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Mavericks May Be Looking at Fools Gold in Free Agency

I love Mark Cuban as an owner. I always have. I just hope he isn’t turning more and more to the Jerry Jones side – having to constantly prove he’s the smartest guy in the room.

That’s the feeling I got following draft night – well, along with wondering, like so many others, why the NBA has its asinine rule that picks can’t be traded on draft night until after they’re used, leaving us to wait until night’s end for ESPN to announce the moves we already knew about via Twitter.

At the end of the night, the Mavericks had turned the 13th pick into U of Miami guard Shane Larkin, who was technically Atlanta’s pick at 18. Sorry, looks like we won’t get to see Britny Greiner alongside Dirk Nowitzki.

Larkin is being touted as possibly a second coming of JJ Barea, someone who can overcome his lack of size with his ability to destroy you on the pick and roll, which is something the Mavs can definitely use in conjunction with Dirk. Dallas may have actually drafted someone who could truly see the floor for the first time in I can’t remember how long.

But we shouldn’t kid ourselves into thinking this draft was getting about players. It was about freeing up cap space.

Because the guy the Mavs want wasn’t wearing a college uniform last year but a Lakers uniform. And that’s what worries me.

It was just a few hours ago that free agency started, and already Mavs fans can erase one pipe dream. For the first time ever, the Clippers actually made an effort to keep a free agent, and Chris Paul is expected to sign a five year deal on the 10th. Who knows when Donald Sterling got his brain transplant, but Billy Crystal sure is thrilled.

That has left the few true basketball fans drooling at landing uber-talented but ultra-immature Dwight Howard to Dallas. The guy who destroyed two teams and is still going to get the max four-year contract a free agent can get elsewhere.

Not that that’s the only move the Mavs are looking to make. With the Boston Celtics looking to flush away their whole team for a glorious next two decades of lottery picks, the Mavs have their sights on Rajon Rondo, one of the few point guards in this game who actually brings the ball up court thinking pass first. Sounds a lot like the guy who took the Mavs to that championship who will now wear a suit on the sidelines for Brooklyn.

Here’s an idea: Why not go after the point guard and let some other team wreck themselves on Howard?

Pair Rondo with an Al Jefferson, someone who can take the role of Tyson Chandler, and suddenly, bam! You’ve got the combination that actually proved successful just two years ago. And you didn’t throw away 100 million dollars on a guy who’s likely to get your coach fired by New Year’s.

Here’s a wild question: Who so far has beaten David Stern’s favorite team playing at its own game yet?

While so many try to still find a way around the looming luxury tax to stockpile their own superteam to topple the vaunted Miami Heat, it’s ironically the Mavs from 2011 who still stand at how to actually beat them: Build the team around one great player surounded by many other good ones and let depth wear down super talent.

And it almost worked in San Antono as well. Sorry, Tony Parker and Manu Giunobli are really good players but not superstars. And that collection around Tim Duncan was on its way to knocking off Lebron and Co. had Greg Popovich not gotten arrogant or stupid or both in game six.

It’s amazing how, even with history showing the other way has actually succeeded, NBA teams and fans still want to go the volatile “fantasy sports” way, taking talent and attitude over teamwork and chemistry.

The Mavs should be looking at rebuildng a team rather than splurging for the reason the Orlando Magic’s Wikipedia page has a section called “The Dwightmare Saga.”

NBA Needs to Do a Lot to Get Me Tuned In Again

So, anyone want to give met the scores of the first two NBA Finals games? I seem to have missed watching them…

Yeah, who am I kidding? There’s a reason I didn’t watch them. And I could care less about who won which game.

What I see is a team of show-offs and punks (that shot of Lebron and Dewayne mocking Dirk’s illness still stuck in my head) against a team that became the poster child for insomnia-curing play. And I will never deny my own Dallas Mavericks bleed-blue bias in generating that opinion.

For Mavericks fans, this Finals series is Alien vs. Predator. Whoever wins, we lose.

But it actually goes a bit deeper than just who’s playing this particular year. This is actually the 11th time in the last 13 years I won’t have tuned in to the NBA Finals. Since 2001, if the Mavs weren’t in it, I haven’t watched.

Is it just the disappointment that my team didn’t make it? No, it can’t be that. Because no matter what happens to the Rangers, I’m glued to the World Series every year.

And this is the kicker: All this hype and “you must watch” attitude has indeed driven me to watch: The NHL Stanley Cup playoffs. Five years ago, I might have rolled my eyes at anyone saying I’d be watching hockey.

