Friday, February 29, 2008

I don't mean to rip Avery, but...

I really enjoy it when someone says "I don't mean to be ________, but..." because that's usually exactly what they mean to be. In fact, a Google search of "I don't mean to be" can be an amusing way to kill some time. Some examples:

I don't mean to be rude, but you're an idiot. This person is rude.

I don't mean to be a total dork, but I want to remind everyone that there is a total lunar eclipse tonight and, barring really horrible weather here, we should have a great view of it. This person is a total dork. He even goes on to say "Whoo hoo! I loves me some lunar eclipse."

See what I mean? Here's one more:

I don't mean to rip Avery, but...

Last night, the Mavericks lost a close one to the Spurs, 94-97. But coming out of a game that was full of playoff-like tension, everyone is talking about two guys who were on the bench: Avery Johnson and Jason Kidd.

Yes, that Jason Kidd.

For the final thirty-five seconds, spanning two Mavs possessions, Johnson had Kidd riding pine.

Didn't they trade for him to provide leadership? To get easier shots for Dirk, Josh and Co.? To finish games? Does Johnson expect Kidd to do all that from the sideline? Why did he push for the trade if he isn't going to play him in crunch time, especially against the Spurs?

We could all understand when Avery kept a tight grip on the reins when Devin Harris was playing the point. But if you are going to bring Kidd in here, you have got to let him do his thing and get out of the way. If this team is going to have any chance at success, Avery is going to have to get the ball in Kidd's hands when the game is on the line.

Avery has had a phenomenal start to his coaching career. But look at the team he was handed. They were supposed to be good. And let's be honest: he got coached out of the gym against Nelson and the Warriors last year. And last night, his need for control sabotaged the game. Avery's offense is stagnant and Kidd was brought in to be the cure. Instead, he's on the bench.

Avery came in as the anti-Nellie, but after only a few years, he is losing this team. They have already lost some of the defensive intensity he instilled in them. And while Kidd is toeing the company line, Dirk pointedly referred all questions about Kidd's benching to the coach. When you have a superstar with a fragile nature, this is not what you want.

For his part, Avery reasoned that he wanted to spread the floor with shooters so the Spurs wouldn't double team Dirk. This ignores the fact that they acquired Kidd because Nowitzki was having to work too hard for his shots. If Kidd was on the court, perhaps he makes Dirk's shot a bit easier. Avery's decisions have been questionable this year; last night's was madness. Dallas fans thought Avery was brilliant, but since last year's playoffs, he appears to be panicking, with last night's move being the latest and perhaps greatest.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Jerry Jones: Fantasy GM

A couple of weeks ago, the Dolphins released former All Pro LB and tackling machine, Zach Thomas. It seemed like a sensible move for the 1-15 Fish who aren't going to be good next year and Thomas struggled with injuries most of the year. He's probably first in a line of veteran cuts by the struggling franchise. When I saw that Thomas had been released, I knew that the Cowboys would be first in line for him. Sure enough, they had him in and Jerry wouldn't let him leave without a contract, which he signed on Sunday.
I'm not necessarily opposed to this signing, though I do have a few questions. First of all, do we really need more linebackers? On the inside, we have Bradie James (4th round, just signed a big contract), Akin Ayodele (big free agent contract), Kevin Burnett (2nd round contract), and Bobby Carpenter (1st round draft pick). Not that they are the end all be all at linebacker, especially the very disappointing Carpenter and I think this spells the end of Ayodele's time with the Boys. But still, with the tightness with the cap, did we really need to spend $3 million on a linebacker? They desperately need a cornerback and, though the decided to franchise Ken Hamlin and are trying to sign him long term, I'm not sold on his work.
But look back over the free agent signings of the Jerry Jones and I think you'll see a pattern, even going all the way back to after Jimmy Johnson left. If the Cowboys have a need, then Jerry Jones tries to meet it through signing a name who is coming off injuries or problems and then watching them just suck. Let's see if you remember these gaggle of spares: Quinton Coryatt, Herschel Walker, Rocket Ismail, Alonzo Spellmen, Bryant Westbrook, Ryan Leaf, Eddie George, Anthony Miller, Randall Cunningham, Chad Hutchinson, and Drew Henson.
Jerry runs his team too often like a fantasy team, gathering as many names as he can, hoping to "catch lighting in a bottle." Unfortunately, that lighting usually ends up fizzling in the bottle.
Thomas missed 11 games last year, struggling with a concussion and subsequent migraine headaches. He's 34 years old and on the last legs of his career. He is really a starting linebacker for a Super Bowl team which is what this team is presumed to be?
Jerry runs his team too often like a fantasy team, gathering as many names as he can, hoping to "catch lighting in a bottle." Unfortunately, that lighting usually ends up fizzling in the bottle. Maybe Valley Ranch should put up a little Statue of Liberty with a sign that says "Give me your over-rated, your injury prone, your 'past his prime' looking for one more payday."

