Saturday, December 09, 2006


If you watched the end of Thursday night’s Heat/Kings game and had no vested interest in seeing a Heat win, you probably threw your pet at the television. Yes, even if you own a 200 pound St. Bernard, I know that in a fit of rage, you used superhuman strength to throw him into the television because of what happened in the final seconds. Here’s the play: Kings down by 1, Wade misses a shot, Bibby gets the rebound and takes the ball to the other end, and as he’s going for the game winning lay-up with a second left, he is hit on the arm by Dwyane Wade. No Call. Game Over. I don’t have a pet in my room, so I grabbed the closest thing to an animal, a giant carton of Pepperidge Goldfish, and threw that into my television. Needless to say, I made a mess. I was still fuming this morning, so I got on the phone with the NBA Referee Union and the Miami Heat in order to find out what the deal with the refs’ infatuation with Dwyane Wade is and how Wade, himself, feels about the situation. I had a surprisingly easy time getting written responses from both parties. This writing/blogging thing is working out well. Here is what they sent me.

Dwyane Wade Can Do No Wrong

By Joe Crawford on behalf of all NBA Referees Past, Present, and Future

There isn’t a better player in the NBA today than Dwyane Wade. That young man plays the game the way it should be played, and it’s a gosh darn shame that he gets hammered every time he makes a move to the basket. What the players in this era don’t realize is that they are big guys, so when a little guard like Dwyane ( Note: I want to call him Flashy but NBA rules prevent me from showing favoritism by using nicknames, especially pet ones that hint a slight man-crush), drives the lane and is accosted by thugs like Erick Dampier and Dirk Nowitzki, I must call a foul. It’s not like Dwyane is out there wearing football pads because if that were the case, we wouldn’t have to call fouls in his favor since we know he would be protected.

Which leads me to my next point about Dwyane Wade, his sympathy toward other players. Because Dwyane gets hit on every possession, he understands the most gruesome physical punishment, so he would never foul another player, unless, of course the Heat are losing and are forced to foul (though, not likely because Dwyane Wade is so gifted and such a great player that it would be difficult for another team to beat the Heat). I know what you’re thinking, “But Joey, I have seen Flashy (see, I can use it because you’re saying it, not me) make contact with another player during the course of play.” Of course, Dwyane is going to brush up against another player during a game, but the difference is that Dwyane’s is purely incidental, thus no foul is necessary.

Have you seen the footage that Ford Motor Co. shot of Dwyane Wade giving a group of underprivileged kids a bunch of new basketballs and new basketball hoop? It is one of the most heartwarming videos I have ever seen. Then, to top it off, Dwyane gives their homeless coach a brand new Lincoln Navigator and rides home on a rusty bicycle. How can a compassionate man like Dwyane Wade ever do anything wrong in life, let alone on the basketball court? I think players are just jealous because they do nice things like that all the time but are never lucky enough to have Ford there with a camera.

A significant change this year for the referees is the mandate that we call more traveling and carrying violations. Luckily, Dwyane Wade was such a great ball handler before Commissioner Stern handed down the order that we don’t even worry about those penalties when he has the ball. In fact, we are so sure that he is such a great leader that his obsession with correct ball handling has trickled down to everyone, including Antoine Walker’s shake-and-bake move, an obvious carry, that we no longer make those sorts of calls against Miami.

Finally, have you seen this week’s Sports Illustrated? Dwyane Wade is SI Sportsman of the Year, probably because of the incredible punishment he takes on the court, the respect he has for his opponents, and his contribution to his community. And it’s up to us, as referees, to ensure that the SI curse does not destroy Dwyane, as it has many others, so we have made a proclamation entitled “Help Keep Dwyane Awesome,” in which we declare that at any point in the game, Dwyane Wade will get the benefit of the doubt. But we are sure a play involving Dwyane could never be ambiguous because Dwyane Wade plays basketball and life the way it was meant to be played.

Michael Jordan Didn’t Get This Many Calls

By Dwyane Wade

Am I a great NBA player? Of course. I don’t think I deserve all this preferential treatment, but I’ll take whatever they give me. Actually, my ascent to the top of the referee pyramid was a pretty easy one. I started wearing a flak jacket like old Royal Air Force pilots wore in World War II and thigh pads like NFL players do so that I could fly into the lane and crash into guys with no physical repercussions. However, I can’t just fall down and get right back up, so I milk it for a few seconds and stay down long enough for people to get scared that I may not get back up. But of course, I stand up. To be honest, I’m not even remotely hurt when I fall down. People tell me that I have better protection than Army Soldiers in Iraq because at least I wear a flak jacket that prevents harm. My life is pretty easy; I can get to the free throw line nearly 15 times a game by simply going out of control in the paint, hit a defender, and throw the ball near the basket.

When I’m on defense, I slap guys’ hands and arms all the time. I am also a master hip-checker thanks to my upbringing in Chicago where we played “no blood, no foul.” So I have taken those skills to the NBA where they are widely accepted by the referees for whatever reason. These guys let me do whatever I want as long as I have a smile at them. I have a feeling I could re-enact the opening scene from The Last Boy Scout and kill two players on the court, and the referees would testify that it was a murder/suicide. I should try that, especially if I play the Pacers because anything could happen with Stephen Jackson and guns.

I think these referees are enamored with my care for disadvantaged kids because they always tell me how nice I am for giving away all those basketballs, the hoop, and the car. I don’t think they realize that was a Lincoln commercial that I got paid a ton of money to act in. The Ford Co. gave away those balls, the goal, and the Navigator; all I did was show up and smile. I didn’t even help them set up that hoop. I rode the bike around the corner where a limousine picked me up and took me to my 10,000 square foot mansion. The kids tried to follow me, but I told the driver to step on it. Unfortunately, one of them got caught underneath a tire, so that basketball team is looking for one more player.

Have you noticed the new traveling and carrying rules in the NBA this season? I was so nervous that I would get called on those when Jason Kapono (the only guy on our team who can read) read the league memo to our team. Luckily, I got a call from 25 referees telling me that they wish the league didn’t have to make them call traveling because the level had deteriorated so badly despite my perfect ball-handling skills. I was like, “Yeah, I’m glad you guys recognize solid play” while thinking “WTF! Are these guys crazy?” Whatever, I’ll take it. My jump stop is my only legitimate move, but everything else is predicated on stop-and-go dribbles as well as shifting pivot foots. Life is grand.

And then get this! I am SI Sportsman of the Year! Can you believe it? I wasn’t even close to being league MVP last year, I didn’t contribute much to the sports community, and I was the benefactor of some of the most questionable calls in NBA History on the way to an NBA Title and Finals MVP. I thought if an NBA player would get the award, it would be Kobe for his 81 point game (Note: I plan on making 81 free throws in a game some day). Even Vince Young had a bigger impact in sports than me with his legitimate championship performance on top of his incredible rookie season. Hell, Ladanian Tomlinson has put on an absolute clinic in the NFL this season, and SI still picked me. Pretty soon, I may have to begin questioning humanity if I’m getting accolades that stem from questionable calls and overly generous character representation. But for now, I’ll accept them because, well, I’m Dwyane Wade, and people love me.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

We're Gonna Go Streaking!

We won last night. If we win tonight, that’s called a winning streak. It has happened before. –Lou Brown, Fictional Manager of the Cleveland Indians

When I was 10, my bedtime was 9 o’clock, which sucked because I couldn’t stay up to watch Mavs games, so I would fall asleep listening to Wally Lynn call games. Unfortunately, the Mavs were so bad that the games became just a formality, as there wasn’t all that much to get excited about. However, there was a game where the game captivated me because the Mavs were about to knock off the Alonzo Mourning, Tim Hardaway, Pat Riley, and the Miami Heat in Miami. And as he does best, Jim Cleamons led the team straight into the ground, and they subsequently blew a fourth quarter lead. But there was still one last hope, the Mavs had the final possession. I’ll never forget Wally’s call.

“Mashburn is wide open from the corner. FOR THE WIN!”


(Crowd goes wild)

“Hearbreak Hotel.”

I say it after every Mavs’ loss. No matter how close the game was, I will look at the score and Heartbreak Hotel comes to mind every time.

So you can imagine how much it sucks for the Mavs to lose for me. I am forced to think of three crappy things: The Elvis Presley song, the aptly titled movie about Elvis (starring the guy who plays Jack Parkman in Major League II as Elvis), and the 1995-1996 Dallas Mavericks lead by Jim Cleamons and called by Wally Lynn.

Streaks are what make sports fun to diehard fans. Winning streaks are fun when they go on, but they suck once broken. Losing streaks are terrible for their duration, but once they’re over, you look back at them with a smile. Proof? How about the first 17 games of this season?

The year started with a 4 game losing streak. Losing two games to division rivals, one by 6 the other by 31. Throw in a pathetic showing in LA and a loss to Don Nelson of all people, and the Mavs are looking at pretty dismal year. Once the Phoenix game happened, though, we forgot all about those first four games. In fact, as a Mavs fan, I was happy that the losing streak occurred because it fueled their fire and got them over their post-Finals hangover. Yeah, they were humbled in the Finals, but 0-4 told them that 2006-2007 is a new year, and they better learn to play together.

And for the past 12 games, life has been great. No Hearbreak Hotel. As a fan, you have to get excited when no one can beat your team for 12 games. I’m not going to lie, I walked with a spring in my step when I thought about the Mavs winning 12 in a row.

