You Just Thought the West was Tough
Did you see the NBA Lottery?
Neither did I. Watching it is the biggest kick in the arse. But I saw the results. And the results weren't pretty.
No, I'm not talking about how Boston and Philadelphia got the shaft in the lottery. After all, I'm not from the East coast so I don't the argument that the NBA NEEDS Boston, Philly, and NY to be good in order to survive. Those teams have history and that's good. But that's it. The NBA seems to being mighty well with the elite teams they have now. Though, if King James wasn't still battling they might be in trouble.
Actually, I'm talking about how Portland and Seattle, two Western Conference teams, hit the lottery and are in position to draft Greg Oden and Kevin Durant. Add in the fact Jermaine O'Neal is like going to LA, and the West just got a whole lot tougher.
And the Mavericks better see this as a challenge. That doesn't mean they should necessarily blow up their roster. After all, they are a year removed from a finals berth. But they must be of one mind in understanding, if they don't address glaring deficiencies, they could fall back in the pack. If that means trading for Portland's third wheel Zah Randolph, then so be it.
Randolph averaged 23 points and 10 rebounds this season and has a well above average post-up game and a perimeter shot to respect. His presence could free up Dirk Nowtizki to do what he does best. He comes with baggage, but so did Rasheed Wallace and Detroit would not have won a title without him. And you tend to think Avery Johnson could mold him into a solid defender.
The good news is the Mavs and Trailblazers are already talking. Now, we'll see if they get a deal done.
Labels: Dallas Mavericks, Dirk Nowitzki, Zach Randolph
Two Western Conference game ones have made my point about the Mavericks. Two running teams (Phoenix and Golden State) faced off against two teams that like to slow things down in the half court (San Antonio and Utah).
It's true that against a running team you have to be able to run with them. At the same time, you have to be able to force your style on the opponent at key moments. That's what the point guards (Tony Parker and Deron Williams) and the power forwards (Tim Duncan and Carlos Boozer) enabled the game one winners to do.
Now its just one game but it makes these series interesting to watch as we seek to make the Mavericks a championship team. Until then, a couple of names to consider:
Chauncey Billups- he is one of the best point guards in the league and could opt out of the final year of his contract in Detroit to pursue big money.
Anderson Varejo- Not sure if he'll provide the offensive punch down low, though he's shown flashes in Cleveland. Nonetheless, he provides grit both on the boards and on defense and has the athleticism to hang with these running teams.
Labels: anderson varejo, chauncey billups, Dallas Mavericks
What we saw the last two weeks was monumnetal but not in the way we imagined. The Dallas Mavericks were absolutely embarassed by the eight-seeded Golden State Warriors in six games and join us in watching the NBA Playoffs from home. And it must be made clear, this embarrasment was much bigger than the NBA Finals collapse of last season.
Yet, these two failures highlighted common weaknesses the Mavs must address in the offseason if they want to take the next step. Cuban says they won't panic and blow up the roster but he better listen to Coach Avery Johnson and realize changes need to be made to this squad if they are to achieve their goals. Here's what I suggest:
1) Add a power post-player- The Mavs need that guy who will draw attention to the paint and away from their jump shooters, since they want to settle for jumpers rather than attack the basket. It's time we stop waiting for Dirk Nowitzki to be that guy. He may be seven feet but he is not a post player. He's great at what he does and can create mismatches but let someone else take the pressure off Dirk so he can focus on raining in jumpers.
Kevin Willis says DeSagana Diop is gaining confidence on the offensive end and, by adding strength in the offseason, will become a force. He hasn't shown enough, as of yet, to throw all your eggs in his basket though. And Pops Mensah-Bonsu has potential but he may be undersized to reign in the paint. So seek outside help to go inside.
2) Get a TRUE point guard. Stop comparing Isaiah Thomas to Jason Terry. Thomas may suck as a front office wonk, but he had heart and skill Terry does not. If point is where you want him to play, he's best suited as a backup bringing points off the bench. The Mavs need to either put the ball in Devin Harris' hands full time and find out if he can do the job, while hoping his jumpshot continues to improve or get a new starting point guard in Dallas. As for Terry, you'll probably need to trade him.
3) Get a mentally tough leader- As I said before, Dirk is great. But let's stop trying to make him something he's not. He's not Michael Jordan or Dwayne Wade or Steve Nash for that matter. He's shown some clutch tendencies but can be taken out of his game and lose confidence. I'd compare him to Scottie Pippen who was a great number two but wilted when the team was on his shoulders. That doesn't mean you need the next Michael Jordan. It just means you need that guy who refuses to fold.
Donnie Nelson, I've done you're homework for you. Now put what we've learned to work. We'll talk again in April.
Labels: Dallas Mavericks, Dirk Nowitzki, jason terry
Interesting questioning after this weekend in which the Rangers swept Toronto. It was their first sweep of the season. And the last five days have seen quality pitching that deserved my attention after my declaration of frustration last week.
