt this Dallas Cop thinks $9 was worth his career

Warriors, Come out to Play!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Game 2: Dallas 112, Golden State 99 (1-1)

That was a bit more like it. Not quite the top shelf performance we were all pulling for, but in the end, they forced the issue and grabbed the game. The following our the notes from the Game 2 Dallas Win.

• If you didn’t know better, you would think Josh Howard was the NBA MVP candidate. While Dirk seemed to float through most of the game last night, Josh was making plays up and down the court and basically pushing the Mavs to victory. Josh has developed so much. If you recall in 2005, Josh played very well for a game or two, then would disappear for a few, and so on. He played horrible on the road, and did not show up in the 4th quarter. Here we are just two years later, and Josh has been the Mavericks best player in both of the first two playoff games. He has come so far, and has not yet reached him potential.

• Ah, Nellie Ball: Settle for bad shots. Lose composure. Feel persecuted by the refs. Give up the rim.

• Seriously, there are people defending Baron Davis on his ejection? Go back and look at the final minute of the 3rd quarter. He already had a technical, so he knew they wouldn’t eject him, right? So, he fouls Josh Howard and yells right in the face of a ref who looks the other way. He fouls Jerry Stackhouse, and screams when called for the foul. He then stands and claps at the ref for no fewer than 10 seconds. He was warned, and his coach told him to knock it off, too. And people thought the ref got carried away? There is a dude who lost his head.

• I feel for Devin Harris. He is the team’s new Raef LaFrentz. If he is involved in a play, and it is even close to physical contact, the ref looks at the two players involved – sees Devin, and assumes the foul was committed by him. He gets no calls. Not saying he doesn’t have issues with fouls, but the guard is still
treated like a rookie.

• As a P-1 said to me, “So Al Harrington is the guy that the Mavericks were worried about Dampier guarding?”. Harrington went 1-8 for 5 points.

• Last game, I mentioned my fears about Jason Terry. To his credit, he was awesome last night. If Terry, Stackhouse, and Howard are that aggressive to the rim, there is very little an opponent can do – when they think the key to beating the Mavs is to run at Dirk. Punish them.

• By the way, I know it is early, but I think you must keep Jerry Stackhouse this summer.

• Is Stephen Jackson really this good? Or, is Dirk also not playing well on defense? Either way, he is really a dominate force in this series. Call him the ’07 Round 1 Boris Diaw.

• The votes are pouring in for “player we are most likely to group with Jon Barry and Tim Thomas as players we hardly knew before the series but after the series hate forever”. It looks like Matt Barnes may run away with this thing.

• I know the refs were cracking down on things, right? Since when is yelling “Bull S---“ at the top of your lungs allowed? It seems like NBA players realize that will not be disciplined, and let it fly without discrimination.

• This series will not be easy. Golden State is building a very intriguing product full of long, athletic players who all need to be taken seriously. They will not get very far this year, but this is a very interesting team heading forward.

• I did think the refs were pretty poor last night. For instance, that illegal inbounds pass called on Golden State after a Mavericks basket was a joke. Not even close to being illegal.

• The Warriors had 9 assists last night. For the game.

• I really like Diop. I can’t quite put my finger on why. I just like him.

• Finally, as opposed to breaking down another subpar effort from Dick Stockton, I thought I would let P1 Justin:

Just for fun, I'm keeping a running log of Dick Stockton's mistakes. Clock is game clock.

1st Quarter

11:33 - Out of bounds. Says Dallas ball. Actually GS ball.

(That didn't take long)

8:58 - "Warriors looking to take the lead." They already lead 8-7.

7:58 - "You want to be focused going into this game, but the match-ups don't work." Huh?
Bonus from Reggie Miller saying Monta Ellis was a "doe in the headlights" in game 1.

7:41 - "Al Harrington hit in the face by Dampier." It was Harris, who was the only Maverick on that end of the floor.

6:31 - "The Warriors coming back with 2 baskets, trailing by 4." It was the Mavs.

6:05 - "And the foul will be on Diop." It was on Harris. (I'm not sure Dick knows who Devin Harris is.)

4:15 - "Foul on Diop and that will be his second." It's his first.

That's all I can do. Listening intently to Dick & Reggie is making me crazy.

Go Mavwicks.

P1 Justin

Thursday, April 26

This is the first of two shorter blog entries today. Check back in a bit for the Mavericks playoff notes.


Rangers strike out 19 times; lose in 11

Not Brilliant!

Another trip to the frigid Midwest for the Rangers; another night of historic futility for the Rangers' lineup.

Only a week after they were no-hit on a blustery night in Chicago, the Rangers created some mighty gusts all by themselves in an 8-7 11-inning loss to Cleveland on Wednesday. In 48-degree weather, the Rangers struck out a club-record 19 times, which kept them from completing a huge comeback.

The Rangers had trailed by six runs early, but rallied to tie it in the ninth. But they never took complete advantage of their late-inning chances.

Four times in the last four innings, a Ranger struck out with the tying or go-ahead run in scoring position.

Here are the 4 Wide Receivers that the Cowboys could get at #22. I don’t think Ginn will be there, but what the heck. Of the other 3, Bowe is my favorite, but he has very little speed. He does block, catch in traffic, and makes plays. But, he is from LSU, which never works well for the Cowboys.

Dwayne Bowe - LSU

Robert Meachem - Tennessee

Sidney Rice – South Carolina

Ted Ginn, Jr – Ohio State

Champions League:

Chelsea beats Liverpool, 1-0, in the first leg …and more importantly, no away goal for Liverpool. What that means is this: If Chelsea scores next week at Liverpool, the Reds will need 3 goals to advance. It doesn’t look good.

Advantage Chelsea. Joe Cole struck an important goal, Liverpool scarcely threatened an away goal, and now Jose Mourinho's side visit Anfield on Tuesday convinced they are 90 minutes from the Champions League final in Athens.

Steven Gerrard and the Kop will have different ideas, but Liverpool must somehow find a way to break down Chelsea's imperious defence. Craig Bellamy and Dirk Kuyt disappointed, while Liverpool looked livelier in attack only when they went more direct with Peter Crouch's second-half introduction.

Robot Chicken and Star Wars: a winning combination

George Lucas and Mark Hamill will reunite for "Robot Chicken: Star Wars," a 30-minute stop-motion animation special for Adult Swim, Cartoon Network's late-night programming block.

The special spoofs key scenes and favorite characters from the "Star Wars" universe. It was done in collaboration with Lucas' production company Lucasfilm. Lucas, the creator of the "Star Wars" franchise, will voice a cartoon version of himself, and Hamill will resurrect Luke Skywalker.

The special, set to premiere at 10 p.m. on June 17, comes from "Robot Chicken" creators Seth Green and Matthew Senreich. Green directed.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Wednesday, April 25

Big Game already? You better believe it. Dirk will need to shut up his MVP critics tonight.

Like this one

Nowitzki could thrash the Warriors tonight by making quick, precise passes to open teammates. But even that has proved impossible for him amid the blur of Warriors pests.

Oh, the Warriors say they expect to get hit by Nowitzki's revenge tonight. They say the best player in the league can't be neutralized for two games in a row.
"I highly think it's impossible," said Stephen Jackson, the primary
Nowitzki defender. "I highly think it's impossible. Because he's such a great shooter and such a player...

"But we're going to try. We're not going to just give him a great game. He's going to have to work for it, just like last game."

By now, we know this rhetoric is all part of the Don Nelson gee-whiz PR plan for this series. Praise the Mavs, praise Nowitzki, keep pretending the Warriors feel lucky just to be alive and in the postseason and maybe it's three games to none Warriors before Dallas snaps awake.

"I will add that it will be a bounce-back game for the Mavericks," Nelson suggested Tuesday. "And we've got a better chance to get hit with lightning than to win the game tomorrow."

Yes, of course, anything you say, Nellie.

Do you hear the subliminal, whispery undercurrent of confidence, swagger and maybe a little Dirk-agitating?

And what does Nowitzki want for Game2? It's hard to tell - he turned his eyes to the floor and quickly walked past reporters without comment Tuesday. On Monday, Nowitzki did talk, and he sounded more passive and less confident than any great player I've ever heard during the playoffs.

