Category: Dallas Mavericks (Page 1 of 6)

Relational Leadership

You’ve got to look at this incredible pass from Luka to Hardy during last night’s Mavericks win over the Pacers. Put the video on full screen and let it roll for like three times. It’s just unfathomable what Luka does almost every single night. It’s not enough to keep them from completely blowing the end of the season – was there anybody who thought the Kyrie trade was going to work? But, man, Luka is a special dude. I pray they haven’t totally ruined him with that putrid trade and this monumental late season collapse. Watch this crazy pass.

This Sunday is our deadline at GCR Church for recommending new shepherds to join our existing eldership. And I want to remind us and anybody else who might be reading this in a different context that we are looking for relational leadership, not positional leadership. Too many churches are led by strangers who are not recognized by the sheep. A true shepherd is followed not because God has given him authority, but because the sheep recognize his voice. In the Bible, God doesn’t tell his people to respond to a leader because he has an office or a title. It has to do with relationship. Uphold these men, the Bible says. Recognize them. Follow them. Not because their names are in the bulletin or because they approve the budget. But because of their hard work. Because of their love for the Body. Because of relationships.

“I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” ~John 10:14

Shepherds in Bible times were not day laborers who show up for work in the morning, put in eight hours with a lunch and a couple of 15-minute breaks, and then call it a day and go home. They lived with their sheep. Day and night. Season after season. They fed them, protected them, loved them. The sheep knew their shepherd’s touch, they recognized his voice, and they followed no other shepherd. It’s about relationship.

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me.” ~John 10:27

Picture Jesus with his disciples. Eating with them, walking and talking with them, working with them, teaching them, encouraging them; praying for them, correcting them, loving them; washing their feet and dying for them. Ordaining elders is about acknowledging relationships, not appointing positions. This doesn’t mean elders don’t have a title, but it means their authority comes from their lives and hearts and Jesus in them, not the title. They have the title because people follow them, not the other way around.

It’s one part of the church saying, “This man is a wonderful shepherd to us and we think he’d be a great shepherd for the whole church.” And the rest of the church saying, “Yeah, please shepherd us, too!”

When we’re looking for elders, WHO he is is a lot more important than WHAT he is. Relational, not positional.



Happy San Jacinto Day

It was 186 years ago today that the Republic of Texas secured its independence from Mexico at San Jacinto. Celebrate responsibly with tacos or barbecue (with a Dr Pepper, of course) or Stevie Ray Vaughan or Willie Nelson or Bernie or Lonesome Dove or anything else that similarly reminds you of how grateful you are to live in this great land with all these great people. You might also think good thoughts for the Dallas Mavericks.

Luka, be careful.
Go Mavs.


Sports Joy

Baseball season has begun and the Rangers have a cool new logo to promote this as their 50th Anniversary Season. I love the logo because it incorporates the old cowboy hat from their very first logo in 1972, still my favorite Rangers logo of all time. Never mind that this is the Rangers’ 51st season – the Cowboys pulled the same math miscalculation in 2010 with their 50th anniversary patch during their 51st season, and nobody seems to care. It’s a neat little design that highlights a milestone moment for a beloved baseball team.

And it’s probably going to be the highlight of the season.

This is still the same ol’ Rangers. What other team can average seven runs per game and still be 1-3? What other team can be up 7-0 in the 4th inning and lose 10-8? What other team places its ace starting pitcher on the injured list with a finger blister three innings into Opening Day? What other team loses in extra innings on an overturned illegal slide video replay call from New York City?

I watch and cheer for the Rangers mostly out of duty. They’re my team. I’ve been with them for all fifty years. Rooting for the red dot in three stadiums. “It’s baseball time in Texas!” Sunny, Pudge, and Chad Krueter. Feliz versus A-Rod. Nellie Cruz’s drop. Chan Ho Park. Expectations are low and nobody gets hurt. It’s an obligation for me. There’s not a ton of joy.

Over the past couple of months, I have become really excited for the Mavericks and their sure-to-be deep playoff run that starts this weekend. They have the second best record in the NBA since January 1 and they’re playing as well as anybody in the league. They’ve secured home court advantage for the opening round of the postseason for the first time since they won it all back in 2011. And they’re not facing the Clippers! I’ve been enthusiastically following this team and looking forward to these playoffs for weeks.

But Luka strained his calf in the second half of the season finale Sunday night and he’s questionable for Saturday’s tip-off against the Jazz. If he can’t go, this is a quick series and it’s one-and-done, again, for the little Mavericks. That excitement is now gone.

The Stars are barely hanging on, backing into their NHL playoff spot via the wild card. Hard to get too excited about that.

My sports hope this spring and summer is in the Midland RockHounds. They will be my sports joy. The AA affiliate of the Oakland A’s and our new hometown team plays their home opener tonight against Corpus Christi and we’re there. They are also celebrating their 50th anniversary season with updated logos, featuring a more anatomically correct Rocky the Hound and including a cool paw print made up of five drops of oil. They’re off to a 2-1 start after opening the season on the road in Amarillo, atop the standings in the Texas League South Division.