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Finishing the deal

I've come to grips with it: Jason Kidd has come home. I'm still not happy with the deal, but since he's here, we might as well see what he can do in Dallas his second time through. So what is Kidd expected to do that Devin Harris couldn't? Make assists, grab rebounds and provide leadership, right? No problem.

Oh, wait, there is a problem: who is going to finish all of those beautiful passes? The Mavericks are jump shooters. All this team does is hang around on the perimeter. I could run this offense--all you have to do is pass around the arc--and believe me, I'm not bragging about that. It would be great if the Mavs introduced a little speed and motion to the offense, but these players won't do it. Howard used to, but he forgot how over the off season.

So we need to make another trade and get a slasher in here. Someone who isn't afraid to take it to the rim and finish a Kidd assist. (Please note: I'm not even going to bother on name speculation. I'm just itemizing the needs.) This team is predictable and easy to defend when everyone is standing around watching Dirk or Josh run an iso. With a finisher, things should open up for the shooters. Without a finisher, Kidd's primary asset is wasted. Most definitely.

Next up is a new back up center. Look, I think Diop was severely overrated in Dallas. Where else does three points and five boards in seventeen minutes make you a fan favorite? Back up center is the new back up quarterback in Big D. But to make it through the West, the Mavs are going to need more than Dampier's six fouls against the likes of Shaq, Duncan and Bynum. I don't care if he is a stiff--a warm body will do.

While we are at it, let's go ahead and get a shiny new back up PG, too. Anyone else comfortable with JJ Barea filling in when Kidd takes a breather? In the playoffs? Me, either.

OK, that's three more acquisitions. Avery still needs to do some tinkering with the offense, and the defensive end could use a little work, too, but as far as personnel go, that about covers it. I'm not sure who they trade away to get them (but I do know who they probably should avoid working into a deal). So working a deal might require a little time.

Wait, the trade deadline is today?

OK, in the offseason, the Mavs need...

Friday, February 15, 2008

Devean and Stack attempt to save the Mavs from themselves

This week I have discovered two new heroes: Devean George and Jerry Stackhouse.

The Kidd-to-Dallas rumors have been swirling for a few weeks now, but the deal was finally all but done on Wednesday. And I hate it.

I realize that I am very much in the minority on this. The Mavs and most Mavs fans love the idea. Kidd's gonna bring a title to Dallas! Really? How many rings does he have again? Since when did Kidd come with title guarantees? But everyone is ready to start planning the parade route again. Let's slow down, folks. If up 2-0 in the NBA Finals was too early to make those plans, shouldn't we at least wait until the players pass their physicals?

You know who else loves this deal? The Suns and Spurs. Oh, wait, that's probably a bad sign for Dallas, isn't it?

Kidd is not a better player than Harris right now. Harris gives San Antonio and Phoenix fits with his speed and Kidd can't do that. Kidd only edges him in two areas: assists and leadership, and Kidd's assists would go down in Dallas. His leadership would be beneficial to a soft team, but that's about it. I wouldn't trade Kidd for Harris straight up. Add to that first round picks this year and 2010? And no more bench? And Kidd's bloated salary as his ability declines in the next few years? Are you joking?

This is a desperate panic move on the part of Mark Cuban that will rank among the all-time great panic moves if it is completed. It'll be right up there with Randy Johnson to the Yankees, Joey Galloway to the Cowboys, and any trade by Isiah Thomas. Dare I? It will be the NBA equivalent of Herschel to the Vikings. Any Dallas fans want to be on the wrong side of that deal?