This obviously could all change tonight - you knew Michael Jordan would go for 40 in Game2 if he had a Game1 clunker; Steve Nash and Tim Duncan never have two bad games in a row. But those are different personalities, too. Nowitzki said he wouldn't necessarily take the ball hard to the hoop against the small Warriors, wouldn't force up shots and might not be able to take over this series by himself.

Probably all true, but not the sentiment you ever heard from Larry Bird or Hakeem Olajuwon.

Sand Bagging continues from Oakland

"He's going to have a bounce-back game," Nelson told reporters before the Warriors practiced at American Airlines Center on Tuesday. "We just anticipate that's going to happen."

Nowitzki is certainly under pressure to perform. All the pressure is on the Mavericks, and his shoulders carry the primary burden. Dallas-area media — newspapers and sports talk radio shows — are all focusing on Nowitzki's Game 1 stinker (14 points, 4-for-16 from the floor). Fans are certainly waiting to see how he responds.

While Nelson is confident, Nowitzki allowed for the possibility that, for this series, he won't be the dominant MVP candidate he was all season. Instead of putting up 24.6 points per game, his average during the regular season, he said he may have to switch gears and focus on getting his teammates involved.

"They're really, really running at me hard," Nowitzki said after Monday's practice. "They're fronting me in the post, front and back of me sometimes. If I have it, everybody's on alert. As soon as I put it down, they're coming. So, yeah, just find my teammates when they're open, and move the ball, and just be active out there and be a threat. Hopefully we can win that way."

Because of the way the Warriors are defending him, the Mavericks might be better served to have Nowitzki as a facilitator instead of a big-time scorer. Though Nelson described Nowitzki's struggles in Game 1 as an "off night," it's looking more as if the Warriors' game plan deserves the credit.

With Stephen Jackson, the Warriors' best man-to-man defender, assigned to blanket No. 41, and the Warriors' guards ready to collapse the moment he dribbles, Nowitzki can't seem to find a rhythm. In his last two games against the Warriors, his only since the Warriors acquired Jackson, Nowitzki is averaging 13.5 points on 25.9 percent shooting from the floor.

Pattern or fluke?

Assuredly, Dallas will have to figure out something to change this trend. Most agree
the Mavericks can't survive with Nowitzki being neutralized.

"I think that as good as Dirk is out on the floor," said Warriors assistant coach Larry Riley, who also coached under Nelson in Dallas, "it wouldn't be surprising if they would try to post him down low."

Meanwhile, here is a bunch of post-mortem Hockey stuff….

Cowlishaw is calling for the head of Tippett

The playoffs are all about the goalie, the team leaders and the coach.
The goalie was great. The leaders were up and down, more down than up. The coach didn't get his message delivered.

You may think that's letting the players off the hook. You may think that's letting the inmates run the asylum.

And it's probably a little of both, but it's also a time-honored practice in the NHL.

Bob Gainey was right to get rid of Ken Hitchcock in the 2002 season. He had lost the players. And with his abrasive style, he wasn't going to get them back.

Now keep in mind this was less than two full seasons since a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. This was less than three full seasons since Hitchcock was part of Dallas' Stanley Cup parade.

As we sit here now, we are three seasons removed from the team's only playoff series victory under Tippett.

That's quite a different standard than Hitchcock was being held to by the previous regime.

Since the only win under Tippett, 17 NHL clubs have won playoff series. That's more than half the league.

And seven of those teams have made coaching changes since those wins!

The bottom line is that the Stars already had an image and an attendance problem before this defeat. I'm not talking about attendance figures they announce. If you go to games, you know what I mean.

Empty seats. Lots of them.

Something has to be done to re-energize a fan base, to get the locals excited about those four games with the Kings and four more with the Coyotes (the NHL's schedule is so awful, don't get me started).

Hicks can stand pat and bring back Tippett and bring back Armstrong and bring back mostly the same cast of players that hasn't gotten it done since 2003.

I don't think that makes sense. Tippett's a good, genuine man. He's certainly good enough to coach again in this league, and he surely will.

I don't believe it should be here.

Heika ponders the answers to questions

They just couldn't grasp the key moments, and now they are searching for explanations. Armstrong has indicated he will probably wait until May to make any kind of decisions on the future of the coaching staff. The entire staff is heading into the final year of its contract next season, so he could just tell them that's their final exam – win in the playoffs or there will be no renewals.

He also has to make decisions on free agents such as Sydor, Stu Barnes, Eric Lindros and Ladislav Nagy. Expect the first two to be back and the latter two to be gone.
But is it time to consider moving or replacing youngsters such as Jussi Jokinen, Antti Miettinen or Steve Ott? Should they take from the defense to add an offensive player? If they take that path, then Philippe Boucher and Trevor Daley are probably their most tradable commodities.

Tippett said his system is not the problem.

"That word system is so overrated," he said Tuesday. "We do what 90 percent of the teams in the league do. You tweak when you need to, but the system was not the problem."

Tom Hicks with his “superstitions”

Tom Hicks on Tuesday explained his absence from the Stars' first-round playoff finale in Vancouver on Monday night with one word: superstition.

With business clients in town Monday night, Hicks went to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington to watch his baseball team in person and his hockey team play Game 7 against the Canucks on TV. Though it was the first time the Stars have played a first-round Game 7 on the road during Hicks' ownership, he said he wasn't about to change what has become a ritual.

"I'm a very superstitious owner," Hicks said. "I've never been to a road game in the first round in 13 years. Most of those series were with Edmonton, and I couldn't travel there and a superstition developed. I've been to every road game thereafter [in subsequent rounds]."

In Canada, at least this columnist was ripping the refs for Game 7

If there was ever a collection of circumstances which favoured the home team, this was it. The Dallas string of penalties in the second and third periods which turned the tide Vancouver's way was nothing short of astonishing, a remarkable turn of events to people who have watched NHL playoff hockey over the years.

With Dallas nursing a lead as only they can in the second period, they proceeded to take seven of the next eight penalties, some of them infractions that wouldn't have been considered offences in a pee-wee game.

A tap on the arm of Trevor Linden by Stu Barnes that wouldn't have bruised an egg
gave Vancouver a two man advantage for 48 seconds in the second period which allowed the Canucks to generate some crowd noise with some great scoring chances, even though they weren't able to convert. But there's no question it lifted Vancouver off the mat.

The penalty to Joel Lundqvist early in the third period which again got the Canucks going was nothing short of amazing. There appeared to be virtually no contact between offender and offended, yet the arm shot up as though there'd been some kind of mugging. Harry Neale on Hockey Night called it "a brutal call" and Tom Larscheid reportedly referred to it as "a phantom call" on the TEAM 1040. What Dallas coach Dave Tippett thought of it wasn't known until afterwards, when there was no point moaning.

"Baffling," was how Tippett described the work of Rob Shick and Greg Devorski. "Why don't they let the players decide it. The five penalties we took in the second period changed the whole complexion of the game, changed the momentum of the game. ... We could never get our legs under us after that."

The penalty that resulted in the winning goal was another of those new NHL mysteries, the most flattering thing that can be said about it being that it's been called all year, albeit sporadically. As Daniel Sedin circled the Dallas net with the puck, Jeff Halpern was chasing him with his stick in one hand, lifting it to the point of contact around the waist but not impeding him in the least. Sedin didn't even notice he was there.

Doubtless these guys would take the Adolph Eichmann defence of "just following orders", but never in the history of the game have the officials been so prominent in determining the outcome of games.

Stars Email:


Hearing you guys talk about the Stars’ continued loyalty to players from the Cup days sounds exactly like what we suffered through with the Cowboys in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Emmitt, Troy, and Michael hit their primes during the Super Bowl runs, only to fall into steady decline by 1997. Yet, Jerry couldn’t let them go before they became a burden and after they ceased being good trade bait, because of how he and the fans felt about them. The same is now true (and has been true for a couple of years) for Lehtinen, Zubov and Modano, who hit their primes in the 1998 through 2000 seasons and are now sliding down the decline curve – still decent performers but with no expectation of getting better, and now hogging up a goodly portion of the salary cap.

Dave in Tulsa

Torii Hunter – Rule Breaker …not so much…

Maybe a thank-you note would have sufficed.

Torii Hunter's gift of expensive champagne to the Kansas City Royals has the Minnesota Twins outfielder in some bubble trouble.

