DONUT 1 : I'll confess to thinking a Dirk-less Dallas Mavericks wouldn't suck this much.
I was wrong.
On the bright side, I think I know why.
Last week in this space I rambled on about chemistry. I couldn't even tell you what it was! But I can point at it when I see it. Looky over there! See Dirk on the court? That's chemistry. It's not just having a sweet shot. It's about forging the ability to succeed together as a team. I knew the Mavs' offensive production would suffer without Dirk, but I had no idea that the chemistry of the team would go down the tube like that. One of the biggest clues to the magnitude of Dirk Nowitzki's presence is how much the defense suffers without him. Yeah, I said it...defense.
Don't let anyone give you crap about the locker room. Chemistry is NOT about that. Yes, it's nice if you all get along, but locker rooms don't win championships. I guarantee you when the Mavs talked about chemistry in December they enjoyed a locker room of guys that get along WHILE THEY WIN.
When the Mavs talk about chemistry in January it's because they remember December.
Oh, and speaking of talking, here's the Mavs-Spurs Quoteboard from last night.
DONUT 2: LeBron James is the NBA's Lady Gaga.
Unless he's playing, James is never interesting and painfully unimportant.
Here we have what I bet is a barely-educated young man given a national television audience for an hour to agonize between job offers. When he makes his current employer angry for treating him so ungratefully it's the employer who gets the shoddy treatment. Then the kid's immature pot shots at his former employer and all the people who supported him make national news.
Really painful stuff to see.
LeBron James has enormous athletic talent. He's capable of great cleverness on the court. As overwhelming as his raw gifts are, his antics on and off the court overshadow him.
Let's remember these are kids. 26 is in my rear-view mirror but I remember it. It takes time to grow up.
Fish seems to spend more than a few Donuts checking out LeBron, which I get. Me? I hope LeBron stays healthy until his head catches up to his body, and he finds out it's so much more fun to be a producer -- a powerful influence, a forceful achiever.
If you're merely a sensation, you're just Lady Gaga.
DONUT 3 : I forgot to mention Caron Butler last week. Here's a discussion thread hoping for Caron in a trade from Washington. The fans want his swagger, his cockiness, his consistency as a swingman scorer.
Yeah, me, too...except this was back in 2008 and these were Toronto Raptor fans. It mirrored my desire to have Butler in Dallas. Lo and behold, he joined the team last year. Immediately a 13-game winning streak. Then the wheels sort of fall off, and this year it doesn't start so well for him.
In my early-season assessment of the team -- written after the Mavs had just suffered an embarrassing loss to the Chicago Bulls -- Caron Butler was the biggest failing. As a marquee starting SG he should provide consistent production at both ends of the floor. Maybe Carlisle was patient with Butler but I wasn't. As much as I lusted after him before the Mavs got him in February, I was sorely disappointed in November.
Then it all turned around. One of the biggest Mavericks achievements during the month of December was the play of Caron Butler. He showed the consistency on offense and defense he needed to show. He wasn't even averaging 20 points per game, but he was doing what I thought should happen: repetitively accomplishing certain tasks that are necessary for the team. Then the bizarre happened: Dirk goes out against OKC, then Butler injures himself by colliding with thin air in a game against Milwaukee.
I swear, Dirk Nowitzki was Caron's mojo, as well as everyone else's mojo. Damn.
Mojo was certainly absent last night in San Antonio, but the Premium coverage of the game by Fish and MDug – complete with video featuring Ro Blackman and Fish, a story about a Mavs-Spurs supper that nobody knows about, and all the analysis, quotes and stats – is mojoriffic. Go get it!
DONUT 4 : Hey, let's jump over to the NF of L. I love upsets. They're fundamentally necessary to demonstrate that life is unpredictable. The upset can upset the apple cart at places like the Super Bowl betting from BetUS . We see the Seahawks destroy the Saints (yeah, face it, they did), and the Packers didn't really have as much trouble against the Eagles as the final score showed. The games were not huge mismatches but at the end of the day you look at your TV screen and think, "Dang, both of these teams out in the first round?"
I'm hoping the Jets beat the Patriots for the same reason. Don't get me wrong. I'm a big fan of Tom Brady and Tom Brady's Flowing Locks of Hair. It's bad enough being beaten in the Super Bowl after an undefeated season by... Eli Manning. ELI MANNING?! Where's the justice in that? Not even Tom Brady deserved that.
Still, here's hoping Mark Sanchez does what is probably deemed impossible.
