Tuesday night was a unique experience for DFW sports fans. Tony Romo, who was one of the most polarizing and decorated athletes in the history of Dallas sports, was honored as a Maverick for a day. He was introduced in the starting lineup before the game, and honored by the words Rick Carlisle and Dirk Nowitzki, giving the Dallas Cowboys ex QB a special kind of send off that perhaps no other professional athlete has experienced.
“It was fun.” Dirk said of his day with Romo. “He’s got a lot more game than I thought he would. He’s got a nice little shimmy and he was passing it a little bit. It was just a fun day. It’s good to honor him and the crowd was fired up for him, and he deserved it. I think he meant a lot for Dallas and for the sports scene here for a long, long time. He was great on and off the field, he did a lot of stuff here and I think he deserved it.”
It was a fitting tribute to the quarterback who guided the Cowboys to success for 0ver 10 years. As a passer, he rewrote the Dallas record books. And as a competitor and a person, he could not have represented the city better. No one can hope to summarize what Romo has done for the metroplex better than our man Jordan Ross over at Cowboys HQ did here, so I won’t try.
Despite that, and maybe thanks to this Fan Appreciation Night, fans will never forget what he did for their team and their city in his time as a Cowboy.
“I thought the reception for Tony – we’ve never had this many people here for warmups since I’ve been here nine years – that includes the Finals,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t think we’ve ever had this many people here at 7:15 for a 7:40 tip. It goes to show how everybody feels about Romo. I’m really happy for him. He really enjoyed being a part of this today. He through and through was appreciative and grateful. It was special having him here.”
Romo didn’t enter the game on Tuesday, and to be honest most of us knew, despite Mark Cuban’s antics towards the end of the game, that he wasn’t going to; he was never actually put onto the roster on this ceremonial day. (Read more about "Romo's Ultimate Fan Experience'' here.)
But with a lotto race on the line, there were other things happening at the American Airlines Center, as well as around the league that we need to talk about.
For starters, The Mavs fell to the Denver Nuggets 109-91 in their final home game on Tuesday night, marking the end to a tough season at home -- though a winning one, at 21-20.
Nowitzki, who became a member of the 30,000-point club this past March, posted a solid final home performance for the 2016-17 campaign, scoring 21 points to go along with eight rebounds and three blocks in 27 minutes.
“This is one of the truly magnificent players in the history of our league,” Carlisle said of his star. “He had 21. He’s been a rock this year. It’s really tough for him to sit out 24, 25 games at the beginning (due to injury) and watch us get our ass kicked the way we did. He stays positive, he encourages everybody. Then when he gets healthy, it takes a little while to get his rhythm and stuff like that. He’s unrelenting as a positive leader of this franchise, city – whatever you want to call it.”
Dirk did not make the trip to Memphis for tonight's Game 82. ... But is ready to roll again in 2017-18.
"I’m a little disappointed now,'' he said, "that the season is over and I feel the best I have all year, but that’s how it goes. Hopefully I have big summer, work out and stay ready, and next year not have a freak injury where I will be out even more and stay in good shape.”
J.J. Barea added a near double-double of 13 points and nine assists, while Yogi Ferrell contributed 10 points and five assists of his own.
The rest of the Mavs roster was fairly quiet here, save for a couple of thunderous dunks from Nerlens Noel, as the team shot just 39 percent from the field for the game.
The Nuggets, who were eliminated from playoff contention in agonizing fashion after falling to the Thunder on a Russell Westbrook three-point buzzer-beater, were led by Gary Harris’ 20 points and eight assists.
Miles Plumlee added 16 points and nine boards, while Malik Beasley and Juan Hernangomez brought 16 and 14 points off the bench, respectively.
The Mavs' loss, which moves them to 32-49 on the season, still has them a full game behind the Minnesota Timberwolves in the lottery standings following the Minny loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Meanwhile, the other team the Mavs are competing with in the lottery chase, the Sacramento Kings, played host to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday, and were able to take care of business with a 129-104 win. With the Kings win, Dallas and Sacramento are now even at 32-49 in the lottery standings.
Dallas will wrap things up tonight on the road against the Grizzlies, and will likely do so whole deploying a skeleton crew against the Western Conference's seventh seed, a crew that will include just-claimed DeAndre Liggins, late of the Cavs. (That story is here.)
However, even with a loss at Memphis, Dallas will still need to hope for a Kings win in Los Angeles against the Clippers. Otherwise, should both teams fall against their respective opponents, they will simply receive the same odds in the lottery, instead of one having the advantage over the other.
So if you’re a Mavs fan, you turn from the unusual experience of cheering for Romo in a basketball uniform to the unusual experience of cheering for Sacramento.
"It was a circus,'' a Mavs official said to DallasBasketball.com late last night of the Romo experience. "And circuses are awesome!''