Hunter's gift of four bottles of Dom Perignon, which he had delivered to the Royals clubhouse this past weekend, was meant as a reward for the Royals sweeping the Detroit Tigers last September, allowing the Twins to come from behind to win the American League Central. The gift fulfilled a promise Hunter made last fall.
But baseball has rules about this sort of thing.

Namely, rule 21-b, which proclaims "Any player or person connected with a Club who shall offer or give any gift or reward to a player or person connected with another Club for services rendered ... in defeating or attempting to defeat a competing Club ... shall be declared ineligible for not less than three years."

The San Diego Paper lists All NFL arrests since 2000

Newy and Marcus Spears

Champions League Final 4:

Yesterday: Man United 3, AC Milan 2 …Rooney was awesome…

Today: Liverpool visits Chelsea …(please no email spoilers!) As Liverpool fans, a tie is good, an away goal or two is a must, and a win would be amazing…

Over my years of covering the NFL Draft, I will admit (like many of my colleagues) that I would try to talk about players that I had never seen play. It is a numbers game. Unless you are preparing for the Draft all fall, I don’t know how you properly look at everyone. On Saturday’s in the fall, I am watching the Big 12 and the Big 10 except for the biggest of showdowns.

Well, now with Youtube, you can see highlight tapes of all of these guys. I know it is a poor tool, since it is only highlights that some college kid put together in his dorm room, but it is better than absolutely nothing. To properly know a player, you need to see there horrible plays, too. Imagine what a great highlight tape of Roy Williams you could put together – and never visit his coverage skills.

Anyway, here is a look at the 1st Round Safeties. I will post the top WRs tomorrow.

LaRon Landry – LSU – Safety

Reggie Nelson – Florida – Safety

Michael Griffin – Texas - Safety

Brandon Meriweather – Miami – Safety

Meriweather is awesome, but has a rap sheet

Meriweather and Wright are more problematic because their ability makes them so tempting.

The major blemish on Meriweather’s record is his one-game suspension last year for stomping on the head of Florida International players during a brawl between the teams. He was also involved in a shooting episode when he fired a licensed handgun
to defend a friend and teammate who’d been shot.

Wright left Southern California in 2005, a year after being charged with rape. Authorities also found drugs in the apartment he shared with a roommate. The charges were dropped when the woman failed to testify, but Wright transferred to UNLV.
Wright is described by scouts as a smooth talker and those who have interviewed Meriweather find him gentle and soft-spoken, the kind of leader most want on their team. Neither has been convicted of anything — something that’s often overlooked by websites that keep scorecards on arrests — arrests, not convictions.

So while they may slide a little lower on draft day, they still could go in the first round because of their talent. Indeed, Wright might be the best cover cornerback in the draft.

Edmonton Prospect Robbie Schremp

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Game 7: Van 4, Dallas 1 (Series Over)

Above, the future of the Stars share a moment of consolation.

And so it ends. With too little on the final night. It hurts a lot more this way, with the team fighting all the way back to even in the series, taking the lead in Game 7, only to endure the slow painful bleeding death of the final two periods, but I am glad they showed some heart and resolve in this series.

But, in the end, too little to win the fight. So, here are the last of your playoff notebooks, the morning after Game 7:

• The Refs sucked. I thought that both ways there were horrendous calls that turned a glorious Game 7 into a special teams contest. When you are in the playoffs, the penalty better be a penalty. When you are in Game 7, that penalty better leave a scar. But, no, Rob Shick and Brad Watson were going to show us how much they could star in the finale. And, that was disappointing…unless you were Vancouver’s power play. 2 goals on the final night surpass the tally for the entire series. With 10 cracks at it last night, I can imagine that all the practice finally yielded some nice results for the Canucks.

• Please don’t misunderstand that first point, though. It wasn’t the refs fault. The fact is, whether it was tired legs or just the swarm of Vancouver, the Stars finished 2nd on the ice. They could not get the puck out of their own end. They could not push back in the 2nd and 3rd periods. They just couldn’t dominate the ice like they did in Game 6. In the end, when both teams had to dig down deep, Vancouver could dig a little deeper. I would like to blame the refs for everything, but my eyes told me that the Stars had nothing left in the tank to grab that game by the scruff of the neck.

• In my estimation, Marty Turco was the best player the Stars had. Once again, he did everything in his power. To say he had no chance on the winning goal by Trevor Linden is fair. That tip was just another play that no goalie can stop it would seem. He has taken the blame for many playoff meltdowns, and rightfully so. But anyone blaming Marty for anything in these past two weeks might be accused of not watching the games.

• If you give Mike Modano that chance from that spot on the ice, I swear you can count on him to bury that 9 times out of 10. But, last night, he bounces it right off the cross bar. You had to know there that was the series. And it was.

• How much did the Stars miss Sergei Zubov? What defensemen would you rather have in your own end when chaos is breaking out than Sergei? What defensemen would you rather have on the point on the power play than Sergei? There is no way to prove he would have been the difference, but aside from Turco, what would hurt more than losing Sergei for a Game 7?

• You got to give it to the Sedin Twins. After sleeping through all of those games, they got it done last night. They were all over the game, and stepped it up enough to both be factors in Vancouver’s biggest win in years.

• So, what now? There is very little cap room, and the Stars have many improvements to make. They have all of their money tied up in Turco, Morrow, Modano, Zubov, Lehtinen, and Norstrom. I am not sure they could get in the mix for Ryan Smyth, Daniel Briere or Chris Drury if they wanted to. Would you bring your management team back? Or, like hockey, when it comes to change in this offseason, is “safe” death? Does this team need some real tough decisions made to shock the system and move this thing forward? I liked what I saw in many respects over the last few weeks, but how low is the bar if we feel good about a first round exit?

• The whole handshake line tradition of hockey never gets old to me.

• Can’t believe the Canucks pulled out throwbacks in Game 7. But they did. And the hockey gods let them get away with it.

• I may blame Ralph and Razor for that stunt last night of over-building the Turco shutout streak….just moments before it ended. Nice going, guys.

• Does anyone score bigger goals than Trevor Linden? At this point of his career, he still won Game 4 and Game 7 with timely playoff goals. What a perfect hockey veteran for the playoffs.

• Why did Eric Lindros play so little until the very end?

• I wouldn’t offer Nagy a contract. What an ordinary player - who fancies himself a star.

• In the end, they showed heart, resolve, and guts. They perhaps won back many fans in this city that remembered they love Dallas Stars hockey. I hope they build off this and regain their market share in this competitive sports marketplace. I was proud of the Stars in Game 5 and Game 6, but, they must clean out the lockers now.

• Expect to hear Johnny Cash at high noon today.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Game 1: Golden State 97, Mavs 85 (1-0)

Those of you who enjoy commentary on the Rangers, Liverpool, Cro Cop, Youtube, and other regulars on Bob’s Blog may not enjoy the transition that the playoffs bring, but prepare for the morning after notes column to continue through the Stars and Mavs playoff runs. We do it every year, and it seems to be well received. So, without further ado….

Nelson: Belly Up, Mavs

So much for the honeymoon. So much for the assumptions that this would be an easy ride. Don Nelson rolled in here with his sandbags and stole the pot in Game 1 using textbook Nellie Ball, but also a cast of very interesting, exciting players. The Mavericks had little to say after that thrashing, and already they find themselves needing a win on Wednesday – just a few days into their playoff march. Random observations from Game 1 follow:

• Baron Davis was off the charts last night. I have always liked his game but there have been times where his attitude and his fat have kept him from getting “all world” consideration. Well, I would suggest that Nelson has obviously moved him past those two problems as he is clearly more slender, and played as a warrior last night. Clearly, he isn’t going to hit every shot he takes every game – like he did in the second half last night. But, he is a very tough match-up and when a guy gets 10 rebounds early in the 2nd quarter, you know his head is right for the playoffs. Honestly, I had far greater fears about Jason Richardson, partly because all you hear is that Baron’s knee isn’t right, but it looks good to me, and now I think all game plans must revolve around what to do with Baron.

