DONUT 1: The Dallas Mavericks do not employ a "Different Dirk,'' a "Better Dirk'' or a "New Dirk.''
Nowitzki continues to get peppered with questions about how he's changed, how he's tougher, how he's developed, how he's trying to prove something ...
Finally, yesterday, he responded with the appropriate emphasis: "I don't want to please experts. I don't play for anything else. That's really all that's left in my career (is a title).''
The media foolishness will not cease. Here's nut graph of the AP story that this morning is appearing in hundreds and hundreds of newspapers across the country:
In leading the Mavericks to the Western Conference finals for the first time in five seasons, Nowitzki has shown off the latest innovations to his already extensive "toolbox" of skills — a one-legged, step-back jumper that's almost impossible to block ...
Yes, Associated Press. The One-Legged Euro Lean-Back. It's a "latest innovation'' in Dirk's "toolbox.''
Somehow, DallasBasketball.com has been writing about it since, like 2001. But otherwise, dead-on. (UPDATE: Tim MacMahon says he is dubious about the 2001-or-so origin of the One-Legged Euro Lean-Back, thinking it's more of a mid-decade thing. So far, I can't prove that I remember seeing it years before that. I may owe Tim a beer.)
You're just going to have to settle for knowing what you know:
The UberMan is The UberMan. And he always has been.
DONUT 2: I'm going to let some of these bygones be bygones ... maybe by this weekend ... but The 75-Member Staff was huddled around the radio listening to ESPN's Colin Cowherd this week as he explained to us dopes that The Cowardly Bynum's assault on JJB has caused all of us to "overreact'' ... as we forget how common that sort of cheap shot was in the NBA several years ago.
Colin went on to go with the familiar refrain: The NBA is a soft league, etc.
As Reader Steve helps me point out: a) it has NEVER been acceptable in basketball to undercut airborne players. Not in the 80's and not at the Y. NEVER. b) "soft'' accusations are almost never made to the actual faces of the actual athletes. Wonder why? and c) If there WERE rules (unwritten or not) that made such a play as Bynum's acceptable, the airborne player would know it ... and would therefore protect himself from such an assault.
Oh, and if such violence was acceptable? Dallas would've sent Brian Cardinal into the game and he would've punched Kobe Bryant in the face.
But that's not basketball. Heck, that's not even football.
We know this sort of discussion is the fuel of the talk show, but we're still disappointed because we assume Colin Cowherd's intelligence runs deeper 'n a fryin' pan.
DONUT 3: Have you met "The German Moses''?
DONUT 4: Rest vs. Rust.
The question posed to Carlisle was a simple one regarding his thoughts on the Oklahoma City-Memphis series that will produce a Western Conference Finals foe for the Mavs: "How are you watching these games?''
Meaning, is the entertaining series "entertainment to fill a week of relative inaction for Dallas? Or is each minute spent as a scouting opportunity of a future foe?
Carlisle's cornball answer maybe speaks to the looseness of his club as it sits with a couple of advantages-in-wait.
So, how is he watching these games? "On TV!'' Slick Rick responded.
DONUT 5: Oklahoma City-Memphis is a series highlighted by the Thunder's 133-123 triple-OT win in Memphis on Monday. Yes, the Mavs coaches and players are watching that series, waiting for a winner to emerge so it can meet Dallas in a WCF that will begin in North Texas at the American Airlines Center on either Sunday or Tuesday.
Dirk Nowitzki and others are boning up, and The UberMan even offers a scouting report of sorts on the teams.
"Obviously, the teams are a little different,'' Dirk said. "Oklahoma is a little more perimeter-oriented. They've got a lot of scorers on the perimeter. And Memphis likes to pound it inside, play inside out. But I think whoever we're gonna face we've gotta be ready, play our game, be solid inside, battle defensively like we did against the Lakers and be ready to move the ball offensively and make shots."
DONUT 6: But there's something more going on here than just the entertainment value of a 3-OT game on Monday and last night's easy OKC victory that gives the Thunder a 3-2 lead:
If things go just right for Dallas, though, there will be one massive similarity between OKC and Memphis:
They will be gassed.
