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Mavs may be in great position to thwart the Spurs after all

This was supposed to be the ultimate humiliation. An easy four game sweep for the San Antonio Spurs to prove what a worthless endeavor it was to get back in the playoffs and that tanking worse than the Sixers to fight for the right to draft an untested college freshman was the better way to go.

Oops.

The dream of so many to see the Mavs swept away in the first round came to a crashing halt Wednesday night, thanks to the Mavs’ 113-92 win in Game Two. The team that had lost 10 straight overall to San Antonio simply schooled them on their home floor, picking off balls everywhere and getting so many contributions that they easily won despite another subpar game from Dirk Nowitzki.

While some can grumble that they could have gotten two wins in the Alamo City had they not fallen apart late in Game One like so many times before, the truth remains that the Mavs got the split in San Antonio that they had to hope for. And now this series heads to the AAC with Dallas being the team that, except for six minutes, has been the better squad overall.

That doesn’t mean we still can’t be concerned about Game One slipping away. History has shown it almost always comes back to bite teams that lose a game in a series that they seem to have had won. The Lakers and Heat never recovered from early blown losses to the Mavs during the 2011 playoffs.

But maybe, just maybe this is one time that such a blown game could be a benefit more than a negative.

The Mavs have a bad trait of blowing big leads late – that everyone pretty much knows about. But unlike the regular season, the Mavs get to face that same team immediately again with evidence as to what they did wrong – and what to correct against this same team.

And while the Mavs can look back at the video and think that they could be up 2-0 in this series, the Spurs can look at it and see something worse. Just like the Ducks have against the Stars, they have not played well at all this series. And they’re in worse shape on the scoreboard that the Ducks were after two games.

And now they have to find a way to completely turn things around with the next two games in hostile territory. If the Mavs win Game Three on Saturday, this Spurs team could be in a lot of trouble.

This may be just overreacting. After all, every Western Conference series is currently tied or has the underdog with the lead in games. Does that mean all the top seeds are going to fall? Not likely. With how spread open the league is getting, we still may see the top seeds advance in the end; we just shouldn’t expect easy sweeps by the highest seeds in the first round anymore.

Like it or not, the Spurs historically are still among the best at adjusting. Even Dirk admits the Mavs have not been great at defending the home court this season. And expecting them to force more than 20 turnovers again may be asking too much.

Still, when you take into account that four number one seeds have gone down in the first round since the league expanded the round to best-of-seven (including both the Mavs and Spurs) and that the lower seed advanced the last three times these two met in the playoffs, saying this is still a gimme for the Spurs is way too premature.

We know this series ain’t ending in four now. And one way or another, it’s likely gonna last a lot longer than that.

Goodnight, it’s great to have the playoffs back in Dallas.

Please Spurs, just go away

Warning: The following has been written from the perspective of the extreme bias of a die-hard fan and may or may not be intended to be taken seriously.

Last year, seeing the Dallas Mavericks NOT be in the playoffs was painful. Now that they’re back, I’d say the time has come to not be objective. The playoffs are supposed to be about passion, so the time has come to be biased as all get out.

So I’m putting that all out at the risk of severely ticking off a few acquaintances and even a few relatives.

I am sick to death of the San Antonio Spurs.

I want the Mavericks to win this series almost as badly as I wanted to beat Miami in 2011.

If disaster occurs and the Spurs advance, I will root against them in the next round and the round after that. And if we get another Spurs-Heat Finals – well, that’s like choosing between Godzilla or Gigan; it doesn’t matter because whoever wins is going to devastate your city.

I hate the Spurs fans and how they claim their team represents all the good in the NBA. No, they don’t. They represent what’s wrong with it.

I hate the fact that the Spurs built this run of championships by the shadiest, most underhanded way possible: They intentionally tanked a season. How David Robinson, who is supposed to have such high moral standards, agreed to ever play for the Spurs again after they forced him to sit out the rest of 1997 with “back issues” I’ll never know. The Spurs should have been stripped of that draft pick and several others for what they did, and instead they got one of the last number one picks to actually be a franchise player. As a result, teams tank left and right nowadays to try and get the next Tim Duncan despite no such player being available, flushing all credibility for the league down the toilet.

Oh, and Duncan? Yeah, I’m sick of him too. His legion of fans in San Antonio love to claim how he’s this class act. This is a guy who believes he has never committed a foul in his life. He’s probably still pouting over that blocking foul he picked up in an AAU game 20 years ago.

I’m sick of the Spurs’ offense, which can best be described as “Cure For Insomnia.” The Spurs have the talent to be one of the most high-flying teams out there, and yet they intentionally try to play the most boring, sleep-inducing brand of basketball in history. Are the rumors true that every Spurs player gets fined if they score 100 in a game, even if they win? The way they play, they might as well go up and down the floor waving middle fingers at the crowd to say “we don’t give a f*ck about you.” They’re lucky to be playing in this era, where you can win with defense and absolutely nothing else. The Lakers and even the Celtics of the 80s would put up 150 on them every night.