• The Mavericks on offense were a confused and clueless bunch from the opening tip on. Why do they look like they have never seen Dirk double-teamed before? Why did it turn quickly chaotic? They looked out of rhythm and confused. They looked reluctant to pound the ball when they had a match-up in their favor. And of course, the shooting was miserable. I am not as worried about guarding Golden State. I think the real issue with the Mavericks is on offense. If Jason Terry shoots 6-14, Dirk shoots 4-16, and Stackhouse 0-6, then this is going to be a short playoff campaign.

• Josh Howard was so good last night. His game has developed to such a level that it is now not a shock to say he was your best player. I thought his hands on defense were lightning quick, and he attacks on offense like nobody else. Things weren’t good last night, but Howard was clearly not the issue.

• Many, many emails about the refusal of the Mavericks to maintain their normal lineup. Avery is getting ripped for changing his game because of Nellie Ball. But remember, that is the beauty of small ball. If you don’t adapt, you have a match-up issue at pretty much every spot. Let’s say the Mavericks started with the normal 5 of Dampier, Dirk, Howard, Devin, and Terry:

Dampier guards Harrington (he can’t),
Dirk guards Jackson (he can’t for long),
Howard guards Richardson,
Terry tries to guard Baron Davis because Baron would pound Devin physically,
And Devin chases Ellis around.

I really think the only advantage is what you do on offense, but since Dampier doesn’t do anything on offense besides pound the glass and set screens (Diop, too), then you have quicker defenders swarming Dirk even worse. So in this case, I think Avery had to adapt to that lineup. This series may be all about Devin Harris taking the ball to the hoop like he did last night, but he needs to convert more bunnies. And, we have to hope his shoulder is not too damaged from the collision.

• Why is Mark Cuban looking so mad entertaining television?

• This is one of those times when you wish Dirk wasn’t so bad at posting up the smaller players. If he would just be determined to do this, many of these offensive issues would go away. But, this reminds me of Houston ’05 and Phoenix ’05 and ’06. Dirk is going to be guarded by smaller and quicker, and it is up to him to figure it out. What that means to us is that he will continue to launch shots from 18-23 feet. It works most the time. But, since we all enjoy our Larry Bird comparisons, I am reasonably sure Larry would have his dude down on the block.

• Yes, I do wonder if Jason Terry can be as good as he was last spring. His play all season has me wondering if we should expect last spring’s clutch performances. I have my worries.

• So who guards Baron Davis? And what game does Jason Richardson go for 35? And why does Stephen Jackson annoy me – because he reminds me of the ’03 Spurs series?

• Dick Stockton is amazingly consistent. He seems lost during his own broadcast whether it is football or basketball. One time he had Baron Davis with the foul when Baron wasn’t even in the picture. His observations are pretty much inane, and his call of the game has errors everywhere. If you weren’t sure, I think Dick Stockton has been bad for years, now. Of course, he was awesome 15 years ago.

• Did you think this was going to be easy? Did you forget the ice cream headaches, the knee jerk reactions, and the day after games pondering whether the Mavs were done? Look, bro, this isn’t for the faint of heart. Dig in and realize this thing isn’t decided in Game 1 of Round 1. Your boys did not when 67 games by getting lucky. They didn’t get to Game 6 of the NBA Finals by getting lucky. They got there because they are really good, and they know how to win a chess game. But, they get 7 games to win 4. So, knee jerking after 1 is jumping the gun. Let’s see what Wednesday brings.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Game 6: Dallas 2, Vancouver 0 (3-3)

Above, Morrow takes on the entire Canucks bench on one leg. O Captain, Our Captain.

Dallas 2, Van 0---

As one of the chief promoters of Ice Hockey in the DFW media, I was like a proud parent last night. Sure, it was only 4 days after I left them for dead, so I might not be up for “Father of the Year”, but they kept fighting and then winning in the most unlikely scenario. They cowboyed-up, and crawled out of their grave. They showed heart, resolve, fight, grit, and guts on their way back in this series. And now it is 3-3 after two monster performances from the Dallas Stars that have Vancouver on their heels.

Win, Lose, or Draw in Game 7 (and there will be no Draw), I congratulate these guys on one things. They have won back my respect, and I would suggest they have won back your respect, too. Last night’s 2-0 win, combined with Thursday’s 1-0 victory, put the Stars just 60 minutes from advancing a playoff series where everyone had them dead.

The following are my notes from the big Game 6:

• Marty Turco is a different goalie than he was 2 weeks ago. How? Well, how do you now even suggest that Mike Smith is a viable option for this team. And maybe more importantly, after watching this series with your own eyes, how do you consider goaltending a weakness? I realize he has the biggest of Game 7’s straight ahead, so the opinion is subject to change if he loses 5-1 tomorrow, but my perception of Marty Turco is that now he is ready for the big stage. He has done quite a bit in 2 weeks. I am not saying he is Broduer or Hasek, but I am saying this team may not have to cringe about what stands between the pipes for them. 3 playoff shutouts in one round? Could you imagine being a goalie with 3 shutouts in 1 round and may still not advance? That seems nearly statistically impossible.

• Brenden Morrow is my new hockey hero. He rises to the occasion like a captain should. He gets mad. He gets even. He plays like this is the only thing that matters to him. He is perfect for this role. To see him skate over to the Canucks bench on one leg, after that punk Burrows offered a cheap shot, was the stuff of legend - considering his Game 5 OT goal that kept the series moving. There can be no further questions about his capability to be this team’s captain.

• Sedin + Sedin + Naslund since Game 1? 0-0-0.

• Vancouver Canucks since Game 1? 5 games, 4 goals. 0.8 goals per game.

• Vancouver Power Play in the series: 1 for 28. 3.6%

• Mike Modano scored a big goal, but more important to me, threw his body around, took on Vancouver defensemen with the puck, back checked like a Selke winner, and just dominated the ice. Mike, can we do it again Monday?

• So, this, according to my notes, will be the first Game 7 for the Stars since those time-capsule Game 7’s against Colorado in 1999 and 2000. If you remember those nights, you remember some of the most classic hockey ever played in Dallas. Sadly, we will all be pressed against our television screens for this one, but how does 2-1 sound? Or, 1-0? Which goalie will rise above the other? Surely, in the 3 stars of the series, Luongo and Turco are assured two spots, but the rank will be determined by Monday Night.

• I am told that for the health concerns, Morrow is fine, and Zubov is the real question about his availability for Monday. As is the usual case, nobody is sure what Sergei did or what his injury is. But, I think we all realize how much that would hurt not to have him out there.

• Eric Lindros was so good last night. What a bully out there. If only he was here since Game 1…What a difference a week makes in his perception, too, eh?

• Roberto Luongo is awesome. That game could have really been out of control last night if it wasn’t for him. But, how will he handle a Game 7? Nervous, Bobby?

• Sorry, but I will not be an unbiased member of the media on Monday night. And, you may get a chance to see overly depressed hockey Bob on Monday night if things go poorly, but I am thrilled for these guys that they fought back. I will be prouder if they advance. They will keep jobs, they will keep reputations, and most importantly, they will keep hockey relevant in Dallas through the summer. Those of us who love this sport really needed these last 4 days to solidify hockey’s place in this sports city.

• Now, Let's go get this series.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Game 5: The Captain Delivers, 1-0 (Van 3-2)

Above, the picture of Morrow is great, but enjoy the dismay and despair of the Canucks' faithful. It is priceless.

Well, I am sure happy that the Dallas Stars don’t read Bob’s Blog. I thought they would not play another home game after losing Game 3 and Game 4 like they did. I stopped believing. I started thinking about the big picture and about tomorrow. They still focused on today. And for that, they are rewarded.

Brenden Morrow wins it in overtime. 6:22 in. He scores a big goal and demonstrates his ability by word and deed in the last 48 hours why he is a fine captain for the Dallas Stars. Morrow made us proud when some of us had given up the fight.

The following are the rest of my notes:

• Marty Turco almost could not play better than he has in this series. Roberto Luongo has played just as well if not better – but the only thing keeping Marty Turco from being everyone’s hero is history. If you only rate him on these two weeks, he would be nobody’s goat. Now, he has two playoff wins in 2006-07, and they both were shutouts. That’s right. For him to win, he has to allow exactly 0 goals. His GAA is 1.38 (Luongo is 1.39) and his save % is 94.9 (Luongo 95.3). And yet he is 2-3 in this series. Life is not fair. And playoff Hockey isn’t either.