And then last night, it all came crashing down. Though inevitable, one of the hardest losses to take is the one that ends a winning streak. Winning streaks bring so much promise, and then reality kicks in. Texas-OSU II anyone? The winning streak seems meaningless now that it’s over, but that’s what I’m here for. Here’s why 12 games is significant.

There are four teams this year that can win the NBA title: San Antonio, Phoenix, Miami (they are the defending champs), and Dallas. In the streak:

  • The Mavs beat the Spurs and Suns on the road
  • Took care of three other division wins
  • Pancaked three Eastern Conference teams
  • Won two other road games
  • Swept their only 4 in 5 (four games in five nights)

I didn’t even mention the smackdowns put on Sacramento (on national television) and Toronto.

People can scoff at the streak and say it was mostly against inferior opponents, but I have a question for you Mav haters. Who isn’t an inferior opponent? When it’s all said and done, this streak is going to look pretty damn impressive because Phoenix, San Antonio, Washington, Chicago, and possibly New Orleans will all be playoff teams. That’s five of the twelve right there. So 7 of the twelve weren’t top caliber, but streaks are predicated on beating up on bad teams and getting a head of steam to take down big dogs, which is exactly what happened when the Mavs went into San Antonio and grinded out a win.

I was going to do an analogy of winning streaks to relationships, but after I wrote it, I looked like a bleeding heart, which, if you know anything about my weekend, is certainly not the case. So then I was going to turn that analogy around to winning is like hooking up, but again, I would appear desperate, which, if you know anything about my weekend, you could argue that case but would eventually lose.

Anyway, I will be watching tonight’s game on YES network at Buffalo Wild Wings (35 cent wings!), hopefully with my favorite waitress, Amy. If the Mavs win tonight, I will finally get the courage to make a deal of this. If not, I’ll stew every Tuesday until the Mavs win while I’m there.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Mavs Game

I went to a Mavs game on Tuesday, and it was a lot of fun.

Instead of pulling out gimmicks and categorizing the things I saw in the Mavs game as "Good" or "Bad" or "Promising" or "Exciting," I'm just going to write down what I scribbled on my new favorite toy, a pocket-sized notepad that I carry around with me everywhere. So here it is.

I'm at the Mavs game with my brother who just had his wisdom teeth pulled the day before. He is stuffed full of more hydrocodeine than some girls who went to my high school. Let's just say he's staring straight ahead and needs to be reminded that we're in public.

The guy sitting next to me waits for his wife and two daughters to get something to eat so he can call his bookie and place 100 bucks on the Mavs -5. I'm thinking that it wasn't a bad bet because I think the Mavs should go undefeated at home against Eastern Conference teams.

The Mavs still warm up to "What You Know" by T.I. I don't think I have to say anything else because we all know how awesome that song and that rapper are.

We're sitting next to two punks who are Wizard fans but are wearing cowboy boots. That would be like me going to a Wizards/Mavs game in Washington but wearing a suit and taking everybody's money from under their noses.

I've got to say, my favorite part about Mavs games is the pre-game introductions where all those Mavs highlights are shown on the Jumbotron. Except this year, the team changed it up. They're now showing highlights for a lot of players before the lineups are announced. They had a driving lay-up by Maurice Ager. More on him later.

And of course the slightly modified rendition of "Eminence Front" by The Who is still used at the intro. Solid.

Other than the fact I got lower bowl seats for the game, I'm also excited to see Gilbert Arenas in person. He is one of my favorite non-Mavs in the league because of his eccentricism and kick-ass style of play, which is bizarre because I don't particularly like players from Arizona because Lute Olson is an asshole (I know from secondhand experience), and their fans are retarded (just thought I'd take a shot). Bottom Line, though, Gilbert should be at least fun to watch.

Jason Terry wishes everyone at the stadium a safe and happy Thanksgiving. Thanks, JET!

I've been working on my Ali G finger slap technique, and I got pretty decent at it. Unfortunately, no Mav can make a shot, so my hours of practice have been rendered worthless.

This game has all the makings of a classic shootout between Arenas and Dirk. Arenas has over 20 in the first half, and Dirk is 6 assists and a rebound away from a triple double. If a Mav could make a shot, this would be a blowout.

Holy Crap! A statistic just flashed across the Jumbotron that I don't believe. The Mavs have 14 offensive rebounds in the first half, and the game is tied!

I have given up on trying to catch t-shirts at sporting events because I know that I missed my chance at a Mavs/Kings game my senior year in high school. I jumped to my left to catch the shirt, but I was bounced backwards and into my Dad's lap by some lard-ass woman sitting next to me. She wasn't even moving, but her 300 pound frame was enough to send me down for the count, so to speak.

Dirk steps to his left. Shoots. Swish. Should I expect anything else?

Update on gambling man next to me. He is trying to get his little daughters to cheer hard for the Mavs. Every time the lead changes hands, this guy is happy, but we've all been in this guy's position before. He's looking for a 5 point win, so just taking the lead is worthless to him. Let's just say he's sweating balls.

I just sent a text message to my friend, Ryan, that said "I think my field goal percentage playing today was better than every Mav except Dirk." For those of you that haven't seen me perform in athletic events, that is a backhanded slap in the face. Yes, a double whammy.

Finally, Buckner comes in and starts shutting down Arenas. And when I mean shut down, I mean LL Cool J style. Arenas as gone cold.

Which subsequently happens as soon as the Mavs catch fire. Terry, Buckner, and Croshere are all hitting 3's from the corner. There is some really good ball movement, and the Wizards look genuinely surprised. I mean why wouldn't they. The Mavs are on their 4th game in 5 nights, and they are legitimiately pulling away in the 3rd quarter.

Gambling man is going wild. Wizard fans next to us are gone.

Austin Croshere just posterized Antawn Jamison on a driving dunk across the lane that reminded me of something I once saw out of Shawn Bradley. Sick nonetheless.

Devin Harris has really put it into another gear. Everytime he gets the ball, if he has a morsel of room on his defender, he will burn him to the basket. So I have a new rule on judging Harris' level of play. If he has a ton of turnovers, it's because he's forcing the ball into the lane. I would rather see him have a game like 4 pts. 2 assists 0 turnovers than 12 points 6 assists and 5 turnovers. The Mavs do have 2 point guards on the floor at all times.

Arenas now looks pissed because the Mavs kicked him to the curb, and his teammates haven't done a thing about it. Hence, Arenas' 5th foul.

This game is pretty much over with. 5 minutes left in the game, and Eddie Jordan pulled Arenas. Had I been watching Jordan at points during the game, I'm sure I would rip on him, but I didn't, so I'll just be fair.

Second Half Stats: Mavs: 56 Wizards: 29. Washington made 7 field goals in the second half. That's uncanny.

As for the Mavs, they attempted 98 shots, which is equally absurd.

107-80 win. Gambling man wins 100 bucks, though judging from his apathy toward putting money down I wouldn't be shocked if he were in for more than 100.

Solid win. I go home happy. My brother goes home doped up. We all win.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

2006-2007 Dallas Mavericks Preview

Have you ever wanted to read an NBA Preview that discusses the movie Serendipity and What You Know by T.I. in the first paragraph? Well, now you get your chance as I present my 2006-2007 Dallas Mavericks Season Preview (available in high definition).

Do you believe in fate? Yes, that’s a central theme to the horrific chick flick, Serendipity, a movie I have been forced to watch more than once with more than one girl. I don’t know what it is about that movie, but I think I’ve seen it more than I’ve seen Casino, so I actually somewhat understand it. Anyway, the amazingly flawless Kate Beckinsale meets John Cusack one night, and Cusack wants her number, but she psychotically refuses saying that if they were meant to be together, then they would meet again. And as fate would have it, they finally see each other on the day of Cusack’s wedding, and he is sure that after this one night encounter from years ago, he is ready to leave his wife for a woman who, though gorgeous, is just as likely to be a head case as a soul-mate. Nonetheless, fate brings them together. They live happily ever after… And that brings us to What You Know, the immortal song by T.I. I first heard it before Game 1 of last year’s Finals because the Mavs came out for warm-ups to the song. According to iTunes, I have listened to it 138 times since then. No song gets me more psyched up and giddy than What You Know. So, as I sat down to write this preview, I put my headphones in, and the first song that came on, out of the 2374 I have was What You Know. Fate. I’m a believer. If Kate Beckinsale and John Cusack can get together in a fictitious world, then why can’t What You Know be an indicator of a great Mavs season?

We’ll have more on the song and the subject of fate as the preview progresses.

There is another reason why I’m more excited than ever about this season. I bought NBA League Pass for my house in Dallas, so I can watch all the Mavs games through NBA League Pass Broadband. I will be writing about the Mavs all the time now.

As for the preview, let’s break down this year’s roster. I pulled out the old TI-83, and used a random integer generator to pick the order of how I evaluate each player. Without further ado…

Desagana Diop

Every time I hear Diop’s name, I want to yell “Young Diop” just like in Young Joc’s name is in It’s Going Down.

Diop’s performance last year was one of the few things I misjudged in my preview, and I will gladly swallow my pride and say that Diop is the athletic center that this team had been craving for years before his arrival. It’s going to be hard for Diop to improve his play from last year because he was solid for most of the year, but he knew exactly what to do this off-season, work on his offensive game. Diop reportedly spent a lot of time developing a short jump shot, which will be effective considering how far away from the basket he would be after getting an offensive rebound (about 6-8 feet).

