Sunday, April 27, 2008

Let the season begin...

There's nothing like good draft picks that helps you forget that, despite their game 3 reprieve, the Mavs' season is perhaps the biggest debacle in the NBA this year.

Oh yes, the Stars don't hurt either.

So for those of you are have been following, here are the notable Cowboys off season moves thus far:

  • Let an underachieving RB Julius Jones go to Seattle and spare it up there (The Julius Jones experiment ran its course and just leaves everyone wondering exactly why his first two years in this league were so dynamic and his last two years were so underwhelming-- either way, he needed to go for a lot of reasons).
  • Traded NT Jason Ferguson, NT Remi Ayodele, and TE Anthony Fasano for draft picks (none of which dramatically impact the production of the team).
  • Signed veteran MLB Zach Thomas in free agency ("veteran" is another word for "old" but he can still play productively and they're so deep at that position anyway they're not asking him to shoulder the load, just be a role player-- and at only 1-2 mil a year, it can only make the defense better).
  • Signed CB Adam "Pac-Man" Jones--a top 5 cornerback--at a fire-sale of a price because he can't seem to stay out of trouble (Dallas already has one of the best tandem of corners in the league in Terrance Newman and Anthony Henry, adding Pac-Man Jones should really scare opposing quarterbacks, and adds a big-play threat in their punt return game).
  • Resigned OT Flozsell Adams, and tendered RB Marion Barber and DE Chris Canty for another year (getting a deal done with F. Adams was HUGE-- just ask Tony Romo who doesn't even know Osi Umenyiora suits up when Dallas plays the Giants; M. Barber is a beast who should be a top 5 back in the league this year, and C. Canty's defensive pressure up the middle is EXACTLY what our D-Line needs when DeMarcus Ware gets double teamed with regularity).

Already, Dallas' off season moves look pretty good, right?

Now the draft in order of their being picked:

  • Felix Jones RB (a top 5 RB prospect in the draft, fills the hole at RB that Julius Jones left and adds big-play ability with his speed as complimentary to M. Barber, and should be an effective kickoff returner as well).
  • Mike Jenkins CB (perhaps the best cornerback available in the draft which now makes us 4 deep at that position with players any of whom who could easily be any other team's #1 corner--talk about scary good--this also gives us insurance against Pac Man Jones deciding to get involved in another shooting).
  • Martellus Bennett TE (perhaps the best TE available in the draft, his athletic ability is on par with Antonio Gates and he was underutilized in Texas A&M's run heavy offense which means you know he can block, which should free up Jason Witten into more receiving opportunities).
  • Tashard Choice RB (could be a late-round gem; fills the hole left by RB Tyson Thompson's departure, and should be a very capable 20-25 carry a game RB, should anyone get injured).
  • Orlando Scandrick CB (ok, now my comments on how good and deep the Cowboys are at CB are just getting redundant, and if O. Scandrick is a late-round gem, just get the parade route ready).
  • Erik Walden DE (what if this player turns out to be just slightly capable of rushing the passer? We'd be stocked with 4 solid pass rushing threats? Are you kidding me? Count 'em up, is there a more valuable pass rusher in the league than DeMarcus Ware? Wait, lets not forget how good Greg Ellis is on the other side-- and then there's the very talented 1st round pick from last year's draft, Anthony Spencer-- like I said, PARADE ROUTE- PLAN IT!).

My thoughts on the Adam "Pac Man" Jones trade:

Is there seriously anyone actually objecting to this? Those must be the same people who said they were done with the Cowboys when Jerry Jones picked up Terrell Owens.

How are all of those feet tasting these days?

Is anyone actually naive enough to think that most NFL Players don't visit Strip Clubs with regularity? Strip Clubbing is nearly a right of passage in the NFL. Now, not all NFL players are involved in Strip Club shootings, but Pac Man wasn't even charged with a crime related to that incident. And for only a 4th round pick and a bargain-basement contract? It's a no-brainer, do the deal, hug it out, bitch.

What was that you said? It's gonna be a distraction? More of a distraction than popcorn-boy Owens and YokoRomo? Hardly. In fact, compared to the perpetual circuses surrounding Jerry Jones, Tony Romo, and Terrell Ownes, don't be surprised if Pac Man Jones just fades into the background (like Tank Johnson did). And if he brandishes a gun at Baby Dolls, no big deal. We drafted two CBs-- one of which was probably the best in the draft and should be NFL ready, and basically lost nothing on Pac Man.

So, let me get this straight, the Cowboys won 13 games last year and basically beat everyone in the NFL that was any good except the New England Patriots. They did so with only two capable corners, both of whom were hurt at various points throughout the year, and their 2nd best receiver hurt the entire year, Terry Glenn.