• So, the Stars have 3 goals in 3 games and the Canucks have 4 goals in 4 games. Both teams have score 9 goals in the series. I guess this has been a pretty tight series.

• Mike Ribeiro is so good. I would do two things if I am the Stars as it relates to him. 1) play him more – and with better line mates. 2) lock him up. If Boucher and Halpern can get long term commitments from the Stars, Ribeiro needs to be kept here, too.

• Modano had the speed and jump last night that we expect out of him. I think if you keep 9, 10, and 26 together on Saturday, good things will happen.

• Sedin, Sedin, and Naslund have combined for 0 goals, 0 assists for 0 points since Game 1. If somehow Vancouver lets this series get away, I would think it will be an uncomfortable summer in the media for those boys.

• Call me crazy, but I thought Eric Lindros was pretty decent last night. Nothing too special, but enough to make you wonder if they should have brought him back in sooner. So, it was his first playoff game in 7 years? Do you know what that means? It means that his last playoff game was in the Eastern Conference Finals when Scott Stevens knocked him silly at the blueline. The next week, the Devils joined the Stars in the 2000 Stanley Cup Finals. That means that he has not been in the playoffs in a while.

• I don’t know about you, but I really have been impressed with Willie Mitchell this series. He is solid as a rock.

• The overtime jinx is either dead or suspended. Same for the Turco “blink first” theory. But, let’s remember one thing: So far they have just earned a stay of execution. If they turn around and lose in Game 6, the feelings will turn to negative again, and you will have people suggesting that there need to be absolute whole-sale changes.

• Boy, those power plays are great, eh? The Stars actually won the game on the Power Play, but Vancouver sits at 1 for 25 with the man advantage. Ouch.

• Who thought the season would have ended appropriately if that back pass from Loui went all the way back to the Stars empty net. Ralph and Razor were priceless there. But the puck went just off the pipe.

• I know I doubted them, but it is only because I want them to make this city proud. I pull for this team because I care, and I get mad at them because I care. I want this team to make sports fans proud, because if they don’t, they get left in the dust of sports irrelevance in DFW. If they can force a Game 7 on Monday, the table will be set for a proud moment in Stars history. But there is the catch. They have lost 6 straight playoff home games. They have got to get it done. Pretty please.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Baseball Immortality!

I am not sure where the line is, but there is a line in the sand somewhere in a baseball game when your team is being “no-hit”. It may be the eighth, it may be the seventh, but at some point, you realize your team has nothing and is behind 6 runs.

Then, it seems, baseball rules allow you to sacrifice your team’s fate in a Wednesday night in April to see baseball history. At least that is how I feel. I like the Rangers. I want them to win. But I also understand how rare a no-hitter is. So if you are asking me whether I was hoping Gerald Laird would get a hit in the ninth last night, I cannot tell a lie….I was rooting against him.

It is so rare. And if you are a stronger fan than I am and were hanging in there with your Rangers, I congratulate your loyalty. But, last night was the only game of its kind in the 180,000 game history of baseball…Read below for details.

Evan Grant Reports

One by one, just as they had methodically marched to the plate and back to the dugout all game, the Rangers shuffled towards the shower room inside US Cellular Field.

Most bypassed dinner for a little body-reviving steam. But try as they might, they simply couldn't wash the stain off themselves. For the first time in more than 20 years, the Rangers, proud swingers of big bats, had to live with the stigma of being no-hit.

Chicago's Mark Buehrle did it to them, bending cut fastballs around the farthest boundaries of home plate on a chilly, breezy night when hitting was not much fun, but making lots of outs was even less so. The final score: Chicago 6, Rangers 0. The
score didn't matter nearly as much as the accomplishment.

"You get mad," said second baseman Ian Kinsler, who flied out to center twice and hit the last semi-difficult ball of the night, a grounder to short in the seventh inning. "And then you get embarrassed. But for our side, it's just one game. Nobody wants to be no-hit, but you've got to put it behind you and move on."

Said shortstop Michael Young, whose 0-for-3 night stretched his hitless streak to 16 at-bats, the longest in more than two years: "As hard as it is to swallow, some times you just have to say a guy threw a great game and move on."

The Rangers haven't had to respond to such questions since California's Mike Witt threw a perfect game at them on the final day of the 1984 season. Among AL teams, only Kansas City had gone longer than the Rangers without being no-hit. The pesky Royals haven't had the trick turned on them since 1973.

But on Wednesday, it was pretty evident early on that Buehrle had the kind of stuff to make an opponent look silly. He allowed only one baserunner and needed just 106 pitches to complete the no-hitter.

He threw two types of cut fastballs, one that rode in on the hands of the Rangers' right-handed hitters and another that toyed with being too far inside, before darting into catcher A.J. Pierzynski's glove for a strike.

As a result the Rangers either hit the ball weakly off the bottom of the bat, missed
entirely or watched as home plate umpire Eric Cooper called a third strike. Buehrle got 19 of his 27 outs on strikeouts (eight of them) or ground balls. He also got one key out by picking Sammy Sosa off first base after a fifth-inning walk. Sosa was the only Ranger to reach base.

"He's the best I've ever seen him and we've faced him when he's had really good stuff," said Mark Teixeira, who struck out twice and grounded to second despite a .400 (10-for-25) average against Buehrle entering the game. "You never think a guy has 'no-hit' stuff because you always think somebody will get him or he'll make a mistake. He didn't make a mistake. "When he threw the cutter inside, you couldn't keep it fair and when he threw the backdoor cutter, it just froze you."

Buehrle is a fast worker who made fast work of the Rangers. The game took only 2:03. Buehrle didn't need much help from his defense for the final 90 or so minutes.

Elias Says

• There have been more than 180,000 games played in major league history, but Wednesday's Rangers-White Sox game stands unique among them. It was the first game in major league history in which one player (Mark Buehrle) threw a no-hitter, another (Jermaine Dye) hit a grand-slam home run, and a third (Jim Thome) had a multiple-homer game.

• Mark Buehrle faced the minimum 27 batters in his no-hitter against the Rangers.
All that stood between him and a perfect game was a fifth-inning walk to Sammy Sosa -- whom Buehrle promptly picked off.
The last two big-leaguers to throw non-perfect-game no-hitters in which they faced the minimum 27 batters were Terry Mulholland and Sandy Koufax. In 1990, Mulholland, pitching for the Phillies against the Giants, allowed only one baserunner (who reached on a Charlie Hayes error; the next batter hit into a double play); back in 1964, Koufax threw a no-no against the Phillies in which he walked rookie Richie Allen, who was then caught stealing.

• Buehrle, long one of the majors' fastest workers, completed his no-hitter in just two hours and three minutes. It was the fastest no-hitter since 1988, when Tom Browning threw a perfect game for the Reds against the Dodgers in one hour, 51 minutes.

• Buehrle's mound opponent on Wednesday night, Kevin Millwood of the Rangers, threw a no-hitter five years ago this month. Only two other no-hitters over the past 30 years came in games

Wiki on the rare No-No

No-hitters have become rarer than ever. Anibal Sanchez's no-hitter on September 6, 2006 ended a 2 1/2 year stretch without one, the longest stretch between no-hitters in seventy years [1] and the longest number of games played (6,364) between no-hitters in Major League history.[2] The number of no-hitters pitched since the early 1990s has decreased due to the increasing rarity of a starting pitcher completing a game, based on restrictions to his pitch count (which nowadays averages about 100 per quality start). Since 100 pitches are usually thrown by the sixth or seventh inning of most games, the starting pitcher is typically removed from the game, even if he is pitching well. There have, however, been a number of combined no-hitters, utilizing multiple pitchers. Generally however, managers will allow the pitcher working on a no-hitter to stay in the game because even some of the greatest pitchers in history have never had a chance at a no-hitter.