If the WCF begins on Sunday, it'll be after Memphis and OKC finish up on Friday. If the WCF starts on Tuesday, it'll be after a Game 7 between those two clubs on Sunday. That means just one day between their closeout semifinal game and Game 1 of the next round … and in addition to the Grizzlies' and Thunder's lack of championship-level pedigree, there is the issue of travel, gameplanning and rest.
Veteran Mavs guard Jason Terry says the club is spending this week doing things "in moderation.'' That included an optional practice on Monday that some of the older stars apparently skipped. But the Wednesday workout was a demanding one, and Carlisle says that at some point this week, I assume today, the team will engage in a full scrimmage on the AAC main court in order to simulate a game-like atmosphere.
DONUT 7: There is every reason to assume the Mavs know how to handle this business.
Dallas has qualified for the NBA Playoffs for 11 straight seasons. This is the Mavs' third Western Conference Finals appearance since 2002. Carlisle himself is 9-3 in closeout games and as Jeff Caplan points out, was in a similar long-layoff situation when overseeing the 2004 Indiana Pacers and their lengthy wait to get an opponent for their conference title game.
The classic "rest-vs.-rust'' question might come into play if not for Carlisle and the Mavs' experience in these circumstances. ... circumstances that make for a substantial Dallas edge as the WCF home team ... and the WCF rested team.
DONUT 8: Carlisle's belief in understanding sports psychology is an added advantage, hopefully.
Carlisle wants to maintain a "mental edge.'' He's a student of this sort of thing, as most coaches are – but Rick was literally a student under one of the masters. The University of Virginia product once had a professor named Dr. Bob Rotella, the PGA sports psychologist. It's not a coincidence that the Mavs now employ another of the top names in that field, Don Kalkstein.
Sometimes, Carlisle knows, with "playoffs'' come "layoffs.'' The trick, he says the experts have taught him?
To know that "Some guys try their hardest,'' Carlisle says, "they just don't know how to try their best.''
This "off-week'' for the Mavs is about tinkering with the minds while the bodies get their rest. To figure out the difference between "hard work'' and "best work.''
And to watch some more Thunder-vs.-Grizzlies. On TV.
DONUT 9: Better late than never, I suppose. But all this Dirk love -- four years too late -- comes with an embarrassing-to-the-late-comers twist:
Individually-speaking, the world is picking the wrong year to recognize the statistical greatness of The UberMan. As one of my Twitter buddies astutely notes, Nowitzki's across-the-board stats in this year's playoffs are actually DOWN from previous years. ... which speaks to his long-time greatness. (And maybe to the work of his supporting cast.)
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DONUT 11: Dirk's message to Mark Cuban this week is two-fold:
"Thank you.'' And "shhhhh.''
"It should be about the players, never about the owner," Nowitzki says. "We played a great series and fought hard and battled. That was fun. I haven't really seen Mark since then, and that's probably a good thing."
As I've written all this month: There is no longer a need for Tony Cubes to carnival-bark curiosity-seekers into the Big Top, anymore than there is reason to sign Dennis Rodman to today's roster and stash him back in the poolhouse. Cuban's work to help his team get to this point speaks for itself ... and if there is a trophy to paw, he can and should be up there on the podium.
Alongside Dirk, Carlisle, Kidd and Donnie and whomever ... and maybe STILL not saying anything ... an unorthodox stroke which might be the most clever way yet to keep him and his ownership success in the spotlight.
DONUT 12: JJB says he received a voicemail apology from The Cowardly Bynum, who delivered that violent foul in Game 4 of the Lakers swan song, earning him a five-game suspension and a $25,000 fine.
"I got the message, and I heard the apology,'' says Mr. Universe. I think he means well. He's a great guy and great player. He had a big mistake ... that can happen to anybody. I think he regrets it.''
JJB is still working through soreness in his left and and ribs but he practiced at full speed on Wednesday.
Here's the JJB visit ... enjoy Shawn Marion's attempt to join the media ... and then jump out of shock when Darrell Armstrong rings that dang "hear ye hear ye'' bell. ...
So in summary: J.J. Barea took Bynum's shot. But he didn't take Bynum's call.