ITEM 1: The Game, Mavs 91, Nuggets 109
The Dallas Mavericks had five players in double figures—but that doesn’t matter much when the other six guys combine for 26 points total.
The Mavs shot a miserable 39.8 percent from the floor, while the Nuggets shot 48.8 percent.
But, let’s not pretend here. The Mavs started Dirk and Noel more to give the fans who showed up their ticket value. They never intended to win—and in that regard, the evening was a success.
Despite the loss, the fans seemed to have a good time. My guess is that most came for the spectacle, and to pay tribute during an evening of legends, and almost legends.
ITEM 2: Tony Romo, And The After-Party
Don’t listen to angry and bitter Houston columnists, or OKC columnists, or national media guys, or local media guys — the Tony Romo thing was a blast.
Plenty of people have written about it, speculated about it, and pulled their hair out about it. But, when it all played out, it was just a nice chance to honor a guy who didn’t get the right honor on the field.
Romo didn’t get a goodbye tour. Romo didn’t even get to go out on the field. His retirement was more like the slow burn-in on a plasma TV—and not the white-hot plasma itself.
I will say this—for a guy who’s about to be the top TV guy for CBS, he’s not quite showing his hand just yet.
Rick Carlisle spent more time thanking the other Dallas Cowboys and coaches in attendance than Romo spent addressing the crowd when handed the microphone.
But, he did get to say a sort of goodbye. The fans showed him a little love—and the sports writers with corncobs in the backs of their pants probably hated every second of it.
“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 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.”
Tell the Houston press in particular that if their ownership hadn’t played such hardball, Romo could’ve borrowed a Rockets’ jersey on the way to a Texans’ jersey. And tell the other critics that in place of their whining should be “reporting,’’ which is why it’s important that The 75-Member Staff was granted access to the Tony Romo After-Party.
And this is where the important story, as it relates to the Cowboys, exists.
Romo and coach Jason Garrett have been cool to one another for months, for reasons we detail here. The Romo Appreciation Game brought 20 or so Cowboys folks to the AAC, including Ezekiel Elliott and Byron Jones and Sean Lee and all the O-linemen. Oh, and Jason and Brill Garrett.
And then came the after-party, at Romo’s favorite dinner spot, Nick & Sam’s. And this is the story you won’t know unless you are a Premium-level subscriber:
Balloons were perched in the back room at Nick & Sam’s, a set spelling out “TONY,’’ one spelling out “COWBOYS,’’ and one spelling out “MAVS.’’ The place was packed with Pro Bowlers and basketball players and dignitaries and was mostly quiet until sometime before midnight, when Romo entered the room … and the music suddenly cranked up and the smartphones suddenly went from being “phones’’ to being “cameras’’ and the party was on.
Tucked in the middle of the raucous fun, Tony Romo and Jason Garrett found each other. Not only did they embrace the moment … they embraced each other in what we are describing as the “familiar Garrett Neck Hold.’’ Jason’s hand was wrapped around the back of Romo’s head as the two spoke, in close conditions and loud conditions, for about two minutes.
For DFW fans who hated watching “Jimmy vs. Jerry’’ or who are bothered by “Cuban vs. Nellie,’’ we have a crisis averted here. The embrace occurred. The ice has thawed.
ITEM 3: Rookie of the Year
Back to the game …
Don’t be fooled by Malik Beasley’s career day against the Mavs. Yeah, he put up 16 points, 5 boards and 2 assists against a turnstile defense, but it was his best game out of the 20 he’s appeared in. His season numbers are hovering around 2.5 points per game, 0.3 assists and 0.5 boards.
The Mavs’ own Yogi Ferrell had a nice season, especially for a guy who started off in a tough situation with the Nets, and didn’t get a lot of playing time right away. But, even if he manages to average 10 points per game as a rookie, it’s going to be awfully tough to compete against someone like Joel Embiid.