7 A.L. No hitters since Kenny Rogers’ perfecto in 1994

Kenny Rogers 07-28-1994
Texas 4 vs California 0

Dwight Gooden 05-14-1996
New York 2 vs Seattle 0

David Wells 05-17-1998
New York 4 vs Minnesota 0

David Cone 07-18-1999
New York 6 vs Montreal 0

Eric Milton 09-11-1999
Minnesota 7 vs Anaheim 0

Hideo Nomo 04-04-2001
Boston 3 at Baltimore 0

Derek Lowe 04-27-2002
Boston 10 vs Tampa Bay 0

Meanwhile, in golf news, Will the Stars be clogging up the area links Saturday? OR, will they be preparing for a home game in Game 6? …I wish I still believed…

Down 3-1 in the best-of-7 series, the Stars face first-round elimination for the third consecutive season tonight in Vancouver. And Morrow said one reason is because the team hasn't been emotionally or physically strong enough. He used phrases such as "nervous," "scared" and "playing not to lose." He said this team is a different team with a different dynamic than the ones that went out in five games the two previous seasons, but he acknowledged the team understands the history of playoff failure that is building.

"We're probably more frustrated than the fans are," Morrow said. "We're the ones that go through it day in and day out ... 82 games, the hard work, the injuries, all the adversities. It's been a long road to get here. Our effort has been OK. It hasn't been good enough. It's been frustrating."

Stars coach Dave Tippett disagreed with Morrow's terminology that the team is playing scared but said the team can't be afraid of the pressure of the playoffs.
"Embrace the situation and play," Tippett said. "This is why you play the game – the bigger the moment, the better the reward. Just jump out there and play, and do what you do."

Tippett said Morrow is a great example for his teammates.

"The playoffs is about getting out of your skin, and Brenden does that," Tippett said. "If you watch his will in the game, he does it. But we need more players like that to step out and do things that are extra from what they normally do.

"There's an internal fortitude that has to be there. You watch Brenden, and he's playing all out. We need guys to jump on his back a little bit."

Morrow said the skill players might be a good place to start. He said players such as Jeff Halpern, Stu Barnes and Joel Lundqvist have stepped up the scoring pace, and now it's time for others to add a much-needed goal or two.

"Those are guys who are willing to pay the price and get into the dirty areas and get rewarded for it," Morrow said. "Our skill guys – Ribsy [Mike Ribeiro] was real close last night – they're not quite getting there. There's not enough space out there for them. The skill needs to be a little harder."

Morrow paused for a second and added, "I'm not pointing any fingers at anyone. It's all of us. There's a lot of skill on this team. It just needs to be harder."

Lindros in the mix tonight

Stars forward Jussi Jokinen, who had been essentially a non-factor in the playoffs, did not make the trip to Vancouver for Thursday's Game 5. He suffered the dreaded "upper-body injury" early in Game 4.

If you're wondering who might replace him in the lineup, rookie Krys Barch would be a good bet. Barch practiced Wednesday on a line with Steve Ott and Antti Miettinen. While Barch has been listed as having (yes, you guessed it) an upper-body injury, coach Dave Tippett said Barch "was healthy enough." And while Barch played the tough-guy role in the regular season, he also showed the ability to check and bring energy to the lineup.

Oh, and some guy named Eric Lindros is on the team flight to Vancouver.
Snicker if you will, but Lindros might be a factor if he's recovered from his problematic groin injury. He had a goal, an assist and is plus-1 in two games this season against Vancouver.

Right now, the Stars will take offense anywhere they can find it. Of course, LIndros last netted a goal Nov. 20 against Colorado.

Dallas vs. Golden State

Game 1 - Sun April 22 Golden State at Dallas 8:30PM TNT
Game 2 - Wed April 25 Golden State at Dallas 8:30PM TNT
Game 3 - Fri April 27 Dallas at Golden State 9:30PM ESPN
Game 4 - Sun April 29 Dallas at Golden State 9:00PM TNT
Game 5 * Tue May 1 Golden State at Dallas TBD
Game 6 * Thu May 3 Dallas at Golden State TBD
Game 7 * Sat May 5 Golden State at Dallas TNT

Bring on Golden State

The Mavs begin the postseason with home-court advantage throughout the playoffs and the knowledge they won't have to face both San Antonio and Phoenix on the road to the Finals.

But the West Finals, should the Mavs return, are still two rounds away. They'll begin the playoffs with a best-of-seven series against West No. 8 seed Golden State.
"If we make it out of the first round, which we all hope, Houston or Utah are both good matchups," Dirk Nowitzki said. "We know how good defensively both teams are. Facing possibly Houston with their two stars in the playoffs is tough. Utah has so many good all-around players.

"There's nothing easy in the playoffs. That's how I look at it. Ultimately, if you want to be the best, if you want to win a championship, you have to go through the best."

The Mavs have proven to be the best in the regular season, but that guarantees nothing over the next two months. But they don't need a reminder.

The team didn't acknowledge clinching the Southwest Division and hardly mentioned locking up the league's best record, although the home-court aspect wasn't ignored.
In the playoffs for the seventh consecutive year, the Mavs have only one thing left to prove.

"God forbid we don't win a championship, then obviously we're in line to be the Buffalo Bills of basketball," Jerry Stackhouse said. "There's a lot of story lines that are waiting to be written."

I’m not scared, but this emailer is:

I’m a Mavs fan who is afraid the Mavs may get Upset….
Have we upset the Basketball gods?
Has Laura Miller open her mouth about parade routes?

Nelly’s Golden State Warriors are playing the Mavs in the 1st ROUND?
Are you FREAKING killing ME?!!!!
This smells of the equivalent of UTAH JAZZ getting beat by the Mavs when the Mavs made it back to the playoffs for the 1st time and won with Nelly.
Let the mad 3 point bombs the Warriors are going to drop on us begin…
Don’t get me wrong… I’m a Mavs homer and WANT THEM TO WIN… but something doesn’t

Feel Right.
Be Afraid… Be very Afraid…
All of Dallas will need Therapy….
We’re still suffering from the Romo dropped snap.
Dallas lets just get past this round and not upset the basketball gods more.
Best Regards and Bad Radio Rocks.

Mike Leach rejoices!

Last season, the NCAA wanted to speed up football games. Next season, it wants more plays. On Thursday, the rules oversight panel approved two major timing changes that would revert the rules to what they were in 2005 -- stopping the clock on possession changes and not starting it on kickoffs until the receiving team touches the ball.
Some coaches complained the 2006 changes, which resulted in about 14 fewer plays per game in Division I-A, had altered the game too much. Others said it prevented teams from rallying late in games.

In February, the football rules committee recommended going to back to the old system. After meeting with the American Football Coaches Association in March, the oversight panel agreed. Grant Teaff, executive director of the AFCA, was overjoyed with the changes.

''It made me uncomfortable to watch it last year,'' Teaff said. ''It put a different slant on everything, and it almost seemed to put everything in reverse. If you, as an offense, don't have the right or opportunity to manage the clock, it's not a good rule.''

Last year's rules changes reduced game times by an average of about 14 minutes, meeting a goal the committee had set.

On the field, though, there were problems. Trailing teams often sprinted onto the field after a punt, kickoff or turnover late in games to preserve precious time, while teams holding the lead delayed getting onto the field because they could use 25 seconds without running a play.

Another problem occurred on kickoffs. Since the clock started when the kicker touched the ball, some teams intentionally ran offsides to expend more time.
''I don't think that's what the committee really intended,'' said Ty Halpin, a spokesman for the oversight panel. ''That's a rule the committee regretted making.''
While, this year's changes likely mean games will again be longer, the panel approved several other measures intended to help keep them closer to 3 hours than 3 1/2.

Kickoffs will be made from the 30-yard line, like in the NFL, instead of the 35. That, Halpin said, should ensure more returns and shorter stoppages.

''It should create more opportunities for what the committee feels is one of the most exciting plays in a game, and we're not really sure, but it may increase scoring, too,'' he said.

After media timeouts during televised games, teams will have less time to run plays. Previously, teams had a 25-second play clock; now it will be 15 seconds. Halpin said it could prevent the long stoppages when teams are merely simply trying to save time.
One of the most time-consuming procedures, replay reviews, will not change. The football rules committee withdrew its proposal to impose a 2-minute limit, in part, because of the potential for technical difficulties.

The committee will also begin considering a play clock that alternates between 40 seconds and 25 seconds, depending on whether the clock has stopped. The NFL uses that system, and the committee thinks it could speed up games.

The Office - Shunned

Anchorman recut

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Game 4: Vancouver 2, Dallas 1 (Van leads 3-1)

Hockey Depression has arrived, as the Stars fold....AGAIN.