We show up early, we wear the gear, we cheer for the players by first name, we toss dollar bills when they hit homeruns, and we always have a great time. I can get pretty excited about that.



41 Forever

Forty-One is a prime number. Fitting that it should belong to, and forever identify such a prime dude.

Dirk Nowitzki’s number was hoisted to the rafters at AAC last night in a post-game ceremony that featured NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, members of the Mavericks 2011 NBA Championship team, an offer of a ten-day contract by former teammate and current Mavs coach Jason Kidd, and the unveiling of a statue honoring Dirk that will be constructed in front of the home arena later this year.

Dirk’s accomplishments are well chronicled and undeniably great. He spent his entire 21-year NBA career in Dallas, the only player in league history to play so long for the same team. During his legendary run, Dirk racked up 14 All Star game appearances and 12 All NBA selections. He was the league MVP in 2007 and the Finals MVP in 2011 when he brought the Mavericks their first and, so far, only championship. When he retired two years ago, he did so as the sixth leading scorer in NBA history with 31,560 points, and the Mavs franchise leader in seasons played, games played, games started, points scored, rebounds grabbed, shots blocked, field goals made, free throws nailed, three-pointers swished, and one-legged fadeaway jumpers.

And he absolutely owns the city of Dallas.

And he has my undying admiration and gratitude.

I was fortunate enough to cover Dirk and the Mavericks up close during my time at KRLD radio in Dallas. For almost five years I attended at least one or two practices a week, sat courtside at most home games, and waited in that Mavs dressing room each night for an eternity waiting on Dirk to finish his post-game shooting in the practice gym and his shower so we could interview him about his and the team’s performance.

I remember those long waits. It didn’t matter if he had played terrible in a tough loss or if he had shot 90% in an important win, he spent that 45-minutes in the practice gym after every game. And we all waited on him. We had to. You don’t leave a Mavs game without getting sound from Dirk.

I remember holding my microphone with the KRLD logo up high with my right arm during those late night media scrums around his locker. You don’t realize how tall a seven-footer really is until you’re holding a microphone up to his face for twenty minutes. I remember how uncomfortable it was. Switching arms. Supporting my right arm with my left hand in a subtle way I hoped nobody would notice.

And I remember how amazingly kind and accommodating he was for all those years. Last night he actually thanked the media for treating him fairly – you don’t hear too many professional athletes say that, if any. He never skipped those post-game talks. He always showed up and he always answered every single question with dignity and class. And patience. I never saw him get upset with a reporter. Ever. I don’t think I can say that about any athlete I covered. Even as laid back and cool as Steve Nash is, he would let fly with the sarcasm and a dismissive eye-roll when he was irritated. Not Dirk. Not ever.

I especially remember one late night after a tough loss when Dirk did something special for me. It was during the ’04-’05 season. The Dallas Observer had somehow talked Dirk into writing a weekly advice column, a tongue-in-cheek, comical outlet for Dirk and a promotional novelty for the downtown paper. The column was funny and well-received. Everybody was having fun with it. And, of course, I wanted to cash in for my own selfish purposes.

My producer, Eric Gray, and I asked Dirk if he would do a bit with us in which he gave us couples advice. We would come to him with our relationship issues, problems that could only happen between a talk show host and a producer, and he would give us his advice for mending the fences and learning to live and work together in harmony. We wanted it to be funny. We would come up with the hilarious problems and he would deliver his comical advice. Dirk was okay with the idea – he wasn’t as in love with it as we were – and agreed to do it after the last game of the current homestand.

That night came and the Mavs lost. I can’t remember now who beat them, but it was not a pretty night. It was quiet in the dressing room that night. There was frustration in the air, maybe even some tension. We waited and waited like always for Dirk to come out and, when he did, he answered everybody’s questions professionally and honestly. Like always. About five minutes into it, he sat down at his locker. He continued to answer questions, but he was sitting down, which was unusual. He was worn out. I could see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice, see it in his body language. He was not in a good mood. And Eric and I were hoping to do this funny bit.

We waited for Sefko and Duane and Stein and the other beat writers to finish and then Dirk looked right at me. He knew what he had agreed to do and when he told me he would do it. But I didn’t have the heart. So I gave him the out. “Dirk, you don’t have to do this. We can do it when y’all get back.”

“No, we’re leaving tomorrow. Let’s do it now.”

I was surprised. And pleased. But not really sure about it. As we set up our recorder and microphones, I wondered to myself if it would it be better to wait a week or so when he’s in a better mood or get it now and risk it not being as funny? What to do?

But Dirk turned it on. He delivered. As always. He found the energy and gave us the funny lines and completely killed it for almost nine minutes.

I love Dirk Nowitzki for playing in Dallas for his entire 21-year Hall of Fame career. I love Dirk for embracing my hometown and bringing my city a championship, for struggling so long to climb the hill and to finally conquer it with hard work and leadership and commitment. So many guys take the easy way out. Dirk never did. There is something very noble in staying where you’ve been placed and doing everything in your power to win right there, with whatever cards you’re dealt. It’s honorable. David Robinson and Tim Duncan did it in San Antonio. Reggie Miller did it in Indiana. And Dirk did it in Big D. It’s rare. And it’s beautiful.