So, all things considered, this is what Dallas Cowboy fans have to look forward to this up coming season:

  • A secondary that is healthy and legitimately 4 deep (means more man-to-man coverage, which means Roy Williams will be in pass coverage less--thank god--which means opportunities for more blitzing and more quarterback pressure).
  • A pass rush that is legitimately 4 deep (means teams will have to do more than just double team DeMarcus Ware, and we all know that QB pressure equals turnovers, especially when your secondary is strong to quite strong, and turnovers equal wins).
  • A healthy Terry Glenn and improving WRs Sam Hurd and Miles Austin (who had over 1,000 yards receiving his last healthy year).
  • An upgrade and big-play threat in the running game (Felix Jones will most undeniably be better than Julius Jones, and there's no reason to think Marion Barber won't be anything but better either).
  • A Tony Romo in only his 2nd full season as a starting QB (There's no reason to think Tony Romo won't be anything but better even though he would have been last seasons' league MVP if it were not for Tom Brady having the best year of any QB in NFL history).
  • An upgrade in TE from Anthony Fasano to Martellus Bennett (Don't underestimate this move, Tony Romo as the uncanny ability throw the ball to everyone).
  • Special teams upgrades with the return capabilities of Felix Jones and Pac Man Jones.
  • Did I mention the Cowboys won 13 games last year without these upgrades?

So, bring on the mini-camps, training camps, and preseason--hell, bring on the playoffs! Playoffs? PLAYOFFS!?!? That's right, book it.

It's good to know that at least one general manager in the city of Dallas isn't completely bereft of intelligence. There's nothing like a good Cowboy draft to make me think, Mavs-who?

Now, if we can just get Flozsell Adams to stop his highly untimely false-starts... but maybe now I'm just being greedy...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Stick a fork in 'em, they're done.

In the likings of Jeff Albertson, "Worst playoff performance ever."

Mavs lose game 2 to the Hornets 127-103, fall 0-2 in playoff series. 

Josh Howard: 3 of 10, 10 points
Jerry Stackhouse: 4 of 10, 9 points
Jason Kidd: 3 of 10, 4 assists, 7 points
Erick Dampier: 3 of 6, 6 points

A big thank you to:
Brandon Bass: 5 of 5, 9 of 9 from the stripe, 19 points

And mediocre performances from: 
Dirk Nowitzki: 7 of 11, 27 points (a decent total but seemed to disappear) 
Jason Terry: 5 of 8, 16 points

There's got to be some "cutesie" pun in here having something to do with its not supposed to be that hard to score in New Orleans.

The Mavs, picking up exactly where they left off in game 1, gave up 39 points in the first quarter, 99 points in 3 quarters, and were at no point after tipoff in serious contention in this game. 

In the 4th quarter, after TNT decided that the Magic-Raptors game was better watching, a few things came to mind:
  • Warm up the bus.
  • I hope the beads were pretty.
  • Go STARS!
  • In Romo we trust.
  • The Cowboys draft is this saturday.
Well, at least the Mavs still have a young defensively minded and incredibly fast point guard-- oh wait, they don't. Ok, at least they still have their young, improving, defensive back up center-- oh wait, we don't. At least they still have their draft picks this year and in 2010-- oh wait, they don't have those either. At least they didn't mortgage their entire future on an old, past-his-prime, point guard, who can't score, and doesn't seem to make anybody better, so that they could win this season-- oh wait, that's exactly what they did do.  

There's still two games to go, but for the next one, I'm bringing the K-Y Jelly. 
And since I'm grinding my gears, here's another tid bit:

Anyone remember Texas Rangers hallowed pitching prospect John Danks who apparently couldn't pitch? 

This season he is 2-1. In his last two games, he has pitched 14.2 innings, given up 8 hits, 2 walks, pitched 12 strikeouts, and given up ZERO RUNS.

So, with a pitcher that strong and young, we must have really gotten a good trade for him right? Oh wait- we got NOTHING. Yes, nobody from the Danks trade is on the active Texas Ranger roster. 

Has anyone started a fire Jon Daniels site yet? 

Friday, April 11, 2008

Good Friday

Friday was a good day to wake up as sports fan in the city of Dallas. There was that something that seemed to linger in the air... something that was vaguely familiar yet hadn't really been around since last November when Tony Romo threw 4 touchdown passes in the Cowboys 37 to 27 win over Green Bay. I suppose you could call it what you want, but whatever you call it, it's back and it's unmistakable--I call it hope.

I call it hope because in one night we simultaneously celebrated the 40th birthday of both Dirk Nowitzki and Marty Turco (for those of you who don't catch the Mike Gundy reference), and for the first time in I don't know how many years, the Texas Rangers have a winning record (or did when I originally drafted this).

No Josh Howard? No problem. Dirk Nowitzki's 34 points will the Mavs to victory over the Utah Jazz and their 3rd win in their last 4 games against teams with a winning record. But the box score aside, did anyone else get the feeling that Dirk at some point decided that he just wasn't going to lose? At least not that game, not that day. And if you had been skeptical of Dirk's resolve up to now, his game-winning 3 pointer with 2 seconds left on the clock (and no timeouts) which hit nothing but the bottom of the net, convinced you. Say what you want about the Maverick's problems this year and in years past, Dirk's not part of them and now he's anything but soft.