I would hope that people enjoy my playoff game notes because maybe, just maybe, I will know what to say about the situation the Stars find themselves in. Well, I apologize, but I have no definitive theories on why the Stars are where they are yet again. Now, before we look at the big picture, let’s remember that this thing isn’t completely dead. 3 games to 1 is very bad, but not death for the 2007 season. Death arrives the next time the Stars lose. Which by most accounts will be Thursday Night in Vancouver.

I have my normal playoff game observations; Morrow and Ribeiro were really good. Modano was invisible again, Turco gave up the lead exactly 2 minutes after Sydor tied it up, and we can only wonder what might have happened if that puck had made it over the line….But. Here we are again.

So, who shall we blame for what appears to be another playoff meltdown? I think the better question is who should not be blamed?

Let’s make my list in the blame game:

Doug Armstrong, GM: We always say it starts at the top. Well, in the salary cap age, the owner could now be a gifted chimpanzee, so let’s start with the man who buys the groceries. The kids are average – there is no talented young kid who carries this team at all. The veterans look old. The Lindros for Arnott exchange was laughable from day 1. The Turco and Modano contracts look like a bad idea now, and the Nagy trade looks even worse. I think the world of Doug Armstrong, but the proof is on the ice. And the ice tells a story of a team that cannot win a home game, can’t win a overtime game, and recently can’t even win two games in a series.

Dave Tippett, Coach: I think he is a fine coach. But, I am not crazy about the way he has used Mike Ribeiro. Ribeiro is one of his best weapons, and last night in a must win game, he had him skating with Steve Ott and Antti Miettinen – quite possibly the two least offensive wingers on the team. Last year, he buried Bill Guerin on the 4th line for most of the season, and took him off the power play which is similar to only using Terrell Owens to run block. When scoring is a major deficiency, I need my coach to use all of his scoring assets in a reasonable position. I would tell you that these decisions are proof that this is not being done all the time.

Mike Modano, Jere Lehtinen, Faces of the Franchise: They have done so much good for this franchise and for this city that it is borderline illegal to suggest that these guys are not getting it done, but here is the reality. They are not close to what they need to be in the last several playoff runs. 2 or 3 goals in the last 18 playoff games from the two you depend on most to light the lamp is just flat out unacceptable. We look everywhere else first, but let’s be honest: They must be the best players on this team or the golf season looms. And the Modano foursome is about to be called to the first tee.

Marty Turco, Goaltender: He is clearly playing his best playoff hockey, but that doesn’t say too much. He allowed two back breaking goals at just the wrong time. The first goal was scored as Turco flopped around like a fish out of water. The second goal was another horrible rebound into the middle of the slot which Trevor Linden pounded home. Turco has raised his game, but still doesn’t know how to close the deal. In my mind, he will forever be compared to Ed Belfour, and in that conversation he finishes a distant second. But, with a huge contract that contains a no-trade clause, I don’t know what they can do.

The entire team: The Stars don’t know how to win. They just look lost when it comes to the most important part of the game. I don’t question heart or effort. But I do question what is between the ears. They seem to lack composure. They seem to have puck panic. And they do the opposite of rising to the occasion.

If you are Tom Hicks, how do you not sharpen your sword today? This has happened 4 seasons in a row – going out with a whimper. Game 5 may determine jobs.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Treadwell Calls for More Rain from the Stars

If you have never seen this video, watch with caution. It is a bit offensive, and it is a bit loud. But, it sends the proper message…..


Heika looks at the conundrum of the Stars

while protecting leads in the third periods of Games 2 and 3, Dallas was outshot 17-7 and 15-4. Is that a sound game plan? Is that not taking chances? Or is that playing not to lose?

"We have stressed it over and over and over in here that we are not a team that sits on a lead," Stars captain Brenden Morrow said. "And yet when we get out there. ... I don't know, we just don't generate the chances we should."

NHL stats will tell you it's always good to have a third-period lead. Dallas was 30-3-1 during the regular season when leading at the second intermission. The Stars were 25-1-2 when leading after the first period and 32-7-2 when scoring first. Heck, they also seemed to handle being tied very well. The Stars were 28-15 in one-goal games, 6-3 in regular-season overtime and 10-2-5 when tied after two.

"We really have prided ourselves on being a team that can come back in the third period or hold a lead in the third period," defenseman Philippe Boucher said. "That's the time we're at our best."

The Stars, during the regular season, outscored the opposition, 85-64, in the third. They played even in the first and second periods, when the pressure wasn't as high.
"It's not about game plans or anything, it's about execution," Stars defenseman Sergei Zubov said. "We have to make plays just like we have all year. I'll take the blame for that [in Game 3]. I should have been better. But, as a team, we have done this all year, and we just have to get back to that. It's shift by shift, play by play, focus on what you can control."

Tippett said appearances aren't always what they seem. He said the team isn't sitting on leads, and the players are mad about Sunday's outcome, which was caused by mental mistakes.

But, he added, the Stars are smart enough to correct the errors.
"Losing is not fun," Tippett said. "But we have a very resilient group in there, and we haven't really done anything easy all year."

So maybe it's time to do things the tough way, because there might not be any other choice. In NHL history, teams that are up, 3-1, in a series and hold home ice are 127-10 (.927) in winning the series. That means a loss for the Stars in Game 4 pretty much ends the season on another disappointing note – unless they can become a part of that 7.3 percent that find a miracle.

So while Tuesday night's tilt isn't officially a win or be eliminated game, it is about as close as the Stars can come. And maybe that will create the desire to remain aggressive for all 60 minutes – or more.

The Stars have scored two goals or less in more than half of their playoff games under coach Dave Tippett, and the result hasn't been good. A look at how the Stars have fared in the playoffs based on their offensive production:

Scoring Record
2 goals or less 2-11
3 goals 2-3
4 goals or more 5-2

Jen wants the big players to be big players …seems reasonable enough…

Stars forward Mike Ribeiro participated in practice Monday, thus answering a big question after Game 3.

Yes, he is still on the team.

He just has been a no-show in this playoff series. And he hasn't been alone in his disappearing act. Many of the Stars' big-name, big-talent players have been reported missing against Vancouver -- Ribeiro, Mike Modano on down.

"Our best players have to find a way to make a difference," Stars coach Dave Tippett fumed after Sunday's loss.

One problem: Their best players have not been their best players.
Their checking line has been doing the heavy lifting, with Stu Barnes, Joel Lundqvist and Jeff Halpern accounting for all of the Stars' goals in the past two games.

"It's nice to contribute, but I don't think anyone is mistaking myself for Mike Modano or Mike Ribeiro or Jere Lehtinen or Brenden Morrow," Halpern said. "I think those guys have consistently been our guys this year."

What they have not been is the guys in the playoffs. Not this year, not last.
They are not on the scoresheet. They are not making the plays that get somebody else on the scoresheet. It is as if they are invisible at times, which is the case with Eric Lindros, who actually is MIA.

Everybody else is just kind of there, but not really all there.
"Yeah," Modano said, "I guess you can say I'm missing."

What the Stars have to do is find their best players before Game 4 tonight or risk losing the series, too.

From Vancouver, the plight of Mr. Modano is being considered

The harsh opening line from a column flogging Mike Modano in a Dallas newspaper said it all:

Three games. Zero goals.

This first-round playoff series hasn't been easy so far for Modano, who's maybe battling a little age-related corrosion, a slump and an asphyxiating Vancouver defence bent on stopping him and Dallas captain Brenden Morrow.

In a tightly played series with little room for anyone, no one has been played tighter than Modano, who has to feel like he's playing games in Cell Block M.
Through the neutral zone, Canucks forwards have engulfed Modano like a snowstorm, slowing and redirecting him before handing the job off to Kevin Bieksa and Willie Mitchell.

In Game 3, Modano managed just one shot on net in 22:54 of playing time. Afterward, the frustration was starting to seep through.

"The scoring chances are slim and none out there,'' Modano said after the game. "You try to make the most of it when you do get it. You've got to work through their checkers, then you've got to go through [Willie] Mitchell and then you've still got [Roberto] Luongo. ... We've got our hands full.''

The Canucks have thus far nicely executed their two-pronged game plan to stop Modano, which involves the forwards and the defencemen.