I'm not saying Dallas is going to win a title this year with Harris. I am saying they won't win a title this year with anybody. And the Kidd trade is a title-or-bust move. Harris has a long career ahead of him, and the rest of the Mavs core still have years left in their championship window. Kidd does not, and his salary hamstrings the Mavs for years, not to mention having to search for a new PG in a few years.

So I'm not too fond of the trade. But before I could begin hyperventilating, Devean George pulled the brake on the deal, thanks to a little-known NBA rule that protects his Early Bird status. George is being ripped in Dallas, but he's my new favorite Maverick. And let's be honest: he is only doing this to protect his own salary. Any readers willing to give up their chance to maximize their earnings? Me either. Unfortunately, George is shooting himself in the foot, because it's not likely a team is going to offer him much anyway since he apparently isn't a "team player".

And if George's personal objections weren't enough, here is the latest: Jerry Stackhouse got caught talking a bit too much. In an interview, he said that he'll have "30 days to rest then I’ll be right back. I ain’t going nowhere." Uh-oh. First Donaghy, and now pre-arranged deals bringing Stack back to Dallas? The NBA will examine the situation and consider banning Stack from returning to Dallas if traded, and perhaps even not accept him as a piece in the trade at all. This is ridiculous. Stack would have to sit out 30 days, and any team has the opportunity to sign him. He might have a deal to return to Dallas, but nothing is stopping another contender from stealing him away. Remember when Cleveland thought they had a deal with Boozer? How did that work out for them?

Either way, though, he's another Maverick hero.

I expect this deal to go through one way or the other—honestly, the Mavs almost have to do it now or they risk losing the confidence of the team. Even though Cuban has said he wouldn't do it, I'd look for Keith Van Horn to be included in the deal as a sign and trade. He could easily replace George's expiring contract and with a bump in salary on the "contract" could cover for the Stack omission as well. This would cost Cuban some extra cash under the luxury tax, but when has money ever really stopped him? He also told us a week ago that the Kidd deal would never happen because it would cost the Mavs half their roster, so his word isn't exactly good as gold.

But if Devean and Stack can somehow keep this deal from ruining the Mavericks, I think I've got my nominations ready for this year's 110 Percent Hall of Fame.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Another Hard Right Turn

In the 35 illustrious years of the Rangers, they have a grand total of one Hall of Famer: Nolan Ryan. But even he spent the best years of his career in California and Houston. It was he, however, who brought legitimacy to the team playing in a glorified AAA ball field in Arlington. You could say that the Ballpark is the Ballpark Nolan Built, because it was his popularity that allowed that beautiful park to be built in the first place and he is rightfully honored with a statue in the centerfield concourse. Now, he returns to Arlington as president of the Texas Rangers. He is a strong change from the previous presidents who were business people who seemed not to care even a little bit about baseball.

Over the past several years, in fact since Tom Hicks bought the team, the biggest complaint I've had is that the can't seem to stick to a plan. They swing back and forth between throwing big money at free agents and building from within, usually mixing in the terrible trade, the terrible free agent signing, and the terrible draft. In fact, usually for their whole history, it's if something bad can happen it will. Perhaps Murphy's Law should be changed to Ranger's Law: if something bad can happen it probably will.

However, I think the franchise is now on more solid footing that it has been in a long time. But that footing is precarious. Because of shrewd trades and an almost universally lauded draft last year, the Rangers went from one of the worst farm systems to one of the best, with some top prospects on the cusp of helping the team this year. However, most the big time pitching prospects are below AA and anything can happen to them (considering Ranger's Law, probably bad things).

As you all know, I like what JD has done over the last year or so. He's not batting a 1.000, but he's doing pretty good. I'm nervous about Ryan coming in and changing things before we have a chance to know if JD's plan is going to work. Apparently, Ryan's going to have say over all baseball matters. I'm nervous.

I read now, that it means that Tom Hicks will step back from baseball matters. If that is the case and Ryan can do to Hicks what he did to Robin Ventura, then I'm all for it. Only thing though, how long do you think that'll last?

Which is worse?

So, I can't remember if we've had this conversation before, but it's something I was thinking about as I was lamenting the loss of the Pats earlier this week. As a fan, is it better for your team to get to the Championship and lose, or for them not to get there at all?