I’m not going to nuts over Diop yet, but I am excited to see what he can bring to the table this year. It’s not like teams are going to be able to game-plan to take him out of the game because he dictates the plan as a primarily defensive player. He should have an equally solid season as last year.

Devean George

Hands down my favorite off-season acquisition because of the hilarity of his introduction and the impact he’s going to have on the team.

I don’t know if anybody read about how George was brought into American Airlines Center after he signed his contract, but whoever came up with this idea was a genius. Mavs staffers brought George into the locker room where 200 Dallas area women were waiting to give him a large ovation. Talk about making a guy forget about leaving LA, Dallas women are so much hotter, and George was immediately immersed in them. Great move.

As for what George will be doing other than every single woman in Dallas, how about being a team leader who has won 3 rings and played with Shaq, Karl Malone, Gary Payton, Kobe, Robert Horry, and all of those other great Lakers contributors? George may play less than 10 minutes per game, but he will be felt 24 hours a day around the Mavs.

Devin Harris

Devin will forever be known as the player who pushed the Mavs past the Spurs. Yeah, Dirk converted the 3-point play against Ginobili, but Harris took the Spurs by surprise and out-Tony-Parkered Tony Parker. But what can we expect from Harris this year?

I think everyone who watched a Mavs playoff game last year knew that he needed to work on his jump shot, so Harris spent everyday in this summer shooting and recording every shot he took. At the very least, Harris will have a couple of favorite spots on the court to shoot from because he practiced there so much. And I’m pretty sure Avery told him exactly where those spots should be based on the offense, where other players like to shoot from, and where Harris would be most effective as a shooter and/or driver.

And again, let’s not forget that Harris is a Spur killer. He has had some of his best games against the Spurs, and I expect that trend to continue.

Pops Mensah-Bonsu

YES! We got Pops! There really isn’t much else to say about that because he probably won’t be used very much this season, but if he ever gets in a game, AAC has to play “Gotta have my Pops” commercial clips from Corn Pops.

Erick Dampier

People hate this guy because he makes 73 million dollars and doesn’t perform like a 73 million dollar man. Well, I got news for Dampier haters, he may be getting paid 73 million to come off the bench, but there’s a lot that comes with that. He hasn’t caused a distraction about not starting; in fact, he relishes the role because he takes advantage of time he spends on the court. I won’t sit here and tell you that the Mavs aren’t overpaying him, but let off the guy a little bit. He didn’t cost the Mavs a playoff series last year; he played Shaq pretty valiantly, I’d say.

Now, if he could just work on his hands.

Maurice Ager

Solid, safe first round pick. Count me as one of the people who see him as a mini-Stackhouse. He may spend some games in street clothes, but I could see him as a contributor at some point, if not this year, then in the next couple.

DJ Mbenga

Still on the Mavs energy team, but I can see him as being less effective given the fast style of play that many teams are adopting. Nonetheless, Mbenga will come out and get a few blocks and rebounds before picking up his 4th foul in 5 minutes. I have no problem with the Mavs wasting 6 fouls on Mbenga if he’s out there busting his balls to get the ball because that will make the other guys play just as hard. Adrian Griffin proved that last year, and that’s why he was a starter. Mbenga won’t reach starter status, but he will earn every minute he plays wit his hustle.

Greg Buckner

I was actually upset when Buckner left the Mavs in 2002 because I liked his defensive prowess and his inability to give up on a play. But who can blame him for signing with Philadelphia for a contract well above market value?

Well, now Buck’s back in a Mavs uniform, and I expect big things from him. Think of a faster version of Adrian Griffin with a better offensive game. And do you think he’s excited about playing for the Mavs? Hell yeah, he is. After spending the past two years in Denver with George Karl and Kenyon Martin, Buck is happy to be out of the circus and the snow and into Dallas.

Actually, the Buckner signing looks better and better as I think about it more and more. So management let him walk in 2002 because they thought Raja Bell could take his place. Buckner went to Philly where he got paid but never played. Then he goes to Denver where he came off the bench and developed a three point jumper. Now, the Mavs get him back. It’s like sending a kid off to fat camp only instead of losing weight, Buckner got money, a better offensive game, and an appreciation for the Mavs.

Jose Juan Barea

He went to Northeastern. I have nothing against him, but I really don’t have much to say either because I don’t know much.

Austin Croshere

Ah, the most controversial move the Mavs made all summer. There are some fans who don’t understand trading away Marquis, and there are others who are upset that the Mavs brought in another version of Keith Van Horn. Well, as much as I loved ‘Quis (see my Ode to ‘Quis post), this move made so much sense.

Croshere plays nearly the same game as Van Horn who proved to be a valuable back-up to Dirk. Obviously the Mavs are going to lose something when Dirk has to sit, and Croshere’s job is damage control; he minimizes the negative effect Dirk has sitting on the bench. As long as Croshere doesn’t get in the game and start bombing threes and not rebounding, he’ll be fine. Plus, his contract comes off the books at the end of the season. Now, we just need a crappy, cheesey nickname for him along the lines of KVH. The only Croshere related subject I can think of is from Any Given Sunday when LL Cool J says “Shut up, Crozier, you’re an offensive coordinator.” Crozier and Croshere are actually pronounced the same (Thanks,, for your phonetic spelling of names).

There is one funny thing about Austin Croshere on the Mavs, and that’s his number. It’s 44. My friend, Ryan, pointed out that the last Mav to wear 44 was none other than the Preying Mantis himself, Shawn Bradley. Croshere will bring some validity to that number.

Josh Howard

Can you say Scottie Pippen part deux? Go on. Say it. Because that’s what you are watching when you see the Mavs play.

There are two things that Josh needs to work on to reach Pippen level. First, he needs to consistently use his basketball IQ, which means not taking a three just because it’s open (that killed the Mavs in the Finals). The other thing is for Howard to channel his emotions toward beating the team rather than overreacting and taking a bad foul. If he makes a good play on offense, Josh will come back and get a perimeter foul trying to make another play. Or if he makes a great defensive play (a big block or deflected pass), he’ll take an unnecessary shot at the other end.

His 20 points or more streak is a subject for later in the preview because that deserves its own section.

I am one of the biggest Josh Howard fans you’ll ever talk to because I love his aggression and refusal to give up on a play, but the mental aspect of his game is the only thing holding him back. And luckily, he’s got a great coach to help him out and reign in all of that emotion and use it in a way to positively contribute to the team.

Dirk Nowitzki

Am I the only one who doubles over every time I hear a discussion about best basketball players, and Dirk is in everyone’s top 5? It still is surreal to see a Mav as unquestionably one of the best 5 players in the league.

When the Mavs had their resurgence in 2000, they had the Big 3 in Michael Finley, Steve Nash, and Dirk. Finley was the heart of the team, Nash was the playmaker, and Dirk was the finisher. When Nash left, Dirk had to pick up the slack and become the playmaker. And after Finley went to the Spurs, Dirk became the heart of the team. I wrote about Devean George being a leader of the team because of experience; well, Dirk is the unchallenged on-court leader who will hold his teammates accountable. We’ve seen it go down for the past couple years, and we should expect no less.

Bonus: The crappy fate/Serendipity/T.I. theme applies to Dirk in a pretty neat way. My favorite number is 13 because I was born on March 13, and when I was ordering the Mavs for the random selection, I did it by number, and Dirk is 13th on that list. Pretty cool, huh? How about Dirk being 13th when you list the players in alphabetical order? Do you feel it yet?

As for what should see from him this year, I think it will more of the same. I think he’s reached his full potential, so now it’s time for him to use his skills to improve his teammates’ games. Dirk could keep his scoring at the same level, get more offensive rebounds, and find his open teammates when he is double-teamed.

Fear not, Mavs fans, Dirk will contend for MVP again this year with LeBron and Tim Duncan.

Anthony Johnson

George was my favorite move, Buckner was the most sensical, Croshere was the most controversial, and Anthony Johnson was the most necessary. The Mavs’ offense was flat last year without Terry, Harris, or Armstrong in the game. And even though Armstrong was a great energy guy, he was old, so the team knew they had to find a legitimate point guard to play behind Terry and Harris. Mike James didn’t work out, but I think they found a better role guy in Anthony Johnson.

If you ranked Mike James’ skills 1-10, Anthony Johnson is probably one less in everything, except portliness. Sorry, but it was there for the taking. Plus, he comes at a smaller price. And he’s clutch, and clutch is everything.

Jerry Stackhouse

I’ve been trying to think of a way to describe Jerry Stackhouse without using words like passionate and intense. So here’s what I came up with, bear with me.

Jerry Stackhouse is to the NBA Title as a Jewish mother is to her kids. Stack wants that title so badly that he will do anything to get there, and a Jewish mother will break down walls to make sure her kids are marginally happy (which can get ridiculous after awhile). Last year’s playoffs proved how badly Stack wanted to win. He was suspended for a game making a play and hard foul on Shaq of all people. He stared down Tim Thomas, the epitome of steroids in sports, on more than one occasion. He even had time to make a few great blocks of breakaway lay-ups or dunks.

Do you remember that NFL Network commercial where two Dolphin fans were standing by a pool and one guy says “Ricky Williams has one thing on his mind this year, and that’s winning football games”? That’s how I feel this year (except Stack wants to win, not smoke weed in South Asia); he has a one track mind. Why do you think he happily comes off the bench? Why do you think as he has ingrained himself in the team his scoring has gone down and passing has gone up? Why do you think he is the enforcer on the team? Because those are the things he needs to do to ensure a title for himself, and the only way for him to get that title is to be a team player.