Marty Turco's 23 save shut-out leads the Stars to their first game 1 victory in a playoff series since 2001. For the first time, in a LONG time, the Stars seemed liked they had any interest whatsoever in winning a playoff game. The Stars looked more hungry, more youthful, more athletic, and more desirous than the defending cup champion Anaheim Ducks. The Stars finally decided that defense wins championships and Marty Turco lead the way. And if you had been skeptical of Marty's resolve till now, his save of a point blank Todd Marchant slapshot in the 3rd period, when the Stars were already up 4-0, which was created off a inexcusably bad turnover right in front of his goal, convinced you. Turco decided he wasn't losing that game, not that day. Say what you want about the Stars' problems this year and in years past but Marty Turco has now pitched shut-outs in 4 of his last 8 playoff games--he's not part of them.

Lets forget for the moment that in the past two years, the Rangers have traded Alfonso Soriano, Chris Young, Adrian Gonzalez, Francisco Cordero and Mark Teixeira and did not have a single player on their opening day 25-man roster to show for it. Lets forget that Texas seems to be the place where good pitching goes to die, so the general manager seems to have let that ship sail. Lets even forget, in the spirit of things, that the Rangers have been in a "rebuilding" year since 1999. The Texas Rangers are above .500 for the first time in a long time--or were when I initially wrote this, but are at .500 now and that's still good.

Will the Mavericks actually compete in the playoffs this year? Will the Stars actually make it out of the first round? That is yet to be seen and history is against them. But credit is deserved for two teams and two players that decided that day, that they weren't going to lose at least not that day and in doing so gave this sports fan hope.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Mavs vs. Warriors: Mavs Live to Fight Another Day

Dirk Nowitzki cowboys up and the Mavs cough up whatever it was they choked on in the 2nd half of last Sundays "must win" game against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena. 

Although seeing the reigning MVP back in a jersey and sneakers is certainly better than seeing him in a suit and a walking boot, he shot a mediocre 7 of 17 from the floor which seemed to indicate that he was either rusty, or still very much injured (which is more likely and would therefore make his appearance all the more ballsy). Nevertheless, Dirk willed his team to a victory, and perhaps a playoff seed, finishing with a decent total of 18 points in only 27 minutes of playing time, including a clutch 3 pointer in the middle of a 14-2 Mavs scoring run in the 4th quarter. 

Um... Yes, you did hear me correctly, I did mean to say a 14-2 Mavs scoring run in the 4th quarter. Which should bring you to the real reason how the Mavs found a way to take a 1 game lead on the Golden State Warriors and a 2 game lead on the Denver Nuggets--DEFENSE. Yes, that would be the defense that seemed to have been traded away to the New Jersey Nets with Devin Harris because it really hasn't shown up since. 

Now, I'm not saying that Jason Kidd's 17 assists (and wow, even 5 points), Josh Howard's 28 points (great performance, but still not showing up in the 4th quarter), and Jason Terry's 31 points (where has this been hiding all year, Jason?) weren't absolutely necessary, but everybody who has watched the Mavs this year knows that jump shots that rain in the 1st half go dry in the 2nd. What you can't win without is defense. Yes, defense. 

The Mavs held the Warriors to only 86 points and took the ball away 15 times. But more importantly, for the first time in a long time, the Mavs decided that no matter what, tonight's Sports Center wasn't going to be filled with Baron Davis highlights, holding him to only 20 points with 6 turnovers, and no 3 pointers--and get this--only 1 for 5 from the floor in the 2nd half which included allowing him only one shot in the 4th quarter--which he missed! 

Yes... You heard that right too, the Mavs held Baron Davis to NO 3's and NO made shots from the floor in the 4th quarter! Meaning, the Mavs won this game the same way they rolled through the Western Conference in both the '05-'06 season (except the finals--but we're not gonna go there) and the '06-'07 season (except round one of the playoffs--but we're not going there either), by closing out games in the 4th quarter with defense. 

But like every other Mavs fan, I'm left looking at the remaining schedule and wondering, having watched this team play so much poor basketball this year, and the owner mortgage the future for old man river and a 12-10 record since (and if you want to be really underwhelmed check out the combined win-loss record of those teams they beat), I wonder what does this win even mean? And furthermore, would it have been better if the Mavs had lost this game, increasing their chances to miss the playoffs, returning the draft pick that was so easily treated as unimportant, causing the owner to save face, and giving the franchise and its fans some hope for the future? 

Well, that's a topic for another blog.... Whatever this win means and doesn't mean will be determined in due time, but for now, the Mavs play defense, Dirk cowboys up, Terry and Howard brought their A-game, Kidd does what he was brought here to do, and the Mavs live to fight another day....