I hate how Greg Poppovich is considered some great genius. Especially because he sits players on select games, once again proving this is a team that completely doesn’t care about the people that pay their salaries. Pop, you do know that there’s a very good chance that someone, especially when you go on the road, is watching your team for the first and maybe only time in their life and did so in order to see Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobuli (though for the life of me, I don’t know why), and you frequently deny them that chance on the claims that you have to keep players rested for the playoffs? If these guys aren’t conditioned enough to handle a full 82-game schedule like so many others are, maybe it’s time they pack it in.

I hate how their fans whine and complain that the league is out to get them because they’re “small market.” Excuse me? You ended up winning the draft lottery twice in 10 years, and you think the league is conspiring against you? Your star player whines every singe time he gets whistled, yet he almost never gets T’d up. You’ve brought home the trophy four times, and yet you constantly claim the league is actively trying to deny you?

You didn’t lose the title last year because of biased officiating or any other act on the part of the league to ensure LeBron and Co. got another ring. You lost it because your coach was stupid in Game Six. You had the chance to step on the throat and end it in that game, and what does Pop do? Start the fourth quarter with his worst lineup possible, allowing the Heat to creep back in. Then, in a tighter contest late, he keeps Duncan on the bench when you need defense and rebounding more than ever, leading to TWO offensive rebounds on missed free throws that turned into three pointers for Miami. You got complacent and didn’t go for the kill shot, like the Mavs did to that same team two years earlier.

When the Spurs lost in the first round in 2011, it looked like it might be the start of the end of this dark era. But sadly, thanks to a lack of good young talent flowing in to challenge the status quo, this old, unentertaining bunch gets to keep plodding on and turning more and more people over to hockey.

So please, Mavericks. Shock the world and send the Spurs home whining and crying just like you did in 2006.

Because I’m just sick of them.

Mavs’ Carlisle has right mindset of playoffs over draft

Rick Carlisle appears to be one of the few NBA coaches out there that has the full confidence from management, so it seems likely that, no matter if certain radio hosts accuse him of having “the personality of a knife,” he will be on the Mavericks’ sidelines for quite a while longer.

That means he has the freedom to help make sure his roster is primarily contained with players he trusts to play. So there won’t be a ton of young players wearing Dallas jerseys for the time being, as it’s clear Carlisle doesn’t put a lot of trust in them – see the playing time of Shane Larkin and Ricky Ledo for that.

So it shouldn’t be that surprising that the Mavs’ coach has flat out said he’s not concerned with how the Mavs’ return to the playoffs will almost certainly cause them to be a non-factor in this year’s NBA Draft.

If the Mavs finish with one of the top 10 records in the league, they lose their first round pick to Oklahoma City as part of that infamous Lamar Odom trade that all parties are wanting to forget as soon as possible. And the dearth of good teams in the East makes that almost a given even if the Mavs finish with the eighth seed in the West.

Carlisle’s response, according to the Star-Telegram?

“Who cares? This draft ain’t that good. It’s more important to be playing this time of year and competing than worrying about the 20-something pick in the draft. That guy ain’t going to help us much next year, regardless.”

Rick, I love you even more.

Carlisle just blurted out what I have been saying for a while now. Everyone has been talking about how supposedly so much more loaded this upcoming draft is, especially compared to last year, which resulted in three of the top five picks failing to score even five points a game (yeah, yeah, beating a dead horse). How oh so convenient it is that this would be the year the Lakers would bottom out and be in position to find the next Kobe and, once again, why the Mavs would be more proud of a supposed first-round exit over getting some young gun guaranteed to shine alongside Dirk and single-handedly turn the Mavs back into championship contenders.

Why? Because the Mavs have a better chance of making the Finals with the eight seed than finding the next Dirk in this or any draft for the foreseeable future, and that’s just the truth.

I have people saying that nowadays, you’re not getting an impact player if you aren’t in the top three to seven picks. I’d argue not even those picks are a guarantee. Regardless of what the hype machine at ESPN says, this is still a draft loaded with freshmen out the wazoo. And that’s not a good thing.

Most players that have NBA caliber dominate in high school with almost no real competition. Whether it would be coming straight out after that or after just one year in college, that’s simply not enough of a playing resume to completely determine if someone truly has what it takes to make it at the highest level. Because it’s not just about what you have, it’s about having the intelligence and maturity to know how to use it to your full potential.

And the truth is that almost all of these freshmen come in thinking they’re going to dominate the NBA just like they dominated high school, thinking there will be no need to put in extra effort. And they find out too late that their toughest high school opponent wouldn’t be a 12th man in the NBA, unable to recover and turning into yet another basketball version of David Clyde.