He just needs to be at 100% health come playoff time.

Jason Terry

And we end on Jason Terry, which again is part of that whole fate deal. If you looked at each player on the roster, and someone offered you a chance to pick one player to play well above his normal level of play in a playoff series, who would it be? Initially, you might say Dirk, but there will be only a few games this year where he’s not the best player on the court, so he would be redundant. I could understand wanting Josh Howard or Devin Harris, but they are still young and make occasional mistakes that would negate their great play (remember, we went over this with Howard?).

In case it isn’t obvious, my pick would be Terry because of his streakiness and ability to ignite the team. Whenever the Mavs get in a funk, Terry is always prominently involved.

And now, to finish the T.I. thought that I began nearly 3000 words ago and continue with the preview.

Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay
What you know about that {*3X*}
Ay, don't you know I gotta key by the three
When I chirp shawty chirp back
Louie nap sack where I'm holding all the work at
What you know about that {*3X*}
Hey I know all about that
Loaded 44 on the low where the cheese at
Fresh off the JET to the ‘jects where the G’s at
Hey what you know about that

Hey I know all about that

Fresh off the JET. Perfect.

Now that we’ve finished going over the players, it’s time to give a quick recap to some of the bigger off-season stories regarding the Mavs.

Mark Cuban: If you’re a Mavs fan, and you’re upset with how Cuban acts on the court, then you should go back to 1997 when Ross Perot owned the team and tried to get Mavs Man on the active roster. Cuban is a total alpha-dog, which is what got him a few billion dollars, and it’s what turned the Mavs around. And if he yells at the refs, it’s because he believes they are tainting his product, his possession. You can hate the guy, but he is what made the Mavs what they are today.

New Ball: I’m not sure what prompted a change to an inside/outside ball when the game is played strictly indoors, but the change happened. Players are understandably up-in-arms about the ordeal, but the ball’s not going to change back, so learn to live with it. As my Dad says, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When life gives you chicken shit, make chicken salad.”

The Death of the Josh Howard Statistic: This was never an issue with the off-season, but it was with me. I hated that statistic, and in a sick way, I’m glad the Mavs finally lost a game that he scored over 20 points. While Howard scoring over 20 points certainly helped the Mavs’ cause for winning, it never decided a game. If Howard scores over 20, it’s usually because Dirk’s game is on, and Howard’s man naturally has to help. Yes, there were times where Josh turned it on to fuel a victory, but more times than not, his points were the product of a perfectly designed offense for the team. The next time I see the Mavs’ record when Josh Howard scores 20 or more points, I’m going to put dry ice in my mouth.

Marquis Daniels possessing a gun: I am actually surprised that most people don’t understand why players all have guns and carry. A lot of these guys are rich and come from communities where trust isn’t common, so the gun is protection to them. So Marquis Daniels owning a gun isn’t the craziest thing I ever heard. Sebastian Telfair trying to bring a gun on the team plane is dumb and having Fabolous shot is ironic. But guns are guns. If you don’t like it, then call Charlton Heston.

As for how the team will perform this year, the Mavs have one of the more perplexing schedules I’ve seen. Their longest homestand is 4 games, and that occurs twice. They have a 6 game road trip. And they only play 4 in 5 nights once, and that’s at the beginning of the season. There’s also a week break during the All-Star break. So for a team that has great depth, the schedule is favorable. There will be a fair amount of travel because they aren’t at home for too long at any point, but that’s where the role players can really come in and make an impact.

I feel good about this team, so here’s how I see the playoff seeds shaping up (for those of you that didn’t read the NBA Preview that I posted yesterday).

Eastern Conference

1. Chicago
2. Cleveland
3. Miami
4. New Jersey
5. Detroit
6. Washington
7. Boston
8. Indiana
9. Milwaukee
10. Orlando
11. Philadelphia
12. Charlotte
13. Atlanta
14. Toronto
15. New York

Western Conference

1. Dallas
2. San Antonio
3. Phoenix
4. Minnesota
5. Houston
6. LA Clippers
7. Denver
8. LA Lakers
9. Utah
10. New Orleans
11. Golden State
12. Sacramento
13. Memphis
14. Seattle
15. Portland

Yes, the Mavs will win their division for the first time in 20 years. It will be glorious. As for awards…

MVP: ‘Bron ‘Bron
ROY: Brandon Roy
MIP: Sebastian Telfair
Coach: Scott Skiles
Executive: John Paxson
Dumbest Player: Reggie Evans
Craziest Event: Anytime Stephen Jackson interacts with another human being
Funniest Moment: Isiah Thomas’ realization that be built a team that can’t win together
Most Inevitable Catastrophe: Grant Hill’s season ending injury
Biggest Rivalry: Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson, and Sebastian Telfair’s fight to become the players who are least in touch with reality.

Here’s how I see the playoffs going down.

Round One: Mavs over Lakers, Spurs over Nuggets, Clippers over Suns, Rockets over Wolves; Bulls over Pacers, Cavs over Celtics, Heat over Wizards, Pistons over Nets

Round Two: Mavs over Rockets, Spurs over Clippers; Bulls over Pistons, Cavs over Heat

Conference Finals: Mavs over Spurs; Cavs over Bulls

Finals: Mavs over Cavs

It’s far away, so this is obviously subject to change midseason, but the Mavs pick will not (barring key injury).

Why do I think the Mavs can win the Finals after more-or-less blowing a chance to sweep? Because these guys pay attention to their haters as much as they do their lovers. They go out and play basketball; you never hear Dirk or Terry come out after a big win and beat their chests saying “You guys counted us out, and we proved you wrong.” No, they say “We were the better team, and we knew it, so we beat these guys’ brains in.” Media is nothing to these guys, so a bounce back is inevitable.

Two years ago, they meshed with a new core surrounding Dirk and a new coach. Last year, they gained experience in winning (sweeping a team, winning Game 7 on the road, closing out a series, playing in the Finals), and this year, they will put it all together.

Hey what you know about that
Hey I know all about that

And the Mavs do know all about that.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

NBA 2006-2007 Preview

I have decided to write a two part NBA season preview. The first part, the one you get to read today will be all about the entire NBA minus our beloved Mavs. The second part, which I will hopefully be finished with by 5:00 on Thursday (just enough time before tip-off) will preview the Dallas Mavericks plus any and all predictions I’ve got about awards and playoffs.

So let’s get to this thing, in order of how I think each team will finish.

Eastern Conference

Before I begin, I want to point something out about this conference. There are actually a lot of good teams. When I was ranking the teams by division, the Atlantic was easy because it’s pretty pathetic, but then I got to the Central and Southeast. You could make a case that any team in the Central could make the playoffs, and in the Southeast, there are a lot of up-and-coming teams in Orlando, Charlotte, and Atlanta. More on that after bashing the Atlantic.

15. New York Knicks

Who else did you think I’d put here? I never got the pleasure of watching Isiah Thomas play basketball, but I have heard good things. Unfortunately that does not translate into success in building a basketball team. The way he runs that team is exactly what I would want to avoid if I were ever working for any sort of sports team.

Here’s how I see a competent team working: There are three guys who are of the utmost important in pro-personnel operations, the Head Coach, the General Manager, and your salary cap/statistics guy. That cap/stats guy is new, but he is a necessary evil, much like many companies now-a-day are forced to consider environmental ramifications of decisions made. No one wants to include the environment guy in the decisions because he rains on the parade, but in today’s sports world, statistics and salary cap are very much a part of success. The Patriots are so successful because their big three are all on the same page, even if that means cutting key players and saving 10 million this year so you can have room for next year.

I wouldn’t be shocked if Isiah Thomas’ salary cap guy works out of a bathroom stall on the third concourse of Madison Square Garden. When Isiah wants to make a trade, he asks the cap guy, who hopefully says “that would be worst than your last one” but Isiah’s mind is already made up, so it doesn’t matter. They’ve got four legitimate guys in the backcourt, three of which cannot possibly be traded (Marbury, Francis, and Crawford). I can’t wait ‘til the Knicks trade for Allen Iverson.

Luckily, this is his last year. I hate the Knicks as much as the next guy, but watching the Knicks is like watching my dog, when we first got her, constantly running into the wall. Funny at first, but after awhile, I just felt sorry for her.

14. Toronto Raptors

This is more of an indictment on how much I don’t like Brian Colangelo than anything else. People think he’s a genius for rebuilding the Suns as if they are the equivalent of a messiah. I would put money on it that the 2002-2003 Dallas Mavericks would have ran those Suns teams off the court. So Brian Colangelo, I hope you fail.

As for the team itself, it looks pretty decent. Chris Bosh and TJ Ford, two guys who grew up in Texas, I’d root for them any day. Problem is everywhere else. They lost their greatest veteran in Mike James, and they have a clueless coach. To make matters worse, they’re from Canada.

13. Atlanta Hawks

I could have very well put them as high as ten, but I didn’t out of principle. Their drafting has been as deplorable as the Mavs’ was in the 90’s. Let’s recap point guards who they have passed up in the past 2 drafts; Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Raymond Felton, Brandon Roy, Randy Foye, and Marcus Williams. That’s just point guards. But don’t worry, Hawks fans, because your team signed a guy who would be a better point guard than any of those guys to an immovable contract, Speedy Claxton. Oops.

Speedy’s not that bad, but he’s not nearly as good as those guys are now or will be. The rest of the team looks pretty good as long as Marvin Williams can get over his injury and contribute some. Josh Smith is one of the more exciting players in the league, and Joe Johnson is the most unassuming superstar in the league, if only because people forget about him.