Mike Wood 6.1 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K (ND, 0-0)
Robinson Tejeda 6.1 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, BB, 6 K (L, 3-2)
Brandon McCarthy 6 IP, 2 H, ER, 4 BB, K (W, 2-4)
Vicente Padilla 7 IP, 6 H, ER, BB, 3 K (W, 1-4)
Kameron Loe 6.2 IP, 3 H, ER, BB, 6 K (ND, 1-2)
Cumulative ERA: 2.23
Five Starters. Five better than quality starts. That deserves recognition. Now, it's not exactly the 1990's Braves or Yankees, so we take what we can get with this team. And, the way this season started, you must take notice when Padilla and McCarthy post victories. But don't get too excited about Wood. He had a good spring and answered that by performing in the Rangers Oklahoma City rotation. Nonetheless, he is an journeyman and the chances of him being the next Chris Carpenter are slim. And it was good to see Loe respond on Sunday, but expect some ups and downs and consider the verdict out as he is still approaching thirty starts in his career.
The bullpen hasn't been quite as sharp as it was in April, but they've been solid. One closer (Eric Gagne) goes on the disabled list and the next (Akinori Otsuka) steps in. It would just be nice to see Otsuka get the Yankees out at least once. Now, Wes Littleton and and Frankie Francisco are back so the bullpen should get even better.
It appears Michael Young and Mark Teixiera are back from the April dead and Hank Blalock and Brad Wilkerson have actually shown some life so the offense may be, at least, more productive. And Matt Kata has emerged as the newest Rudy Jaramillo disciple while Jerry Hairston, Jr., continues to demonstrate what he learned last season adding some depth. But this lineup still has holes so don't expect them to carry the team.
We have seen some positive things this weekend, but I'd temper any excitement for this season. The Rangers need to commit to the three youngsters in the rotation and take their lumps while hoping Kevin Millwood and Padilla pitch like the veterans they are. In the meantime, I'd trade Sammy Sosa when the deal is right. Either he continues to hit the long ball and a contender gives you prospects, or his continued struggles against offspeed pitches are finally fully exposed and you get what you can, ala Phil Nevin for Hairston, Jr.
Then, you hope Eric Hurley continues to make a move toward being a major league starter, and you don't trade you're top left handed prospect for anyone. (Do you hear me Jon Daniels?) You also hope Equiziel Astacio continues to pitch well as a starter in AAA. Finally, you rework your outfield in the offseason, even if it means you go from 20th to top 10 in payroll. (And, Tom Hicks, don't feed us that business about still paying A-Rod) And you prepare to make a run at next year, unless this team proves me wrong and makes a run at the playoffs this year.
With that, I stand by my previous blog. This team must prove much more to earn regular coverage, but we'll track our hometown team and jump in when the time is right.
Labels: Texas Rangers
For those that enjoy portents of doom, please take a moment to survey the great players arrayed at the tops of this page. Now, ponder the fates of the Dallas teams this season.
First, the infamous Romo
bobble that cost the Cowboys their first playoff win since 1996. What this does to the burgeoning young quarterback's psyche is anyone's
guess going into the 2007 season.
The Dallas Stars joined the fray with their ignominious
exit in the first round series against the Vancouver Canucks
. Goalie Marty Turco
must unfortunately be PERFECT in order to advance the Stars to the Cup finals.
With their spectacular collapse in the first round, the Mavericks joined their Dallas team brethren in first round playoff exits. The Mavs
made it into the history books as the first number one seeded team to lose to the number eight seat, the Golden State Warriors, in the seven game series format. Nice.
And last, as Powerhouser
J.D. so astutely points out, the Texas Rangers are bad. Kansas City Royals bad. Their performance against the Yankees last week marks a new low in horrendous defense and hitting ineptitude.
As for the Rangers, this led me to ponder a few things. I get tired of hearing Cubs fans whine as much as the next sports fan about their "Lovable Losers" team. The Rangers, even in their previous incarnation as the Washington Senators, are ALSO historically bad. Now, even though the Cubs have over 100 years of history compared to the Rangers 45 years, we can still take a look. Let's compare:Chicago Cubs (1902-present)
Number of postseason
appearances (series) : 14
Number of National League Championships: 10 (last one in 1945)
Last appearance in postseason: 2003Washington Senators (1961-1971)
Number of winning seasons: 1
Number of postseasons appearances: ZEROTexas Rangers (1972-present)
Number of postseason appearances: 3
Number of American League Championships
Last appearance in postseason: 1999
Why are the Rangers so bad? I point to Dubya
, Tom Hicks, John Hart, and Jon Daniels. The Cubs may have their goat, but we have the worst owners and General Managers in baseball history.
"Maybe."--Tom Hicks, Dec. 12, 2000, when asked if he overpaid for the services of Shortstop Alex Rodriguez. To date, Tom Hicks is still paying parts of Rodriguez's salary to play for the Yankees.