Embiid only played in 31 games—but the guy averaged 20.2 points per game, he had 7.8 boards per game, and he had 2.5 blocks on the way to a 24.11 PER. He also had 2.1 assists per game, talks trash about wanting to play point guard, and is one of the most entertaining (and likable) players in the league.
If Joel doesn’t win it’s likely Embiid’s teammate, Dario Saric, who’ll wind up stealing the most votes from the injured big man. Dario’s been pretty good since the All-Star break—and he’s managed to stay on the court—which could eat into votes once firmly earmarked for Embiid.
That doesn’t mean Yogi, who sports a nice Rookie of the Month nod, won’t get a few votes—but he’s probably not going to win.
ITEM 4: The T-Wolves Problem
For the second game in a row, the Timberwolves had a lead with less than a minute to go. This time, after a 22 point comeback vs. a Westbrook-free Oklahoma City Thunder team.
The T-Wolves were still down by 13 at halftime, but as they did vs. the Lakers, Minnesota managed to take a 1 point lead into the 4th quarter. But, as they did against the Lakers, they gave up that lead in the final seconds of the game.
Wiggins’ had one last shot to win it, but his three-point attempt was long at the buzzer, and the T-Wolves, once again, failed to help the Mavs, and managed to help themselves against their wishes.
ITEM 5: Yogi Ferrell's A 10
Yogi had another 10-point night, and half of those points came in a quick burst of productivity with about 4:35 left in the 3rd quarter.
Yogi drove to the basket, and got shoved from behind by Darrell Arthur. Knowing he was bailed out, Yogi just sent a lobbed prayer up to the basket—which somehow finds the net—and then he completed the and-1.
30 seconds later, Yogi stole the ball from Juan Hernangomez, gets an easy lay-in, and cut the Denver lead to 10.
The Mavs, knowing they needed to lose this game to have ANY chance at the 7th or 8th spot in the draft, pulled Yogi immediately after.
Yogi, by the way, needs 10 points in the final game of the season to average double digits as a rookie.
ITEM 6: Dirk Don’t Tank
The Mavs played with fire by keeping Dirk in the game for as long as they did.
In 27 minutes on the floor, the big German scored 21 points on 9 of 20 shooting, he pulled down 8 rebounds, he had an assist, a steal and 3 blocks.
We envision a world where Dirk plays one or two more seasons, and manages to sneak a sixth-man of the year award into his long resume of achievements. Nights like this are exactly the kinds of nights that remind you just how versatile Dirk can be.
By the way: Those three blocks put Dirk just 35 blocks away from the Mavericks all-time lead. He'd need less than 1 block every 2.3 games to unseat Shawn Bradley’s record of 1,250 blocks—and isn’t it about time someone knocked Shawn off that perch?
Third place—if you’re wondering—isn’t even close. It’s James Donaldson with 615 blocks.
So Dirk Don’t Take in Game 81. But tonight, in Game 82? He’s not on the Memphis trip.
“Actually, I feel the best I have all year, moving-wise,’’ said Dirk in a self-evaluation. “The first few months were tough with injuries and trying to catch up during the season. It was tough at times and frustrating at times. I tried to keep plugging and trying to do work on the side. I’m trying to get back to being efficient and where I can help these guys win some games. I’m a little disappointed now, obviously 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.”
We’ll have more on Dirk’s offseason thoughts in the coming days. And you can find more QUOTEBOARD from the night here.
ITEM 7: Where’s Salah?
If you go back and read our early-season gripes, you’ll find that we frequently wondered why Salah Mejri spent so much time on the bench, while Bogut spent so much time on the floor. Turns out, it wasn’t to drive up Bogut’s trade value.
Well, tonight we got a text from a friend who is relatively new to NBA basketball—but who’s managed to catch a couple of home games when Salah made some nice plays. He wanted to know, “Why isn’t Salah playing tonight?”
It’s a decent question.
On a night when even Tony Romo looked like he might get some burn, Salah was one of only two Mavericks to play less than 10 minutes.
He wasn’t in foul trouble, he wasn’t loafing around, but he still didn’t get a lot of time on the floor.