12. Charlotte Bobcats

I nearly put these guys at 9, but they are too unproven. I like how they’ve built their team, though, by stockpiling draft picks and using them wisely (Okafor, Felton, and Morrison) as well as snatching Gerald Wallace in the expansion draft. On top of all that, they have mad cap-room, which they can use to re-sign their young guys and maybe go after someone big. Vince Carter’s name keeps popping up, but I think the man in charge knows better.

Oh yeah, about that man in charge. How sick is it that Jordan is running their basketball operations? We may not have heard from him, but I guarantee you that when the season starts, he’s going to be all about winning, and there will be 3 or 4 features about the Bobcats on the right track because Jordan is encouraging and watching over the players. We all know the story about Jordan not making his varsity basketball team in high school, but what about the story we are witnessing about Jordan getting unceremoniously dumped by the Wizards and coming back in his home state to show how basketball is played? I wouldn’t be shocked if these guys made the playoffs, but I’m not risqué enough to put them there.

11. Philadelphia 76ers

This is high as they’re going unless they start playing like a team. No one will doubt the talent on that team. You have one of the greatest players of all time, a former do-it-all man-beast who can still put up 20/10 any night, a bona fide shot-blocker, and a pure shooter. That would be Iverson, Webber, Dalembert, and Korver. Throw in one of the more athletic and better perimeter defenders in the league, Andre Iguodala, and you could have a solid team.

The only problem is that these guys don’t play together. Iverson tries to, but when he passes, he expects that man to do something with the ball. And when nothing happens, that guy doesn’t get any touches. I would like to see a statistic that shows how many times point guards pass the ball to a player after he misses a shot or turns the ball over. Iverson would be third-to-last after Marbury and Francis who don’t pass the ball anyway.

10. Orlando Magic

Call me a sucker. I’d like to think of myself as believer. The same type of believer that Dwight Howard is, one who has full faith in Jesus and Christianity.

Oh, that’s right, I picked the Magic to MISS the playoffs. Give me a break, why would I pick the Magic to finish in the top 8? Because they have a man-child in Dwight Howard? That’s fair, and in a couple years, he’ll be worth a playoff spot just for having two legs and wearing a uniform, but not now. The main reason I’m picking the Magic to play the lottery in May lies in every other NBA Preview out there. Here’s the gist of their Orlando Magic take.

The Magic can make a serious run IF Darko plays up to his potential.

I’m not pinning my hopes on Darko Milicic. That’s not to say I don’t think he’ll be a solid player, because I think he will. But let’s be real, would you put money on Darko playing up to his potential after spending two and a half seasons on a bench, half of a season with Flip Saunders as his coach. I’ll wait til next year to put the Magic in the top 8.

9. Milwaukee Bucks

Milwaukee has achieved Cincinnati status for the city that I can’t spell without checking. But that’s not why they’re missing the playoffs. I’ll be perfectly blunt about it, I think they’re coach is terrible. The guy failed with the Hawks, which is not uncommon, but the Hawks actually got worse under him. He won 24 games in his first partial season with Atlanta, but when he got a full season, the Hawks won 28. I don’t understand how a coach like that gets recycled back into the mix.

And the Bucks, despite their talent, which includes the most humble superstar (yes, superstar) in the game, Michael Redd, will ultimately miss the playoffs because the name on the head coach’s office says Terry Stotts.

8. Indiana Pacers

I have been looking forward to writing about these guys since I began this preview, so let’s get right to the meat of this team.

The Stephen Jackson incident outside of a strip club epitomizes this team, perfectly. You’ve got four guys at a club, and the leader gets hit by a car, so he gets up and fires his gun in the air. No one is quite sure why firing his gun seemed like the right thing to do; regardless, the other three happen to be packing heat, as well, and stand by their friend. Media chaos ensues when people get wind of the situation, and the commissioner has to come out and give a public statement regarding players and gun use.

Yes, that is the Indiana Pacers. I love this franchise because of Reggie Miller, but these new guys are pioneers in finding new ways to make the NBA look ridiculous. First the brawl and now this. And yet, Jermaine O’Neal and Rick Carlisle are going to take them to the playoffs, and they will make some noise there.

7. Boston Celtics

Speaking of guns… Sebastian Telfair.

I think this guy is going to be good. A lot of Boston fans are raving about Rajon Rondo, and he may be good, but Telfair is going to be perfect for Paul Pierce, and vice-a-versa. When was the last time Pierce had a legitimate passing threat? I’m vaguely recalling Kenny Anderson in 2002, and that was a rebirth of sorts. Well, get ready for Sebastian Telfair’s rebirth of the skills he exhibited in high school.

Who else will Pierce and Telfair have around them? The aforementioned Rondo is apparently pretty good, as are Kendrick Perkins and Al Jefferson. But my guys are Gerald Green and Wally Szczerbiak. Green was another sick high schooler along the same lines as Jefferson, Perkins, and Telfair, but Green’s got a little more versatility as noted by his massive wingspan. And Wally is a pure shooter who Telfair can drive and kick to.

Many people are predicting them to suck because they think coaching is crappy and that Telfair is a head case, a notion based on the fact he allegedly was involved in the shooting of Fabolous. But mark my words; the Celtics are going to contend for that Atlantic Division crown.

6. Washington Wizards

My love for Gilbert Arenas began when Sports Illustrated was forced to retract little quarter page blurb about how he tricked out his Escalade after he was drafted because the guy who did all the work on Areans’ car claims he never got paid for it. Then came the Jason Richardson slam dunk contest in 2003 when he got the idea to do a spinning between the legs dunk because Arenas bet him he couldn’t do it. Let’s not forget the fact he gives his jersey to a fan after every game. And then there was last years’ playoffs.

I was convinced Arenas would win that Game 6 and go down as one of the most clutch players of all time. The guy was burying 3’s from all over the court in the fourth quarter, matching LeBron on every possession.

And then LeBron got in his head. Whoops.

I believe that a guy like Arenas will learn from his mistakes, and he won’t let that happen again. But I still can’t put the Wizards ahead of any of the other 5 teams because the other five are either more talented, have championship pedigrees, or play in the Atlantic division and automatically get the 4th seed.

5. Detroit Pistons

This team is the perfect example of sports media overreacting to a weak league. The Pistons won a title in a year where the Spurs were adjusting to life after David Robinson, the Lakers had the Shaq/Kobe/Phil hate triangle going on, the Mavs had Antoine Walker, the Kings had Chris Webber’s knee, and the Pacers were proven to be cursed. So people thought the Pistons were an unstoppable force.

Rather than thanking good fortune and solid coaching, management started patting themselves on the back by not improving the roster and getting rid of their coach for a guy who was so bad he got canned mid-season. By doing that, they ended up alienating the heart and soul of their team, Ben Wallace, who bolted for a division rival. And now the Pistons won’t even have home-court advantage in the playoffs. The only reason why they are head of Washington is because these guys have won a title, and that still counts for something.

4. New Jersey Nets

These guys are sixth. Maybe fifth depending on how involved Flip Saunders is in Detroit’s game planning. A lot of experts are predicting Vince Carter to have a huge year, if only because it’s his contract year, but the catalyst of this team is old. Yes, Jason Kidd is 33 years old, which means he’s gotten to that hot/cold stage of his career. And there’s nothing worse than having an inconsistent playmaker.

I can see players showing up for game day expecting Kidd to get them the ball and be spectacular, but he could be having a slow day, and nothing comes of it. That could kill a few games based on players missed expectations. The flipside is that if Kidd gets it going, he may be difficult to contain. Which is exactly why I pick them to win the division.

3. Miami Heat

I’m so upset that I didn’t post this before Bill Simmons did because he said everything I wanted to about this team.

Here’s how I see this Heat team. Let’s say you’re out one night, and you see a gorgeous girl who you really want to hook up with. You will pull out all the stops to get her. It will start with buying her a drink, then you start small talk (What do you do for a living? Where are you from? Oh, do you know this person?). You may throw in a lie or two make you sound somewhat sentimental, and then Wham! Bam! Thank You Ma’am! You have no reason to stay around and have pillow talk or make breakfast the next morning because you just wanted a hook-up.

Imagine the NBA Championship is the girl and winning it is the hook-up. Do you think Antoine Walker is going to stop jacking up nonsensical three pointers, or Jason Williams quits passing a ball off his head and chest to a wide open Shaq under the basket? Hell no. These guys got what they wanted. That’s why Mourning is going to retire midseason when the team is hovering around .500.

I would feel bad for Dwyane Wade had he not strapped on his flack jacket and thigh pads before throwing himself into every Maverick player during the Finals.

2. Cleveland Cavaliers

LeBron nearly beat the Pistons by himself last year. Not that that is such a great accomplishment because Flip Saunders was involved, but he is for real. And then Monday’s Daily Show occurred.

Watch it. The guy is all about winning. He truly believes no one can stop him, and he was so confident in his ability to win that he whooped Jon Stewart’s ass in rock, paper, scissors. I think the most underreported story of this year’s season is not about what LeBron could do; rather, what other players think he could do. Dwyane Wade knew right after he won a title that LeBron was gunning for him, and him only.

In his first year, LeBron was young. In his second year, he was learning. In his third year, he put it together. This year, ‘Bron ‘Bron is hungry.