Labels: Cowboys, Dallas Stars, Mavericks, Rangers, Senators
Jones Passed on the Passer
Decisions made last Saturday by Jerry Jones parallel recent Dallas Cowboys draft days. None more than trading down instead of taking a highly rated offensive player.
You saw what happened. Notre Dame alum Brady Quinn slid inexplicably to the Cowboys at pick 22. A golden opportunity, right? Should Tony Romo, with all his seven NFL starts, falter, the Cowboys have a plan B. Except the Cowboys went with plan C. They traded out of that slot to pick up what should be a high first round pick in next year's draft.
Perhaps you recall three years ago. Dallas was in desperate need of a running back. And a dream come true presented itself. The Cowboys had their pick as all the top backs slide to them. Stephen Jackson, Kevin Jones, Chris Perry. The Cowboys has Julius Jones rated just below the top three.
Instead of playing it straight and taking the best player available, the Cowboys traded down, obtained a second first round pick the following year, and settled for Julius Jones. So far, he hasn't filled the backfield void.
You can review the other aspects of the move. Kevin Jones and Perry haven't panned out either and the Cowboys did get DeMarcus Ware with the pick they received from the Bills the next year.
But what have now eleven years without an offensive first round pick brought the Cowboys? Nothing. And don't forget that Stephen Jackson has emerged as a premier all-around back in this league. You may say defense wins championships, but I say a dominant offense with a clock-controlling running game makes your defense better by pressuring the opposing offense to answer on every precious possession.
And you cannot underrate the quarterback position. If the Cowboys speak truth when they say Quinn was the eighth player on their draft board (Jackson was rated higher three years ago) you have to take him there.
This is no slight to Tony Romo. I am excited by what he showed last season. But there's no guarantee he maintains that level of performance next year. If he flops, it's sure be nice to have Quinn to turn to late. You think the Lions and Raiders wish they had Matt Leinhart or Jay Cutler?
But apparently Jerry Jones decided Quinn had more value by trading the pick. I disagree. He has more value being on your roster as a safety net. Then, if he can show his potential in the preseason and it turns out you don't need him, you can probably get at least the same if not better draft picks package for a QB that showcased something on a pro field. Instead, we're left hoping the Browns suck on toast next year.
And QB mistakes are lethal. Randy Galloway of the Fort Worth Star Telegram and ESPN Radio's Dallas affiliate reminded us of that today. He pointed to Tom Landry's biography. Specifically, it was the year 1979 and a young QB from Notre Dame fell to the Cowboys in the third round. And the Cowboys loved his talent.
Nonetheless, they already had Roger Staubach and Danny White so they passed. Joe Montana became a 49er, Staubach was forced into retirement by concussions a year later and thus began the collapse of the Landry era in Dallas. Landry said it was the most regrettable football decision he ever made. (didn't mention how he passed on Dan Marino in the first round in 1983)
So, you have to draft the quarterback.
Then there's the parallel of drafting two linemen in the middle rounds. Here's hoping James Marten and Doug Free turn out better than Jacob Rogers and Stephen Peterman. And the late round cornerbacks are surely pegged to replace former late round picks Jacques Reeves and Nate Jones.
But maybe there's hope in a fourth round project who probably would have been drafted earlier if not for an injury that left many wondering if he'd ever being able to play football. No, I'm not talking about Chris Canty who appeared to take step back last season but still shows a ton of upside. This year it was former Washington QB Isaiah Stanbeck who will convert to wide receiver, ala Matt Jones and Antwan Randle-El, if he can comeback from a serious foot injury. I expect he can play if healthy. The NFL consensus is that he can.
So there's a little hope in this draft. But Dallas should have taken the quarterback.
Labels: brady quinn, dallas cowboys, Jerry Jones, tony romo
Very Brief Rangers Report
Well, sometimes you consider what's worth doing. For me, life has been busy, the Mavs may be out of the first round shortly after the Stars bowed out in the first round, and the Rangers have a firm grip a piss poor AL West cellar. I've decided it's not worth updating the Rangers every five days or so.
But maybe I have the heart to report monthly on the thus far failed Ron Washington-Jon Daniels experiment.
There is not one part of the team clicking at this time: offense, defense, bullpen, or starting pitching. The Rangers' all stars Michael Young and Mark Teixiera have posted pitiful first months. The overrated Hank Blalock is sliding into the mediocrity we should expect from him. Veterans Brad Wilkerson and Kenny Lofton have faltered. Young starters Nelson Cruz and Gerald Laird are struggling. The lone positives: potential all star Ian Kinsler and the now ageless Sammy Sosa.
As for the starters, Kevin Millwood and Vicente Padilla have underachieved. Kam Loe and Brandon McCarthy appear overrated. Bright spots? Robinson Tejeda is looks like Jon Daniels' one great trade. Mike Wood made a solid spot start against the Yankees today despite taking the loss.
So take a deep breath and laugh folks. It's all we have.