Just ask Michael Beasley, who, after leaving Kansas State after one year, has been cut by one team and traded twice in six years and now wonders if he in fact made the right decision.

The days of getting Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing or even Tim Duncan are long gone. You’re far more likely to end up with a Michael Bennett or Greg Oden than a Kevin Durant.

Hence why there is very little turnover nowadays between the teams in the lottery and in the playoffs. The Hornets and Kings are once again looking at ping pong balls while an aging San Antonio roster is again looking at the top seed in the playoffs.

This is why new commissioner Adam Silver is highly considering changing to a two-year rule. I would personally prefer finding a way to turn the D-League into a true minor-league development system.

Either way, Carlisle has the right mindset for now. With a seemingly ageless Dirk playing alongside Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon, the Mavs are a playoff team and would have a top seed if they were in the East. They admittedly still need to find another Tyson Chandler-like presence in the paint to seriously be a title contender again.

But they’re more likely to find that through an off-season trade or signing after whatever happens to them in the postseason.

They’re not likely to find that in a class of 20-somethings most likely to be bust over boom.

Neuwendyk’s Trades May be Why Stars Are Looking Elsewhere

Jaramir Jagr has at least one last chance to lift Lord Stanley’s chalice again. And he has Joe Neuwendyk to thank for it.

Jagr will lace up the skates for the Boston Bruins tonight as they look to even up the Stanley Cup Finals at one game apiece against Chicago. Two things to keep in mind: The Cup Finals have proven over the years that a 1-0 deficit is almost worthless, so Jagr’s Bruins are definitely still in it, and Jagr is not just along for the ride. Despite not yet putting the puck in the net himself this postseason, the 41-year-old has still contributed 26 points in 28 combined regular-post season games> And those that actually were in the American Airlines Center when Jagr wore the green and black know how potent he could still be on the power play.

The ironic thing is that, with a Boston-Pittsburgh East Final, it was guaranteed that a former Star would be playing for the Cup, with Brenden Morrow skating for the Penguins. Two trades of top players by the Stars payed big dividends for the recipients.

Which makes you wonder if those deals were ultimately what cost Neuwendyk his job as Stars GM.

Being a major league general manager is not an easy job, unless it’s GM of the Dallas Cowboys because you have ultimate job security by inhabiting the same body as the owner. But it’s even tougher when you’re running a club looking at a fifth straight year out of the playoffs in a league where you just have to cross over into that eighth spot to get in. And when you have a new owner like the Stars have in Tom Gaglardi, you’re on even thinner ice (pun intended).

Neuwendyk was clearly looking to the future, dealing aging players for more young talent that could grow with the likes of Jaime Benn, Cody Eakin, Brenden Dillon and others. WHen you’re a new owner, however, you want into that excitement of the NHL playoffs as soon as possible, and it probably stings that an opportunity was stripped away.

Even with the deals, the Stars still were within striking distance as the games ticked down before a three-game losing streak to end the year ultimately put them seven points out of that final spot. (Don’t get me started on the “points” thing; that’s a discussion for another time.)

You have to winder if Gaglardi saw that and had to feel that, had Morro and Jagr still been here, would the Stars have had the power to get up into that playoff window after all.

And to anyone who would just fire back that finishing with the last spot wouldn’t be worth it anyway, Gaglardi could just show them those year-old clips of an eight-place team from Los Angeles hoisting the Cup.

That’s probably why the former Conn Smythe trophy winner was shown the door.

So now it’s wait and see as to what new GM Jim Nill will do under Gaglardi’s watch. Just how much moey will Gaglardi be willing to shill out to get players to come to Texas?

It’s pretty clear the new owner wants to win now. And with him stripping away almost every holdover from the Stars’ years of glory, from the uniforms to “Rock and Roll Part II,” he may need to in order to get those AAC seats filled.

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.

College Baseball Championship Central

WAC TOURNAMENT – UTA/DBU
QuikTrip Park, Grand Prairie

CHAMPIONSHIP – DBU 4, UTSA 11
The Patriots’ quest for another NCAA bid came to an end as the Roadrunners rallied from an early 2-0 deficit to score all their runs in their last four innings at bat, including a four-run eighth to finish it off.

DBU 12, New Mexico St 4
By scoring four runs in the first inning and never looking back after that, the Patriots earned a spot in the WAC title game against San Antonio on Sunday.

DBU 7, Texas State 5
Michael Miller’s three-run homer in the fifth inning drove the Patriots forward to get their fist WAC Tournamnent win.

UTA 2, Texas State 11
The Mavs’ season ends with a 1-2 record in the WAC Tournament after the Bobcats rocked them for 15 hits. Starter Daniel Milliman only lasted two innings, allowing three runs on five hits.