I can only go with what I've experienced so that's how I'm going to approach this. Focusing on the local teams.

Case Study # 1 - The Dallas Stars from 1999-2000. The Stars had come off of winning the Stanley Cup the previous season and there were fall-off expectations that just didn't happen. After some hard-fought series, they made it back to the Cup finals to meet the Devils and a chance at back-to-back titles. They fell short and I remember thinking that it was the worst feeling being so close and yet so far. This was a little smoothed by the fact that they had won the season before, but I remember being bummed for a while. Fast forward to the present where the Stars haven't made it out of the first round for ever... and I get frustrated when they lose, but I almost expect it and it doesn't seem to hurt as much as a fan. So, Getting there and losing - 0, Not getting there at all - 1

Case Study # 2 - The Dallas Mavericks in 2006. I don't need to recap and won't cause Andy and Jenn still haven't visited our house since Andy and I played NBA on my PS3 the day of the finals and we lost to the Heat... I still haven't watched a full NBA game since and am not sure if I ever will... so, I'd say that was horrible. GTAL - 0, NGTAA - 2

Case Study # 3 - The Dallas Cowboys since 2000. I am more personally invested in this team than in the Mavericks, but again, my expectations have been set that if they make the playoffs, they will probably lose in the first round. At least that is how it had been until this year. I couldn't believe when they lost to the Giants when I felt like they were a shoe-in to make it at least to the NFC game. It was very disappointing and worse than the botched snap game. GTAL - 0, NGTAA - 3

Case Study # 4 - The Texas Rangers since team creation. They have never been there, and I haven't been convinced that they have an actual plan to get there so they never disappoint. GTAL vs. NGTAA - Push

So, based on my research, I'd rather not get that close and lose. I'm officially a sports snob who has to win the whole thing or I'm disappointed. Man, I used to hate people like me when I rooted for North Texas and the Patriots of the early 90's and winning more than they lost was a successful season.

So, how do you feel? Would you rather get to the dance? Or be left at home?

Monday, February 4, 2008

Sometimes I love being wrong

Two days ago, I commented on Rus's article, saying that the Patriots were going to wipe out the Giants.

I have never been so happy to be wrong.

In his new post (see below), PJ gave me credit for predicting the Super Bowl loss, which I did do. But I bailed on that in the second round when both Indy and Dallas folded. I resigned myself to the inevitable. The Giants? Are you kidding?

But the football gods were merely aligning the pieces to make the Patsies fall that much sweeter.

Do I wish it was the Cowboys instead? Of course, but they had their chance and blew it. Back to the drawing board. And as a Cowboys fan, I take great pride in being a fan of America's Team. But today, that title belongs to the Giants. They truly represented all of the NFL and all of America when they defeated the Patsies.

I'm not one to take joy from the suffering of others, but watching them lose was truly sweet, the definition of poetic justice. This was retribution for Spygate and the ensuing arrogance, payback for running up scores.

And they can't even look forward to peace in the off season. The NFL tried to sweep it under the rug during the season, but with new video allegations, Belicheat is going to have to finally give some answers.

But that will be for another day. For now, the Pats have been relegated to trivia status. Years from now, someone Wanting to Become a Millionaire will do just that by answering the question: Which team went undefeated in the regular season only to fall short of perfection in the Super Bowl?

And I will still be smiling.

Dont' think, don't worry, everything's just fine...

So, I feel numb. Sorry to borrow from the Edge, but that's how I feel today. Still. Since last night at around 9:15 or so, I really haven't been able to digest the fact that a) the Patriots blew a perfect season, b) they had no answer for the Giants' pass rush, and c) Eli Manning made the MVP trophy a family affair. As I watched Eli take control of the first series and I kept seeing the graphics (most third down completions on an opening drive, most plays on an opening drive...), and even when the Patriots held them to 3 points, I was nervous. They had eaten up how much time? Then Brady took over and they scored a touchdown and I calmed down a little.

But the Giants wouldn't go away and they were on the march again. Then Eli made his first big mistake and there was the pick. Only the Patriots couldn't do anything with it. Then a fumble, and the Patriots couldn't do anything with it. And they went into the locker room with a very misleading 7-3 lead.