"The forwards have been making life a lot easier for us," said Mitchell. "They are doing a terrific job of slowing him down through the neutral zone, which prevents him from generating speed. Mike is not really a player who's going to be effective off the cycle and down low. Everything he does is through the neutral zone."

The Canucks are trying to match Mitchell and Bieksa as often as possible with the Modano line, and so far they've stopped him cold.

Also, the poor Canuck goalie doesn’t like being bumped

Are these deliberate acts of malfeasance, a concerned observer asked.
"For sure," Luongo answered. "Why else would they be bumping me after the whistle like that. There's no one around them. It's not like they can say someone is pushing them into me.

"A couple of times it was flagrant. You just have to fight through the situations. You can't let it affect you."

But you can let it entertain you.

If you were looking for a sign the Canucks and Stars are now hooked up in an honest-to-goodness, we-hate-them, they-hate-us playoff series, the sight of Luongo engaged in the time-honoured postseason tradition of manufacturing a controversy seemed to signal an intensification of hostilities.

True, the uber-goalie has been bumped a couple of times by the Stars in an amateurish attempt to throw him off his game. But apparently it reached the level that coach Alain Vigneault felt it necessary to sound the alarm following the Canucks' 2-1 overtime win on Sunday, a game in which Luongo stopped 29 of 30 Dallas

Now it should be noted the seriousness of this matter is a subject of some debate. The Stars are barely aware of it. Come to think of it, so are some of Luongo's teammates.

But we will say this. It's infinitely more interesting than anything the Canucks and Stars have put on the ice since regulation time ended in Game 1.

"Definitely it hurt (when he was hit by Nagy)," said Luongo. "I wasn't lying on the ice faking it. That's not my style."

Nor is this Vigneault's, but the coach also stayed on message.

"There were a couple of incidents in Vancouver where it was tough to see Louis
getting bumped in there," said Vigneault. "Louis got hit twice (in Game 3) and once he almost got hurt. ... It's something we hope the referees are going to be able to see and when they see it, call it."

Other Canucks, meanwhile, didn't seem to take the perceived assault on Luongo as personally. Willie Mitchell noted bumping into the goalie has been in the playoffs as long as the puck has been round.

"The other team is going to try to get him off his game, just as we try to do with their elite players," said Mitchell. "Roberto is going to have to put up with a certain amount of it."

Off to Hoops, where the Mavericks can determine who they play against

The Warriors are on the verge of completing a Lazarus-like comeback. Golden State now holds the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference at the moment. But the Warriors believe they must win Tuesday's game against Dallas and Wednesday at Portland to guarantee an end the NBA's longest playoff drought.

The Mavs have some motivation; they've lost four straight in this series. But Golden State's Jason Richardson said his team wants to deliver a message that a potential Mavs-Warriors playoff series won't be easy.

"It's going to be a battle; that's what we want to let them know," said Richardson, who has scorched the Mavs in the past. "Even though we're the eight seed, we're going to battle and play hard."

The Warriors haven't been to the playoffs since Nelson guided them there in 1994. The franchise hasn't won a playoff game since 1992. Bay Area fans probably thought their agony would continue for another year after Golden State fell nine games under .500 in early March.

But instead of throwing in the towel, guard Baron Davis chose to come back after arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. He's playing limited minutes but averaging 19.5 points over the last 18 games.

Wow! Check the TV Ratings for Sunday

The Mavericks-Spurs game topped NASCAR's Samsung 500 in Dallas-Fort Worth's crowded Sunday afternoon local television ratings race.

The Mavericks' victory averaged a 6.9 rating (164,220 homes) locally for WFAA (Channel 8) while Texas Motor Speedway's first Nextel Cup race of the year finished with a 6.1 rating (145,180 homes) for KDFW (Channel 4).

It was a different story nationally, where the race on Fox scored a 5.4 major-market rating. It easily beat the NBA game on ABC, which earned a 2.9. The overnight rating for the race was up 13 percent over last year.

Sunday night's Game 3 of the Stars-Canucks opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs averaged a 3.1 rating (73,800 homes) for Fox Sports Net Southwest. It marks the cable network's best rating for a Stars game since a 2004 first-round game against Colorado earned a 3.9.

More Fine work from the Belo Blogs, Tim MacMahon reminds Mavs fans of the wrath of Joey Crawford

I dug through the DMN archives to find Mark Cuban's response to e-mailed questions from Eddie Sefko after Joey "Rabitt-Eared Horse's Rear" Crawford tossed Nellie for no good reason in Game 2 of a 2003 playoff series vs. the Spurs.

Here goes:

"It's disgraceful that Mr. Crawford threw Nellie out of the game . Nellie has been in this league for 30 years. He has given his heart, his soul and even his health to the game, his players, his teams and the fans. For Mr. Crawford to eject Nellie from a game because he 'tried to show Mr. Crawford up' is wrong.

"If anyone in this league has, Nellie has earned the right to stand on the sidelines and stare at anyone he darn well pleases. If Mr. Crawford is the least bit professional, that should not be the slightest issue at all.

"I think some officials fail to realize just how tenuous success in the NBA is. This is the closest Nellie has been to the Finals in his 30 years of coaching. There are coaches who have NEVER made it to the conference finals and many today who NEVER WILL. The same applies to our players.

"Mr. Crawford has officiated in the conference finals and NBA Finals numerous times. So possibly to him it's no big deal to be there. If that is the case, he has to put that aside and realize that winning a championship is not easy in the NBA and his job is to make sure that the team who played the best on the day that he officiated emerges as the winner and his professional satisfaction comes from enabling that, rather than influencing it."

Rangers in Chicago this week, with:

Tue. at Chi. 7:11 FSNSW Robinson Tejeda (1-1) Jon Garland (0-0)
Wed. at Chi. 7:11 FSNSW Kevin Millwood (2-1) Mark Buehrle (0-0)
Thu at Chi. 7:11 FSNSW Vicente Padilla (0-3) Javier Vazquez (2-

Danks with a few words for the Rangers

Hearing the letters DVD almost causes John Danks to break out in a rash.

"Tired," the White Sox's rookie left-hander said with a weary sigh. "So tired. We hated it."

The letters DVD stood for the first letters of the last names of Danks, Edinson Volquez and Thomas Diamond, who were hyped as the nucleus of the Texas Rangers' promising pitching future.

Danks and reliever Nick Masset departed Texas in December in an intriguing deal that sent popular White Sox right-hander Brandon McCarthy to the Rangers.

The anger several Sox fans expressed over general manager Ken Williams' decision to trade the 23-year-old McCarthy overshadowed the Rangers' decision to trade two of the top prospects in an organization desperate for pitching quality and quantity at the major-league level.

The Rangers' staff ERA is 5.07, 13th in the American League, heading into Tuesday's opener of a three-game series with the Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.

Masset made eight appearances with the Rangers as a reliever last season. He and Danks welcomed the change of scenery and earned spots on the Sox's Opening Day roster.

"Pitching is a big thing over there," Masset said. "That's a big question for them all the time. The funny thing is there is a lot of good talent over there. I don't think they put together the right combinations when they needed to. I don't know what happened."

Danks isn't scheduled to face his former team in this series, though Masset might get the call out of the bullpen.

Neither has kept up with the Rangers' staff, whose starters have combined for a 5.97 ERA, with only veteran Kevin Millwood (3.71) below 4.50.

Danks is 0-2 but has allowed only five runs in his first two major-league starts after beating out Gavin Floyd for the fifth spot in the rotation.

His ability to throw strikes in spring training impressed the Sox's coaching staff.

Masset gained favorable notice in the third game of the season, pitching 4 2/3 innings of one-run ball in the Sox's 4-3 comeback victory over the Indians.

"I couldn't be in a happier situation or a better situation," Masset said. "I'm happy where I am and with what I'm doing for the team."

It's a fresh start for a twosome who represent a major part of the Sox's future after facing a similar burden in Texas, where they grew weary of the expectations placed upon them.

"It was all hype," Danks said. "It was one of those things where they build you up. You have one rough game and people write you off. Rangers fans are pretty fair-weathered anyway."

Rogers on Sosa’s return to Chicago

Sking in North Texas?

Duncan Ejected; Ortegal smirks…

My little brother makes a tandem jump from 13,000 feet. And, he has a crazy smile on his face all the way down…

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