DONUT 5 : While we're talking Jets/Patriots, does anyone else yawn at the news that Cromartie thinks Brady is an a-hole?
This happens as a matter of ritual in pro wrestling. Who's the lunkhead acting like this is some sort of issue in pro football? I mean, they're both fake, right?
DONUT 6 : 2006 Rose Bowl. Here's Matt Leinart, there's Vince Young. Two QB studs battling it out. Great game!
Where are they now? Young doesn't play for the Tennessee Titans. Leinart doesn't play for the Houston Texans. Tim Tebow, the Sarah Palin of NFL quarterbacks, does, however, play for the Denver Broncos. (Not that there's anything wrong with it.) Fact is, you never know how things work out.
So I'm thinking about Cam Newton, unable to convince myself he's any better than Vince Young or Matt Leinart (or Tim Tebow). The higher they're drafted, the more skeptical I am. I want them to do well. In five years let's see what changed. There were those who thought John Elway (a No. 1 draft pick) would never win a Super Bowl. Then he capped his 15th and 16th year in the league with NFL titles.
Patience. You never know.
DONUT 7 : In baseball you need 500 at-bats to win a batting title. In June of 2007, Chipper Jones of the Atlanta Braves was batting well over .400. If he didn't play past June you couldn't say Chipper Jones was a .400 hitter because he wouldn't meet the requirements.
Yet a story circulates that Roddy Beaubois is a 50/40/80 player (field goal percentage, 3-point percentage, free-throw percentage). ... actually, it didn't CIRCULATE; this was a DB.com discovery by our own Kammrath, a one-man Elias Sports Bureau around here.
Roddy only appeared in 56 games and only 12 minutes per game. Unlike a batting title there is no definitive minimum requirement for this "achievement." In my opinion – and with respect to Mr. Kammrath -- it's trumped up merely because Beaubois is the only rookie to end a season with that stat. As an achievement, it's devoid of any meaning whatever. What it is, is a campaign promise. I'll leave the punch line to you.
DONUT 8 : What do Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood do today that would not be made instantaneously better if they combined for at least 20 points per 48 minutes? Is that really too much to ask? ("Hey, T.Y., you do 10 and I'll do 10." "No problem, Big Wood. You nail the hook, I'll hit the jumper.")
Why aren't they able to shoulder some responsibility on offense?
Zydrunas Ilgauskas of the Miami Heat only averages 5 points a game this year. But he only plays 18 minutes a game and has Those Other Three Guys taking all the shots. His career average is 13.3 and we know in part it's because if he has the ball anywhere out to 20 feet or so you know he's a threat. He will shoot. He makes those shots. We're not talking Shaq or Dwight or even (snicker) Yao. Just lowly ole Zydrunas. When Chandler or Haywood has the ball you think, he won't shoot! Pitiful.
How bad is it? The Mavericks are 2-6 without Dirk Nowitzki and it ain't because they don't have good shooters. It's because there are at most three players on the floor at any time that make the other coach think, "Hey, we better guard that guy." They just have to block out Chandler or Haywood when someone else shoots. Forget about blaming Terry and Kidd and Barea et al. They're doing all they can do, but the Mavs will pay dearly for having no interior offense and nothing to increase their inside-out game.
The Mavericks are one-dimensional without Dirk. (Yes, Dirk is that good.)
by the way, great note by reader Wiscott with Fish in the FOX Chat last night about the last time Dallas lost six in a row: Dirk's rookie year in 1999. We're up to four now. Let's stop counting.
DONUT 9 : You know what's wonderful about this time of year? No one's talking about Tiger Woods.
DONUT 10 : Oh, and while we're at it, after the Super Bowl there's only basketball...and...and...hockey. Whoa. They don't call it "The Dead of Winter'' for nothing. Hey, Ron Washington, when do pitchers and catchers report?
DONUT 11 : Usually, I think Randy Galloway can hardly be taken seriously. Fun, though!
Anyway, I seldom think he takes a position that is not merely to cause some strong listener reaction. But I totally agree with him that Rangers fans may be in for a shock if they expect last year to translate into a stellar 2011 season if the Rangers pay so much attention to batting and so little attention to pitching. Didn't they learn from their first four decades?
DONUT 12: Our man Fish has TV duty tonight. Mavs at Memphis, maybe Dirk, but definitely Fish, Ro Blackman, Mark Followill and Bob Ortegel. ... all starting at 6:30.
Do us ol' DB.commers proud on TV, Fish!