Thursday Mavs Donuts: A Superstar League?
DONUT 1: Tonight on TV ...
It's the Dallas Mavericks at Denver tonight in a 7:30 pregame start, with yours truly as part of the telecast on Fox Sports Southwest ... in a game that might be anticlimactic for Dallas but means so much to Denver.
The Mavericks (36-38) are 2.5 games back of the Lakers for the eighth spot in the West. They also trail the Jazz by two games. There are only eight games left and the game of "leapfrog'' looks highly unwinnable.
A truly brilliant breakdown of Dallas' chances can be found here, with DB.com's Chuck Perry looking at the competition, the schedules and the stat trends.
DONUT 2: Denver's odd battle ...
The Nuggets are 51-24 and they own a 1.5-game lead over the Clippers for third in the Western Conference playoff chase.
Oddly, Denver's battle really isn't with the Clippers, though. Because LAC leads the Pacific Division and the Nuggets trail OKC in the Northwest -- and because division winners trump conference rankings -- Denver is really contending for fourth (with Memphis) rather than third (with LAC) ... And so the Nuggets are going to be Northwest runners-up but need to keep winning to get the fourth seed (and the final first-round home-court-playoff edge.)
DONUT 3: A Superstar League? ...
It is the not-so-privately-held opinion of Mavs management that this is a superstar league -- a three-superstar-on-one-team league, in terms of being able to truly contend for titles, Miami-style.
That's the origin, of course, of Plan Powder.
What Denver is accomplishing defies the belief.
Denver is winning despite being without Ty Lawson (plantar fascia tear), who doesn't truly qualify as a superstar, anyway. The Nuggets are relying on point guards like Andre Miller (Mavs fans know him well) and Evan Fournier (Mavs fans know him not at all) as they make their run.
Now, big-picture, the Nuggets haven't really accomplished anything yet. They haven't disproven the Plan Powder Theory because they haven't come close to winning a title.
But in fairness, their approach makes their team more compelling than Dallas' team is (at least for the moment). And their level of contention is higher than Dallas' too, as the Mavs wind down this season with only the faintest of hopes of qualifying for the postseason for a notable 13th straight season.
DONUT 4: The altitude ...
Having lived in the Denver area for a large part of my life, I'm not a sucker for the "mile-high'' stuff as it applies to the visiting team. But there is something in the air there as Denver looks to extend its franchise-record home winning streak to 19 games.
This might end up being an exhausting Mavs trip -- a red-eye arrival in Denver on Wednesday after a tough loss at the Lakers on Tuesday ... tonight's game followed by another late-night flight zigzagging back to California for a game at Sacto on Friday ... and then escaping that back-to-back nightmare with a Sunday visit to Portland.
But Denver is coming off its own challenge, a Wednesday game against tough Utah. (Oh, and Denver is 7-8 this year on the second night of b-2-b's.) The difference? While Dallas might be on an emotional low from LA, Denver won its game, 113-96 win over Utah.
DONUT 5: Before Dirk was Dirk ...
Back on Dec. 28, these two clubs played at the AAC and it was not close, Denver pounding the Mavs 106-85. That was Dirk Nowitzki's third game back following the knee surgery, and of course, Dirk wasn't Dirk yet. He scored five points.
Traditionally, though, The UberMan is a Nuggets killer. In his previous 26 games against Denver, he'd averaged 26 points per.
The form is back now, despite what I would characterize as an 11-point fluke against LA. In his 14 games previous to the Lakers lose, Dirk was averaging 20.9 points on 55.8 percent shooting, plus 47.7 percent from 3-point range.
The Mavs need that Dirk to show up tonight against the Nuggets -- which is traditionally what they get to show up.
DONUT 6: Rick's kids ...
Interesting big-picture quote from coach Rick Carlisle regarding the experienced being gains by his young players as the Mavs endure the highs and lows of this season:
"We have some inexperienced guys that haven't been here, so this is a valuable learning experience for them. But it has a price."
The "price,'' of course, is that their inexperience is, arguably, hurting the team's chances at success. But that's not the issue in the statement for me. I'm interested in the payoff from the valuable experience for an assortment of "inexperienced guys'' who might not be on this roster next year.
Are Collison, Mayo and Wright getting experience that will help their careers in Dallas? Or are they getting experience that will help their careers as ex-Mavs?
DONUT 7: On Brittney and Cuban...
The fact is, I have too much respect for Brittney Griner to be attracted to the idea of a farcical Mavs contract for her, as I explain in this column.
No less an authority than Geno Auriemma gets it.
"I think it would be a sham,'' the UConn women's coach said. "The (idea) that a woman could actually play right now in the NBA and compete successfully against the level of play that they have is absolutely ludicrous.''
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DONUT 9: The Cult of Personality ...
Jay-Z as a sports agent? If you don't see how this works, you don't understand a culture that is driven by the Cult of Personality.
Put aside for a moment whether Jay-Z is a brilliant businessman. (He is.) Also set aside the potential conflict that comes with a part-owner (with the NBA's Nets) serving as an agent in whatever sport. (It's a conflict to me, but nobody's asked.) And even ignore the core of Jay-Z's job, which will be to assist the already powerful CAA is schmoozing clients.
The Cult of Personality says that hanging with Jay-Z and his wife Beyonce and their circle of wealthy, glitzy, wise and influencial friends will mean EVERYTHING to a 22-year-old who wants to grow up to be not just Dr. J, but also Jay-Z.
It's such an alluring advantage that it's almost unfair.
DONUT 10: Thanks to our sponsors! ...
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DONUT 11: Beard Science ...
It is just me, or is the ".500 Beards'' thing growing stale?
"We had a couple of chances (to shave)," Nowitzki said. "We lost a big one against Indy, obviously, when we were one under, and now we were one under again and lost again. ... We'll see how it goes and if we can win a couple and shave it."
Nope. It's not just me.
DONUT 12: The Final Word ...
The irony of the now-fired Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice's approach being defended as "coaching toughness'' is that it is exactly the opposite of "toughness.'' It is "bullying,'' which isn't "tough.'' Worse, it's a person in a position of power bullying his underlings, which is the definition of "abuse.''