And yet, my obsession with the NBA as a team game forced me to put the Cavs second to…

1. Chicago Bulls

We started with a hall of fame point guard who couldn’t put a better team together than I could have playing NBA Live 95 in fourth grade, and we now end with an also-ran guard from the same era who has put together the best team in the conference, John Paxson.

The Bulls exemplify exactly what I said a team needs to succeed: good coaching, smart drafting, and good cap management all working together. Let’s look at who on their roster they have drafted. Kirk Hinrich, Chris Duhon, Ben Gordon, Luol Deng, and Tyrus Thomas. As for their free agent signees, Nocioni, Adrian Griffin, PJ Brown, and Ben Wallace. There isn’t all that much “sexiness” among those names, but those guys are all team players. Gordon and Duhon still come off the bench knowing they are contributing, Griffin started on a team that went to the Finals last year, but he still knows his role, and PJ Brown knows he was brought in more for veteran leadership than his basketball skills.

And the kicker to this Bulls team, they are smart with their players. There are three captains on this Bulls team. Guess who they are.

Brown is obvious. So is Wallace. Then you’ve got Kirk Hinrich. Absolutely genius move to take your two best veterans and your budding superstar point guard and make them tri-captains. Kirk Hinrich is going to learn a lot this year, and he’s going to ensure that the Bulls stay good for a long time.

Eyes hurting yet? Mine either. Let’s go on with this thing…

Western Conference

15. Portland Trail Blazers

They have the right idea by trading problem guys for young, impressionable ones. The one thing they are missing is cap room because they unwittingly signed Zack Randolph and Darius Miles to hefty extensions. So you have these two cancers around some good youngsters like Aldrige, Roy, and Martell Webster. I just don’t see the team working this year. But give it a few years, and they’ll be good again.

14. Seattle Supersonics

Talk about a total mess. These guys should be called New York Knicks West. Let’s start from the top, and by that, I mean ownership. The team was just sold to an Oklahoma City investor who has not made it a secret that he wants to put a team in Oklahoma. Then you’ve got the head coach, and his name is Bob Hill. You may not remember him, but he’s better known as the guy who couldn’t get out of the Western Conference with David Robinson, Sean Elliot, and David Robinson in their primes. And then there are the players…

I’ll leave Ray Allen out of this because I like him, and he is head and shoulders above any other player on that team. So the Sonics have Rashard Lewis, Nick Collison, and Luke Ridnour to compliment Allen. Sounds somewhat solid, right? Collison has battled injuries over the past two years, Rashard Lewis has joined the Steve Francis Hall of Fame for players who are deceptively bad, and Luke Ridnour is 2 inches taller and weighs 5 pounds more than me. Beyond that, there’s Earl Watson, Danny Fortson, and their first round draft pick who has bust written all over him, Mouhamed Sene. One redeeming complimentary player is Kareem Rush, but he plays the same position and style as Allen, so the two of them together on the floor probably won’t work.

The only reason why I have Seattle ahead of Portland is Ray Allen. If he goes down, look for the Sonics to win less than 20.

13. Memphis Grizzlies

I really like these guys. I thought they put up as good of an effort as they could against the Mavs last year, and Gasol was poised to breakout and become a legitimate number two in the best foreign players discussion. And then he broke his foot. I bet Jerry West will be campaigning hard for players not to be allowed to participate in international competition (another subject for another time).

I really liked the Battier trade for the Grizz more than I did for the Rockets because I’m a big Gay guy. Battier proved ineffective in the playoffs, and I could see the same thing happening to him again this year. But we’re not discussing the Rockets.

As for the rest of the team, they will probably be lost without Gasol. I could see Hakim Warrick busting out in a big way, but other than that, there really isn’t much. At least Pau comes back in January.

12. Sacramento Kings

Let’s quickly recap the past year of the Kings existence:

Trade best player on team for craziest player in league.
Get knocked out of playoffs by defending champions aided by a shot that consisted luckiest bounces in history of playoffs.
Fire coach who has led your team to playoffs since the end of last century.

I’m a big Maloof family fan if only because I think they’re living the dream, but that’s one turbulent year, and Ron Artest is involved, which makes everything exponentially bad. This team is going to get worse before it gets better, especially after losing Bonzi Wells.

At least Arnold is a Kings fan.

11. Golden State Warriors

Don Nelson makes his triumphant return to the Bay Area, and why not? There is so much talent on that Warriors team with Richardson, Baron Davis, Dunleavey, Troy Murphy, and my personal favorite, Mickael Pietrus. That’s right, look out for Pietrus this year because he’s a French version of Michael Finley, and we all know how well the Fin-master did under Nellie.

But Don Nelson can only take you so far. Even Nellie Ball can’t overcome the fact that Troy Murphy, a natural power forward and nothing else, is the team’s center. I think these guys are going to be improved, but they need Patrick O’Bryant to pan out at center, and then the Warriors are going to be forced.

Actually, in a couple years, the Warriors frontcourt is going to look hilarious with two Irish guys, O’Bryant and Murphy, and Mike Dunleavey. O’Bryant and Murphy should be traded to the Celtics for Perkins and Jefferson just to get some Irish back in that team.

10. New Orleans Hornets

I wholeheartedly agree that this team got better. I truly like the Peja and Tyson Chandler moves, and the Hornets could very well kick ass this year, especially because Chris Paul is on that team. But I can’t possibly justify them getting into the playoffs ahead of the eight that I picked to get in, not in the Western Conference or Southwest Division. I hope I’m wrong about them, though.

By the way, you will not see me calling these guys the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets because that, to me, is a crock of sh*t. This is a New Orleans team, pure and simple, until they are moved out of there. Oklahoma City may be a great basketball city, but the Sonics are going there soon, so let’s end the charade and stop slashing New Orleans.

9. Utah Jazz

Again, another New Orleans situation, which is funny because the Jazz used to play in New Orleans. Ok, it’s not funny, but it is ironic. Anyway…

Deron Williams is from the Dallas area; he went to high school in The Colony, but he rose to a new level of awesomeness this summer. Instead of working out in Dallas, or wherever he lives in the offseason, Deron trekked to Spokane, Washington to work with none other than John Stockton. That’s a perfect example of a young guy understanding that he needs to learn more, and rather than working with other young point guards like Chris Paul or Shaun Livingston, Williams went to straight to the horse’s mouth, the all-time leader in assists in steals. Expect good things in the next few years if he keeps this up.

As for the rest of the team, this is case of talent that just hasn’t meshed yet. Kirilenko and Boozer have hardly played together, and Deron Williams is still only in his second year. The whole deal is a shame because Jerry Sloan is getting old, but maybe it’s time for the Jazz to get a new coach. If they hired someone young and vibrant, and the team started to gel, they could be a powerhouse. Again, I’m not saying the Jazz have no shot of making the playoffs, but with Kirilenko’s and Boozer’s injury record and a stacked Western Conference, I’ll be safe and assume they miss.

8. Los Angeles Lakers

Kobe and Phil should be worth a playoff spot. And then they’ve got Odom, the most underrated and underappreciated player in the league, and Andrew Bynum, an up-and-coming center. They’ve got some guys for Kobe to play with.

Unfortunately, they won’t do anything more than make the playoffs unless Kobe realizes that he can’t be a ball-hog for 82 games in the regular season, and then turn the team switch on as soon as the playoffs start. It may have nearly worked against a shoddy defense like the Suns, but it wouldn’t have against any of the other 6 teams in the West that year.

Something that I completely forgot about going into this season is that Kobe changed his number to 24, probably because I didn’t think it was a big deal whatsoever. There are so many hypotheses about why he did it; he wants to be like Jack Bauer or he wants to be 3 times better now that Shaq’s gone. The only scenario that makes sense is the one about him wanting to be greater than 23. I think there’s merit to that; I mean Kobe is arrogant enough to want to blatantly one-up Jordan. The only thing about that is Jordan wouldn’t be such a dick that he’d miss the season-opener because he didn’t rehab his knee correctly.

7. Denver Nuggets

This will be Carmelo’s make or break year in the league. If he improves, as everybody expects him to do, he will have legitimized is name in the same breath as LeBron and Wade, but if he just moseys along in the season, as he has done in the past, then he will be considered the most overrated player in the league.

I hate buying into the hype, but I feel like I have to in this situation. Not only did Carmelo improbably make the USA National team this summer, but he earned a tri-captaincy along with LeBron and Wade. If Coach K sees a lot in Carmelo, then who am I to disagree?

So, why do I have the Nuggets in the 7th seed if Carmelo is going to have a great year? Because that team is a mess. Just look at what happened during the playoffs. Kenyon Martin got kicked off the team and Reggie Evans grabbed some guy’s balls. Strong effort.

And despite the circus, Carmelo gets them in the playoffs.

6. Los Angeles Clippers

They probably should be the 5th seed, but the Northwest Division is to the Western Conference as the Atlantic is to the Eastern Conference.

But this is team whose hype I’m not quite buying yet. I think they have talent seeping out of their pores, but there’s something that’s rubbing me the wrong way about them. I think it’s feeling of disbelief that they retained key players, Cassell and Kaman, and even signed away another team’s steroid tester, I mean clutch player, in Tim Thomas.

The Clippers aren’t used to a summer like this where good things happen all over the place. No one knows if the team can deal with addition. It will also be interesting to see if the team can deal with high expectations. There are a few people out there, mostly LA columnists who predict the Clips to win their division. I even saw one prediction, granted it was way biased, that the Clippers would win the title this year.