One answer: Maybe he did something to annoy Rick—so he didn’t get to play. Another answer: Rick already knows what Salah can bring to the table—so he wanted to get as much playing time for the unknowns like Uthoff and Hammons as he could afford.
As it stands, Salah had a quiet 1 of 2 night, with 2 rebounds and one foul.
ITEM 8: Fan Service Stops Somewhere
The Mavs may have given the fans their full ticket value by rolling out Noel, Dirk and Tony Romo—but they didn’t play everyone.
Street-clothed Wes Matthews wasn’t on hand to knock down a couple more threes and move up the list of all-time Mavs seasons. Barnes wasn’t there to see if he could nudge his scoring average closer to 20, and Seth Curry wasn’t about to test his ailing (and likely in need of rehab) shoulder.
But, even without Curry and Matthews in the game, the Mavs attempted 40 threes, and Denver attempted 42, so there were still plenty of three point shots in their honor.
ITEM 9: DeAndre Liggins Watch?
If you thought the Mavs might play everyone in their final game of the season—you might be disappointed. The Mavs seem to be going the other direction.
The front office put in a waiver claim on DeAndre Liggins, after he was waived by the Cavs, and they expect him to play tonight vs. the Grizz. (Our Liggins story is here.)
With one more player to squeeze into the same number of minutes, I wouldn’t expect to see too many minutes for the Mavs top players—especially since the second the season ends, every player (not named Dirk) becomes an asset as much as a roster piece.
Liggins hasn’t had much of a season for yet another “3-and-D” guy, posting 2.4 points and 1.7 rebounds per game in 12.3 minutes—but losing teams can afford to try anything, and anyone, in any situation.
Sometimes you see how well a No. 9 jersey hangs on a former quarterback, sometimes you throw minutes at a former second-round draft pick who’s been around the block but who is under contract at a vet’s minimum for next year with a team option.
Then again—sometimes you give a 10-day contract to Yogi Ferrell—so you keep finding walls, and stuff to throw against them.
ITEM 10: King Me
The Suns don’t win very often (you may have noticed), so the Kings had a pretty decent shot in this Tuesday night game. Ty Lawson decided to go off for his first triple-double of his career to help the Kings to their 32nd win of the season.
His 22 points, 11 rebounds, and 12 assists gave his home fans a fun win to close out their home schedule—and it moved the Mavs into a tie with the Kings for the 8th worst record. The Kings finished the season 2-1 vs. the Mavs, so they’ll own the tie breaker.
That, at least for a day, places the Mavs at 8th in the Draft order, and increases their shot at the No. 1 pick to a whopping 2.2 percent.
ITEM 11: What’s Next?
The regular season ends tonight (April 12th).
The Mavs close out their season vs. the Grizzlies, the Kings play their final game of the season vs. the Clippers, and the Timberwolves finish their season against the Rockets.
For now, the Mavs and Kings both sit neck-and-neck with matching 32-49 records. The Timberwolves are a game worse, at 31-50 (after back-to-back, somewhat crushing, last second losses).
Still, if the Mavs mess around and beat the Grizzlies in their final game, and the Kings lose to the Clippers (that second one is especially likely) then the Mavs will find themselves right back in the ninth spot.
On the other hand, if Houston decides to rest players (dubious, because Harden still seems to be chasing the MVP rather than resting during meaningless games), and the Timberwolves can pull of a victory, while the Mavs lose their final game—the Mavs could find themselves at 7th in the draft order.
There are plenty of point guards (if that’s what they’re looking for) in the top seven—especially with the recent emergence of Fox on a lot of boards post NCAA tournament.
Even for losing teams, and in some ways ESPECIALLY for losing teams, the final slate of games should be very interesting.
ITEM 12: The Final Word
“It was fun,” Dirk said of his day with Romo, which at the end included Cuban, Rick and Tony all pretending he was actually going to enter the game (which was never going to happen as he's actually not even on the roster). “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.”