I was also surprised by how inaccurate Brady was. That seemed to be the theme of the second half. Other than the Giants' front four doing whatever they felt like defensively, there were a lot of mistakes. I know the defensive pressure causes those mistakes, but that had been the calling card of this offense. The ability to handle a pass rush and make big plays out of it just never happened for this team, and was ultimately their downfall.

The curious decision to go for a 4th and 13(I think it was 13 - it was definitely double digits) instead of a long, but makeable field goal when you lose by 3 is another case of hindsight coaching, but was a weird decision even for Belichick. So, I'm crazy disappointed, but I will in no way discredit the Giants by saying that the Patriots lost the game rather than the Giants winning. The Giants definintely won the game. I will stop short of Mike and Mike's assertion this morning that the Patriots had the collective rears handed to them, but the Giants did win and congratulations to them for that.

The only positives that I can take from this game, are:
1. The team that took out the Cowboys won the Super Bowl (A very very very small moral victory)
2. Now, I don't have to hear anything about the Championship being "tainted".
3. Maybe now someone will finally stop leaking parade routes...

Sunday, February 3, 2008


Well, the Giants won. I guess I'm happy. I mean I was rooting for them half-heartedly. No, make that about a quarter-heartedly. I mean, it's sorta like asking would I rather drown or burn to death. Either way I loose.

The thing that really ticks me off is that it could have been the Cowboys. It's should have been the Cowboys. I mean, this was how I drew it up after New England beat the Cowboys earlier in the season. The Pats go undefeated until the Super Bowl and then they lose. Except that the Giants took the place of the Cowboys as the upset super bowl victor. It ought to leave a bad taste in every Cowboys fan.

The window for winning championships for most teams these days is small. That's why the Mavs should still feel sick about 2006. It was right there in their hands and they vomited all over themselves. Now the question is are they good enough to win this year? There's a long way to go, but it's not looking good.

But back the Cowboys: give credit to the GIants. They got hot and rode a really strong defense to the Super Bowl. (By the way, I can't believe Eli won the MVP. I mean, the defense held the Pats to 14 points!) It was the defense that beat the Cowboys. They wouldn't allow them to do anything in the second half when the Cowboy defense stiffened. The only touchdown the GIants scored in the second half was on a short field. But the difference was that when the Cowboys got into the red zone, they had to settle for field goal, while the GIants scored a touchdown.

There is reason to be optimistic about the Cowboys next year. But they had a chance this year and let it get away. But bottom line is this: I will not believe in the Cowboys until the playoffs. Because everything good that happens next year in the regular season won't mean jack squat. It is officially Super Bowl of bust.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Sometimes I hate being right

Last April, when the NFL schedule was released, I predicted a 13-3 season for the Boys. OK, so I didn't specifically nail two of the losses--sue me. Thanks to the fact that most of our low traffic consists of Cowboys fans, that flew by largely uncontested. Not so on Armchair GM, where I was accused of making a meaningless prediction in April and smoking up with Michael Irvin. But I argued that the schedule was ridiculously easy and that they had every chance of losing their first playoff game anyway. So I was vindicated in the end.

And vindication has never felt so empty.

Does this feel at all familiar to anyone else from Dallas? Let's see: high-profile team dominates the regular season, setting a franchise record, only to humbly bow out early in the playoffs. Where have I heard that before?

So where do we go from here? I don't mind telling you that I already predicted that, too. Statistically, the defense was improved, but they gave up big plays at all the wrong times. Hopefully, Dave Campo can get that secondary to finally clamp down and play like the Pro Bowlers that three(!) of them are. I'm glad Jerry talked Jason Garrett into hanging around, but he has got to do something about the running game. It was just like the defense: if you look at the stats, they were pretty good. But when it really needed to, this team could not run the ball. A high flying passing game will lead SportsCenter and attract bimbo girlfriends, but this team needs to be able to pound the ball when the game is on the line. Special teams continued to lose field position, too. With Campo already on board and Capers mulling an offer, maybe we could add one more former head coach to the staff: Jimmy Johnson. He always stressed the importance of special teams. Quick, someone go sink Three Rings and pass a rumor that Jerry sold the team.

Just like the Mavs, the Cowboys are going to have a long off season to think about the what-ifs. But it is no secret what they have to do: everyone knows that defense and a running game win championships. Get it done, Boys.