Even more questions linger, like will Sam Cassell’s magic wear off? Can Shaun Livingston step up to be a big time performer? Will there be enough ball for all of their good players? Will Chris Kaman hire the doctors from Nip/Tuck? How long until Congress launches a probe into Tim Thomas’ workout routine?

Many questions. Still a lot of talent. 6 sounds about right.

5. Houston Rockets

These guys can be good. Obviously, McGrady and Yao are going to tear it up, health permitting, and Bonzi Wells was a great free agent pick up. Battier will prove to be worthwhile (though in the long run, Rudy Gay will be phenomenal). They also have one of the better, though bizarre looking, coaches in the league in Jeff Van Gundy.

And yet, the Rockets have no shot whatsoever to make the Finals. None. I would put my Bar Mitzvah money on the Rockets not making the Finals. Why?

And starting, at point guard, for your Houston Rockets, at 6-2 175, from Fresno State and the AND 1 Mixtape Tour where he is better known as Skip to My Lou, Rafer Alston! Now, there are two ways the city of Houston can go with this guy as the point guard to a team with Finals expectations; the people can either be hardcore with him or hardcore against him.

Considering Houston has recently had to endure a World Series sweep, their two best basketball players not playing a full season combined, their football team passing up on Reggie Bush and Vince Young for Mario Williams, and their baseball team making a comeback of epic proportions to try to make the playoffs only to fall short, you’d think Houstonians would be like the Boston fans of the 20th Century. But no, these people are from Houston. They are fat, dumb, and happy. They’ll ride Rafer Alston into a second round loss, and only then, will they realize that they desperately need a point guard.

The only way they won’t get to reach that conclusion? If they realize the team needs a new training staff because Yao and McGrady got injured... again.

4. Minnesota Timberwolves

So I had my semi-surprise team from the East, the Boston Celtics make the playoffs. How about the Wolves winning their division?

So how did I come up with this? Well, it’s pretty simple.

Kevin Garnett is one of the best players we will ever get to watch, and he finally has a point guard that is going to hold his teammates accountable, Mike James. When Ricky Davis starts jacking up shots to inflate his numbers, do you think KG, the team player, is going to get in his face? Not until it reaches a boiling point.

Well, Mike James is constantly at a boiling point, so the first Ricky Davis gaffe is a stare with bloodshot eyes and a massive tirade. When James didn’t sign with the Mavs, I was pretty confused because he had a great chance to win a title in Dallas, and the Mavs probably could have used him. But Mike James could reach Sam Cassell status if he can pull the Wolves out of the lottery and into the playoffs. What do those two have in common? The Rockets traded them away, and now they’re stuck with Rafer Alston. James could do it with Garnett, Foye, and I’ll even throw Rashad McCants in there.

The only thing in their way is bad coaching, which is probable with Dwayne Casey, but James and Garnett could coach that team together, so I think a head coach is irrelevant.

3. Phoenix Suns

Did anybody read my NBA mid-season report about the Suns last year? Ditto goes for the first half of this year. Amare’s comeback, though big for the Suns, will hurt the production of the rest of their team. Amare is utterly worthless unless he’s fed the ball in the low post to stuff in the basket. The guy is physically blessed and has some serious talent to boot, but all of that will take away from guys like Raja Bell, Barbosa, and Diaw.

OH! Speaking of Diaw, I couldn’t have been more pleased than to see the Mike D’Antoni’s opening press conference during training camp where he was bombarded with questions about Diaw having gained a ton of weight. D’Antoni’s response? I don’t think he’s picked up a basketball in a month. Priceless. I expect big things from Diaw, and by things, I mean meals. Fatty.

My biggest problem with the Suns is the same problem people had with the pre-Avery Mavs and have with the current Indianapolis Colts. “If they could just play defense, they’d be unstoppable.” Well, guess what? They can’t, so they won’t be unstoppable. Dirk dropped half-a-hundred on the Suns in the Western Conference Finals. The Suns constantly lose close games because they can’t get a stop at the end of a game. So how can a team like that win a title?
I won’t take anything away from what they did last year without Amare, but that was an indictment of Steve Nash’s extraordinary ability more than it was about the Suns being a great team without Amare and even better with him because that fact just flat out isn’t true. As long as Phoenix can outrun any team in the league, they will win 50 games, and that start with Nash. Do you think Bell or Diaw could have played as well as they did with any other point guard? No way, Steve Nash instills confidence in players that haven’t had it in a long time. I saw it in Dallas for 5 years when Nash nurtured Dirk into the superstar he is today.

So expect another spectacular regular season out of these guys. As for the playoffs, the Clippers and Rockets are better suited for postseason play.

2. San Antonio Spurs

There is a big to do about Tim Duncan coming back healthy and hungry, which I totally agree with. As a fan of a team not in San Antonio, I am legitimately afraid of what the Spurs could do this year. They got rid of their crappy centers, Mohammed and Nesterovic, and brought in a solid center, Jackie Butler, and a proven Mavs killer, Matt Bonner. Don’t ask me why Bonner kills the Mavs, but last year, he kept the Raptors in that first game, and he nearly ended a game with a late three in the next game against Dallas. Plus, he’s a ginger kid (he has red hair).

The Spurs are the Patriots and Yankees of the NBA. They have a superstar who’s a winner and nothing else, and they also have a coach that can motivate and game plan with the best of them. And because of those two, players from afar come to play in San Antonio like Michael Finley. They even know the right bench guys like Jacques Vaughn and Robert Horry. And then of course, they draft well, too, with Ginobili and Parker coming through that venue.

The Spurs are flat out good, just as good as our number one team… May Be.

Tomorrow, I will reveal number one (if you haven’t yet figured it out)

Friday, July 07, 2006

Ode to 'Quis

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He started out as the Mav who looked like he was stoned. And three years later, he became the most expendable Mav. It's a trade that makes so much sense, but it still doesn't seem right. Could you imagine that Mavs without Marquis Daniels? Now, we have to. We have known since the end of the season that this day would come, but it hurts just a little bit more now that it actually has. So instead of mourning 'Quis' departure, I'm going to celebrate him as a Mav and try to convey to everyone why he will go down as one of my favorite Mavs of all time.

Marquis came to the Mavs in 2003-2004 season, better known as the season where Antoine Walker came to training camp with a bomb strapped to his chest like a terrorist and proceeded to obliterate the Mavs in any way possible. Everyone was beaten down and getting beat down. The Mavs, despite a bizarre overhaul, were still getting beat up. Then 'Quis came out on the floor. In the previous few seasons, the Mavs had so many white guys and pansies playing that they probably would have gotten beat up playing the Houston Comets. You knew there was something different about these Mavs with 'Quis out there. He was unlike anyone else the Mavs have ever had. He had tattoos, he had dreadlocks, and he looked SO HIGH. There's a saying about fighting guys with tattoos, "If it's on his leg or arm, don't worry. If it's on his chest or back, you should probably run. Face or neck, don't bother running because he will find you and kill you and your family." 'Quis had two on his neck! TWO! And with the emergence of Josh Howard, the exile of Steve Nash, and finally the entrance of Avery Johnson, the Mavs were badasses.

You can laugh at this all you want, but I truly believe that Marquis Daniels' image helped bring the Mavs to the level of grit they needed. Dirk wasn't looking across the locker room at Steve Nash, Raef LaFrentz, Shawn Bradley, Evan Eschmeyer, or Tariq Abdul-Wahad; he was looking at guys who looked like they would punch you in the mouth, then spit on you while you lay on the ground shaking like you're having an epileptic seizure. I'm talking about guys like Josh Howard, Jerry Stackhouse, Jason Terry, and the most thuggish looking, Marquis Daniels.

I don't know if 'Quis is/was a thug, and to be honest, I don't really care if he is or isn't. His presence gives the Mavs credibility. He gets rebounds, slashes, and plays hard. And let's not forget his unselfishness. Once the Mavs realized how good he was and that he would be a free agent after his rookie year, Marquis said that if the Mavs offered him the best they possibly could under the rules (38 million over 6 years), then he would accept it without looking around. And that's exactly what the Mavs did before a team like the Hawks could offer him 45 million or before Isiah Thomas could offer him 467 billion.

So that's why I absolutely Love Marquis Daniels. He may not have been the smartest guy on the team, but he looked like a badass, and he played pretty damn good too.

Good Luck in Indiana. The weed's not as good there, but I'm sure you know a guy.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Life Goes On

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Did you wake up on Wednesday morning? Thursday? Friday? Saturday? How'd you feel? I'm willing to bet you felt about the same as you did every morning after November 1, 2005 (obviously not the exact same since I know I have a drinking audience). Well, the Mavs lost in the NBA Finals. And we are all still going about our lives. It's pretty interesting if you think about it.

The city of Dallas got Mavs fever. Every dinner conversation was about the Mavs, people were selling Mavs T-Shirts at an insane premium, and the roads were empty between the hours of 8-11 on game nights. The Mavs consumed Dallas. And now that it's over, everything is back to normal, just like that. Do you know why that is? Because the only people who are truly affected by a Mavs victory or loss are part of the team. Whether it's players, coaches, or staff, those are the people whose lives are changed now that the Mavs are off. And you could argue mine is because I won't be writing this blog as much until the season begins. But let's be real, the season is over, and we barely noticed.