UTA 3, New Mexico St 4
Down 4-0 with four outs to go, the Mavs could not complete a comeback and saw their shot at the WAC title game dashed.

UTA 2 DBU 0
The Mavs made the Patriots look foolish all night, recording 14 strikeouts, 11 of them from Brad Vachon.

BIG 12 TOURNAMENT – TCU
Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, Oklahoma City

TCU 8 Oklahoma State 4
The Horned Frogs were two outs away from going down in their first tournament game but then exploded for six ninth-inning runs, starting with six straight base runners to take the lead. Keaton Jones took one for the team to go up in front, getting hit in the knee with the bases loaded.

TCU 3 West Virginia 10
The Frogs were completely sloppy in the field with nine errors that led to six unearned runs, as WVU scored four in the first two innings and another six in the 6th/7th.

TCU 0 Kansas 4
The Frogs’ season ended as they could get nothing off of Robert Kahana and the Jayhawks, stranding 11 runners on base for the game.

Amazingly, it may be the Horned Frog baseball team to see the most disappointment in the move to the Big 12. At least the basketball team had few expectations and can claim a win over Kansas. But barring a miracle run through this tournament, the Frogs are likely seeing their streak of making the NCAAs come to an end.
The tournament has been delayed by one day in light of the tornadoes that ravaged Oklahoma.

For Now, Stars’ Future Looks Brighter Than the Mavericks’

The lights are out in the American Airlines Center. And they likely will be out for six to seven weeks total, since unlike Denver, Dallas usually prepares for its teams making playoff runs.

But that’s not happening this year. The AAC will host no playoff games for the first time in its history, as the Mavericks and Stars have both failed to make the postseason for the first time since 1996.

Both teams’ fans and management face the big question: How to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

In either case, coming up with answers is easier than making them work. But upon close inspection, it seems the club in sweaters and skates may be in a better position than the one in tanks and sneakers.

The Mavericks’ hopes of returning to the playoffs, let alone becoming contenders for a title again, appear to once again hinge on breaking the bank on signing some big name free agent for the first time in their franchise’s history.

Top prizes this year: Dwight Howard and Chris Paul.

At the moment, Paul has to be seen as the most likely option. For now, let’s assume that a division title can’t overcome Donald Sterling’s stinginess and no maximum contract is coming Paul’s way from the Clippers. And why anyone would want to touch Howard after he got one coach fired in Orlando, still forced the Magic to trade him and then got ANOTHER coach fired with the Lakers is beyond me. All that talent plus bad attitude equals fool’s gold.

However, CP3 himself might not be much better. Rumors were circulating out of La La Land that Blake Griffin and other players nearly came to blows with theirq All Star guard even before the playoffs began. And while they amaze viewers with their ability to fill up the bucket themselves without ever dishing the ball off, the team success with score-first point guards is not good.

Still, the Mavs have few other options if they’re going to give Dirk Nowitzki a chance for another ring in what few years he may have left. And this is largely due to the Mavs’ inability to develop young players.

And it can’t just be blamed on picking so low in the draft every year. As much as I dislike the San Antonio Spurs, they do a fantastic job finding playes with their low picks that fit their system. I will say if there is an excuse, it lies in the inability to trust young players nowadays, which I’ll discuss further another day.

But ultimately, getting good young players is why the team with the most likely chance to improve may be the one that plays on the ice.

And yes, I’m saying that despite the Dallas Stars having fired their general manager and coach after missing the playoffs for a fifth straight year.

It’s been at least three straight years that the Stars have just missed out on breaking through that playoff glass ceiling. And clearly the front office moves are Tom Gaglardi’s attempt to find a way to stir interest back up after having fallen so far from the days of rocking Reunion Arena. Trading Brendan Morrow and Jaramir Jagr during the season definitely didn’t help.

But with the likes of Jaime and Geordie Benn, Trevor Daley, Cody Eakins and Brenden Dillon, the Stars are clearly committed to building a full team together from the ground up.

And this my be just my opinion, but that does lead to more optimism. if you stock you rtem with old veterans, you better win immediately, or the losing will be VERY frustrating. (Isn’t it, Anaheim baseball fans?) But with a young roster, there is hope, the belief that even if they’re not winning NOW, you feel like they’re trying and thing can only go up.

The Rangers built their way into a winning position by trusting their development system, as evidenced by having MLB’s best record with all but three pitchers coming from said system. The Stars are clearly looking to do the same, though for now whether it will finally work remains wait-and-see.

But the fact that they have a system to use is the one big advantage they have over their hardwood brethren. The lack of a true development program in the NBA is one more discussion for another time.

What else will happen over these summer months will go a long way in determining just how both teams’ situations and my thoughts on them will change.

But for now, if you’re hoping to see a playoff game at the AAC in 2014, you’re more likely to go to one wearing a black sweater than a blue tank top.