But I admire Dirk and I’m thankful to him for that night at his locker when he gave me those nine minutes after a tough loss. It’s just one small example of the hundreds of things that point to his character and his class.

Forty-One is a prime number. And now it’s in a prime position in the rafters at AAC. Forever.



Luka Moolah!

Though not surprising, the news that Luka Doncic has signed a five-year, $207-million extension with the Dallas Mavericks is thrilling. It’s exhilarating. It’s a heavy sigh of relief for the Mavs and their fans and, at the same time, a tremendous burden of responsibility on Mark Cuban and the Mavs leadership.

The global superstar and inevitable face of the NBA is the first player in history to qualify for the “supermax” extension by virtue of his two First-Team All NBA selections. The deal is the largest guaranteed rookie contract extension in history. So, yeah, whatever issues there are in Dallas – there are many – it’s nothing that $207-million can’t fix.

How is Cuban going to do this? How is he going to keep Luka happy and win the championship(s) this kind of signing demands?

No Donnie Nelson? Isn’t he the guy who consistently finds these international studs and brings them to Dallas? No Rick Carlisle? Isn’t he the coach who won the only title in Mavericks history and is the main reason the team has stayed even remotely relevant in the ten years since? Is there any money left to sign another scorer, a legitimate big man, and a defensive stopper? Is Porzingis going to step up and be that number two guy for Luka?

Just because Luka is sticking around and will be a triple-double threat every single night is no guarantee that Dallas can make it out of the first round. We’ve seen that movie two years in a row and it’s awful.

I don’t trust Mark Cuban. Never have. Do you? Dirk was only able to win one title in Dallas and Cuban completely incinerated the entire roster one month later. How does Cuban pull this off without Donnie? Cuban’s never done anything with the Mavericks, he’s never enjoyed any success, he’s never looked at a free agent or negotiated a contract without Donnie.

In the big picture of things, I’m still worried about the Mavs. But in the immediate moment of locking down the brightest and most talented superstar for the next five years, I’m thrilled. I imagine Luka feels the same way. Only 207-million times more.



There’s Always a Way

The Dallas Mavericks won their first playoff game in franchise history in 1984 over the Seattle Supersonics and attempted zero three-pointers in the process. Zero three-point shots. No attempts. In the first two games against the Clippers in this current first round playoff series, the Mavs have hit 35 of 70 three-point shots to take a commanding two-games-to-none lead. Times have changed.


If our God sees things that you can’t see and if our God chooses and uses nobodies and calls them beloved, then there is always a way for you. And God has already got it figured out.

It doesn’t matter how big and imposing the obstacles in your life. It doesn’t matter how numerous the forces trying to knock you off track or destroy you. Or destroy your marriage. Or your kids. Or your peace. Or your faith. It doesn’t matter how far back you are at the end of the line or where you are at the bottom of the pile. Or how you got there. There’s always a way for you and our God has already figured it out.

Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of God tells us, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand… My Father has given them to me… no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:28-30). 2 Corinthians 1 says God has delivered us, he is delivering us, and we have set our hope on him that he will continue to deliver us.

Our God is willing to break through the barriers of time and space to do the impossible, to come to earth in your flesh and blood, to put on your skin and to take on your sin and suffering to rescue you and save you right now today and forever. With humans this is impossible; but with our God, all things are possible!

As long as there is one lost sheep wandering around in the wilderness, as long as there is one dusty coin hiding in a dark corner, as long as there is one lonely child desperate and crying in a faraway pig pen, our God will do whatever it takes – he will not stop – until he finds you and brings you home! He will bring to completion the good thing he has started in you. The Bible says he is faithful and he will do it.

And I know the voices are there. You hear the voices. So do I.

You messed that up big time. You failed her big time. You let him down. You’ll never change your behavior. You’re trapped. You’re dead.

Like Goliath, those voices, those words, are there in your head every morning. They’re ringing in your ears every night. The insults, the mistreatment, the lies – penetrating your soul and just sitting there. Heavy.

You’re not a good parent. You’re not a good Christian. God hasn’t really totally forgiven you of that.

You hear the voices. You sense the size of the enemy. But there is a way for you and God has already figured it out. And he’s already done it. Jesus Christ willingly took all your sins with you to the cross. And God’s Holy Spirit, the same Holy Spirit who came upon David in power, raised Jesus from the grave to destroy forever the forces of sin and death and Satan and anything that might separate you from God. That same Spirit of the Lord lives inside you with that same eternal power. It’s not fate or luck – God’s Spirit is in you. God’s Spirit has taken hold of you like he did David and he won’t let you go. You can betray and stumble and sin and fail, but he will never fail!

In Jesus Christ, all your enemies have already been defeated. All of them. Name them. The voices are wrong. The enemy is dead. The way for you is clear in the Way, the Truth, and the Life in Jesus. And, to quote David, you and I and the whole world know that there is a God in Israel. And he has chosen you and he loves you and you belong to him today and forever.



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