I used to be jealous of a city like Boston whose sports fans were so diehard that it took them a week to recover from the Red Sox being eliminated, but after reflection in these playoffs, I enjoy being around Mavs fans who don't take losses that hard. Do you know what it took me to recover from Game 6? 5 Beers. That's it. I didn't go on a binge starting at 8 a.m. Wednesday and ending on Sunday morning, I didn't sit in my room with the lights off watching old Mavs games while cleaning my gun, and I certainly didn't go out looking for fights. Nope, I licked my wounds, got up the next morning, and started preparing myself for the next phase of my summer.

A job.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6

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In case you just got out of solitary confinement (I know I have a big prison following), the Mavs are in Game 6. They are down 3-2. And they have the next two games at home. Let's break this thing down in question format.

Can Miami win Game 6 in Dallas?

Yes. They can win any game by having the best player on the court in Dwyane Wade. They have Shaq. They have hungry veterans. They have all the components that propelled them to their last 3 wins. So they can win Game 6. Dallas is not a lock to win tonight despite the 6 point line.

If the Mavs lose tonight, should we blame the sereis on Josh Howard, Joe DeRosa, or David Stern?

Trick Question! None of the above. And here's why we can't blame each person:

Josh: He made the inverse Chris Webber mistake. He flat out &%$#ed up. I've heard people say you can blame Avery for not bringing Josh or another player over to the sideline, but I'd blame Josh for the gaff. But I wouldn't blame him for the series. He didn't lose Game 5 for the Mavs, the Mavs lost Game 5 by not stopping the only productive Heat player.

Joe DeRosa: I may hate the guy, but I've said it before many times on this website that I'd never blame a single game on officials. The Mavs were put in an unfavorable position by DeRosa, but they could have won it. Not after all the hoopla, but before. There were missed free throws late and poor shot selection early. The bad reffing was just the nail in the coffin. But could the Mavs have won the game in 1.9 seconds considering their bad play calling in crunchtime since the Spurs series? Possibly. Bottom line: the Mavs lost. Time to move on.

David Stern: I've seen two interviews with him today, and he looked beaten. He appeared to be legtimiately upset with all the craziness going on. There are no conspiracies going on in the NBA. Why would Stern want the Heat to win more than the Mavs? Dallas is a bigger city and has a white superstar with a black coach. They have the NFL's dream team, but they're in the NBA. Stern isn't rigging anything. It's just bad luck.

What should we expect from Stack?

Do you remember Terry in Game 7 of the Spurs series? Coming off a suspension, Terry played an absolutely monster game. Stack could put his name in NBA lore by coming out with a HUGE game. Or he could implant himself in mediocrity. It's up to Stack. Personally, I think he'll be legendary.

How are the officials going to be tonight?

Dallas will get the benefit of the doubt on most calls for two reasons. One is that they are at home. Refs are invariably influenced by a raucous crowd, and they feel better putting their hands in the direction of the home team. That's not to say the Mavs will get every call. But luck will be on their side tonight.

Will Dirk ever break out?

People questioned Dirk after Game 4 of the Suns series. And look what he did in Game 5. Dirk will come out throwing haymakers. Dropping bombs. And sticking his tongue out.

Who, besides the top 4, needs to step up?

I'd like to see Devin take players off the dribble and draw contact on Shaq. It's the Finals! Give up your body! I'd also like to see Damp and Diop to block a few shots. Most of all, I want KVH to hit one 3-pointer. Just ONE!

What's going to happen?

The free throw discrepancy will not be as big as it has in the past few games unless the Hack-A-Shaq is used (don't count that out). Dirk and Stack should play well. And the Mavs will double Wade randomly throughout the game.

Why are the Mavs going to win?

Look at the organization minus Avery and Cuban. Everyone is calm, cool, and collected. These guys know they made mistakes that cost them two games. They are taking accountability for it, too. I'm not saying Avery and Cuban are wrong, but the players have channelled anger that will spillover into the arena for Game 6.

Dirk drops 40.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Rebound, Run, Slam, and Jam

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The title says it all. Do you remember those old commercials? How could you not? They had Emmitt Smith singing it and someone else. It was absolutely pathetic, but I loved the commercial; still do. It's interesting that the things the Mavs can't do this series is what has cost them the past two games... rebounding, running, and finishing (slamming and jamming).

What does that mean? Well, I'll tell you what it doesn't mean. It does not mean that Ross Perot Jr. is an oracle who can see into the future that the Mavs need to rebound, run, and dunk. It does mean that the Mavs need to get back to basics. And let me tell you why that will happen.


I've worked around professional sports teams before, and let me tell you two things that I learned. First of all, players, no matter how good or bad they are, absolutely hate to share a hotel room with a teammate. And Avery made them do just that. And not only are they sharing, he stuck the oddest pairs together. Dirk's with DA, 'Quis is with Pavel, Stack is with Diop, and I forget the rest. Why did Avery do this? Because the players were on vacation. Now, I'll be honest, I was pretty surprised by that. I thought the players would be all business in Miami. But I guess not. Apparently, they were out all night partying in South Beach, which is awesome, as long as you're not fighting in the NBA Finals. So, this new roommate arrangement is more about making players focus on the goal at hand and not a punishment. When Dirk wakes up and sees DA in the bed next to him, he'll remember what he's doing immediately.

The second thing I've learned from working around a professional sports team is that to change plans is a big deal. Travel and hotel plans for teams are set very precisely, and for a coach to change them takes a lot. That's not to say that he shouldn't have done it, but imagine the conversation Avery had. He essentially asked the team to dump thousands of dollars worth of plans and add sink thousands more into a different plan. I give a lot of credit to the team for following Avery's directions. I shouldn't expect any less because these guys are playing for a title. But what they did, changing plans on a dime is no small task. And it takes something to request it. We can just hope it works.

So how is Avery going to help the Mavs rebound, run, slam, and jam? He already did. These guys have been engulfed in basketball for the past two days. They have probably watched at least 20 hours of film. Dirk knows how bad he has been, and he's going to turn it around. Josh knows he needs to make more hustle plays. And the whole team knows it has to take less 3's.

As for their missing comrade. Yes, it may be ridiculous. And yes, he will be missed. But it's time for other guys to step up. I'm sick of seeing the same guys come out gunning. Dirk, Josh, JET, and Stack. I want 'Quis and KVH to step up and do something. Anything. Whether it's strip a ball or hit a 3, just something. Stack gave the Mavs the fire they need by laying out Shaq then getting suspended. These guys need to step up.

Collect missed shots. Sprint down the floor. And I can't believe I'm saying this. Play like Mavs Man.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

It's A Combination of Things...

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Let's recount how the Mavs lost Game 3...

  • Up 13 in the fourth quarter, the Heat come back to win.
  • Dwyane Wade scores 42 points and makes some insane plays on the way
  • Shaq and Udonis go 4-4 from the line when it matters
  • Dirk misses a crunch-time free throw
  • Every questionable call goes the way of the Heat

And yet, the Heat only win by 2 at home. All those things plus homecourt equals a squeaked out Heat win. So what's the big deal? Why are people freaking out? I just don't understand that.

I wrote the same thing after the Game 1 against the Suns. It took a series of events for the Suns to win that game, much like Game 3. This game was the exact same as another Game 1... of the Finals. Look at what the Mavs did in that game and compare it with this game.

There wasn't a single Mav who played well consistently. There were spurts where Howard had it going. There were spots where Dirk was playing well. Terry even had a few decent possessions. Look back to Game 1. Terry played the best, just as Dirk did in Game 3, but even Terry was held scoreless in the third quarter. No one was in sync in Game 1.

Also, the pace of the game was all for the Heat. The Mavs were flirting with 100, but as the game wore on, they appeared to be heading for the mid-90's. There was even a comeback and big run in Game 3, just like Game 1.

So, what was the difference? I'll preface this by saying that it was painful for me to see it against the Mavs. But Dwyane Wade is the man. Best player in the league. Hands down. Don't even argue with me. In Game 1, he didn't come alive, and he more than made up for it in Game 3. I'll stop kissing Wade's ass right now, but he was the difference.

Now it's time for me to get on my high horse, so if you're sick of me always being right, you may as well just close this window.

For all you Mavs fans who are freaking out about a Game 3 loss, stop it. Right now. Don't be ridiculous. Did you honestly expect the Mavs to sweep Wade, Shaq, Riley, and the hooligans out of the Finals? Of course not. The Mavs were going to lose at least 1, or 2, or 3 games in the series. I understand that we expect the Mavs to win every game, but don't forget about how good the Heat are at home. And don't forget that no matter what happens, the Mavs still have homecourt advantage.

And then there is the most overrated statistic in all of basketball. The Josh Howard stat. You know the one I'm talking about. 25-0. No more. And to be honest, I couldn't be happier. I hate a stat like that. It means absolutely nothing, and I've been very impressed with Howard's understanding of it. The reason why the Mavs were undefeated in all those games wasn't because Howard was scoring but because the team was in sync so well that a side-effect was Howard scoring 20 points. I compare that stat to anything in football such as the Bills are undefeated when Willis has over 30 carries in a game. Yeah, No &%$# When you're winning in football, you run the ball to eat clock. When you're offense is running well, Josh Howard scores points. The ultimate destination of both? A win. Bye-bye Josh Howard stat. It was a good run while it lasted, but it meant nothing.

So what should we expect in Game 4? How about more of the same? More Dirk. More Wade. Where can the Mavs improve? On consistency. Nobody is playing consistently well. You need proof? Read Tuesday's Dallas Morning News, which praised and featured Stack, only to give Mavs fans hope for Game 3 (4 points).

Let's watch the Mavs step on the Heat's collective neck and put them in a position to fight or die.

Mavs win.