But that’s what it’s come to, and it ultimately relies on this major factor: The NBA has just become bad to me.

Bad play on the floor, bad attitudes off it and one of the most boring, pointless regular seasons out there have just made me apathetic at best. Only the knowledge that the Dallas Mavericks were one of the few good eggs in my biased eyes, led by all-around nice guy Dirk Nowitzki and run by passion magnet Mark Cuban, kept me interested. But the horror of dealing with Lamar Khardashian last year and seeing Dirk hobbled by injuries this past year made even that tough to watch.

Will I continue to follow the Mavs when Dirk finally hangs up the sneakers and retires to live like a god in Germany? I honestly don’t know.

The NBA has a lot of problems right now. And I’ll tackle them in the next few posts to give my own outlandish take on what needs to be done.

Stern and the NBA Should Realize Less is More

I’ve never liked the San Antonio Spurs. They’re the biggest competition for my Mavericks. Their style of play is sleep-inducing and a big contribution to the decline in the NBA’s popularity over the past 15 years. Add even the possibility that they intentionally tanked the 1997 season to get the top pick and it worked out is a microcosm of what’s wrong with our sports draft system, which I should get into later.

So I can’t believe I’m saying this, but: I actually sympathize with Gergg Poppovich and the Spurs on their latest controversy.

For those unaware, last week the Spurs faced the defending champion Heat in Miami in a game that was nationally televised. The Spurs were playing their fourth road game in five days. The Heat had nearly a full week off.

So Poppovich appeared to wave the white flag, sitting out several key players for the game. Tim Duncan, Manu Giunobli and were actually sent home to San Antonio.

NBA czar David Stern was not pleased. Even before the game started, he threatened severe consequences for the Spurs’ actions. Shortly after the Spurs barely lost to the heat, even leaden in the final minute with practically their D-League roster, he slapped a quarter-million dollar fine on the team. He expected his fellow fans to also be outrage that Pop would deprive the TV audience of his best guys; what he got was a number of people siding with the four-time champion coach.

There’s no doubt Stern hates the Spurs, as they’ve prevented his big market teams from ruling supreme while promoting boring basketball no one wants to watch (can’t blame him for disliking the latter). I could go on with a Grassy Knoll theory that he rigged the schedule so a tired Spurs team would get humiliated by his golden boys in South Beach, but this isn’t the place to get on that theory (oops, too late).

But here’s the big problem regardless of who it was benching his players: You want to make sure your teams put their full best lineup out every single game? DON’T FORCE THEM TO PLAY FOUR GAMES IN FOUR NIGHTS IN FOUR DIFFERENT TOWNS.

No one has a problem with players getting days off in baseball; heck the biggest criticism from many Rangers observers this past year was that Ron Washington DIDN’T give his stars enough days off. Basketball isn’t like that, but that’s because everyone assumes they won’t play every day, not even for a small stretch like that. Regardless of how much money they make, basketball is a much more grueling game than baseball, and making one team playing four0in0five play another with a week off is beyond ridiculous.

It could be solved with one simple solution: Less games in the schedule.

The NBA is right up there with the NHL (which is sadly ineligible at the moment) for having one of the most uneventful, pointless regular seasons in U.S. sports. It’s nearly impossible for casual fans to slog through 82 games in six months, especially when there’s almost no importance to finishing first since eighth place gets you into the playoffs. The fact that the season starts in the middle of football season – in which cities like Dallas give the game even less attention than they normally do – doesn’t make things any better.

Simply put, there are too many games for people to care about with little at stake for the six-month regular season. I’ll touch on improving the second of those problems in the future, including why I pick the arbitrary number I’m about to declare. But for now, here it is: Cut the season down to 66 games. It would essentially allow the league to have every team play three times a week with hopefully at least one day off in between every game and still complete the schedule in roughly the same six month time span.

Fewer playoff games would help as well. Not just reducing at least the first round back down to a best of five format, but also less rounds, which of course means less teams qualifying. But again, that’s another discussion for another time.

An old colleague of mine tells me that the main reason football continues to be number one this country is because the small number of games make each one more valuable. I have my debates on THAT being the reason everyone’s so gaga and forgiving toward that sport, fewer NBA games could help draw more attention to its regular season. For now through, ensuring every team gets adequate rest between games would ensure Stern doesn’t have to worry about problems like this again.

And yes, I have a full plan on how the schedule could be realigned to fit this shortened number. Stay tuned.