Category: Dallas Mavericks (Page 1 of 5)

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.

Peace,

Allan

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.

Peace,

Allan

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.

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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.

Peace,

Allan

Meet Luka Doncic!

The Dallas Mavericks young superstar, Luka Doncic, was in the middle of an unbelievable 3rd quarter yesterday.  He was leading his team on a 16-0 run, accounting for more points in that period ( 13 points, 5 assists) than the entire L.A. Clippers team combined. He was fueling a crazy comeback, bringing the Mavs from 21 down to leading by eight. I texted our youth minister, Josh Jones:

“Luka is cementing his legacy on national TV!”

Doncic was not even expected to play in this game. A badly sprained ankle suffered 40 hours earlier in Game Three was probably going to keep him sidelined for this do-or-die affair. But there he was, limping through another incredible performance, notching another 40-point playoff triple-double, bringing his team back against all odds, going three-for-three on game-tying or go-ahead shots in the overtime period, and lofting a breath-taking buzzer-beater over a flailing Reggie Jackson to win the game and tie the series.

By now you’ve seen the shot multiple times. It’s classic Luka. Four dribbles, one between the legs, a step back beyond the arc on the left wing and BANG! Or, as NBC play-by-play announcer Mike Breem announced as the ball swished through the net 28-feet away, “BANG! BANG!”

If you didn’t know who Luka Doncic was 24 hours ago — and I’m talking about sports fans AND non-sports fans — you do now.

He scored 43 points yesterday, grabbed 17 rebounds, and dished out 13 assists for his second consecutive playoff triple-double. No one in NBA history has ever produced those numbers in a playoff game. Ever. Three games earlier, Luka had broken George Mikan’s NBA record for the most points ever scored in a playoff debut with 42. Now he’s only the third player in NBA history to rack up 40 points and at least 15 rebounds and ten assists in a playoff game. You may have heard of the other two: Oscar Robertson and Charles Barkley.

Luka is the youngest player in NBA history to hit a game-winning buzzer-beater in the playoffs. He’s the youngest to notch a 40 point playoff triple-double. And he did it on one leg! Without his sidekick, Kristaps Porzingas, who was a game-time scratch with his sore knee.

This Euro-stepping, lane-driving, bubble-bombing kid is so much fun to watch. And his numbers are other-worldly. He’s already accomplished more than any other player in league history at this age. Name them. All of them. Michael Jordan. Kobe Bryant. LeBron James. Luka is further along right now at 21-1/2 years old than any of them were. But as Mark Cuban said last night, we shouldn’t compare Doncic to any other players; he’s blazing his own trail.

This is Luka’s world. We just live in it.

I’ve long held a theory that the main thing separating the great players in the professional leagues from the good ones is not talent, but mental toughness. Once football players make it to the NFL or basketball players to the NBA, they are all pretty equal in ability. They have all been the very best among their peers from little league to middle school and through high school. They’ve always been the most talented in their cities. In college, they stand out as better than all their peers across the country or even around the world. Once they make it to the NHL or MLB, generally speaking, they all possess the same talents and skills, they’re all equipped the same. What separates Michael Jordan from Michael Anderson is heart. What elevates Emmitt Smith over Alex Smith is guts.

Who’s going to overcome injury and perform at a high level? Who’s going to show up early for practice and leave late? Who’s got the drive? Who wants the ball in the clutch? Who will play with a complete fearlessness and a supreme confidence? Who’s going to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes? That’s what separates the great ones.

And Doncic has it. All of it.

Not only were the Mavs down 2-1 in the series, down their second-leading scorer in the sidelined Porzingas, and down by 21-points in the second quarter, Luka was down a left ankle. Not only did Dallas fight and claw their way back to actually lead it by a dozen, the Clippers scored ten of the last twelve points in regulation to force the overtime. And the lead changed eight times in the extra period. But Luka and the cast around him kept fighting and pulled off the biggest playoff comeback in the team’s 40-year history.

They may not win another game this series. The whole “bubble” thing is making this the most unpredictable postseason in NBA history. They may win the whole thing! The Mavericks are building something around this kid that will yield multiple championships — I’m guessing at least two titles beginning in June 2022. He may be on his way to surpassing Dirk, Roger, Troy, Nolan, and Modano as the most prolific and beloved single-name sports heroes in Dallas. And we’ll always remember August 23, 2020 against the Clippers as the day the entire planet met Luka Doncic.

Go Stars.

Allan

Equality

I have plenty of hot and spicy tea to spill today after the Mavericks blew a double-digit fourth quarter lead and lost in overtime to the Rockets in last night’s NBA restart in Orlando. With Luka and KP, Dallas is poised to contend for multiple championships over the next ten years. The team is young and talented, the bench is deep and versatile, Carlisle obviously knows how to coach, and this version of the Mavs is so stinkin’ fun to watch. They’re going to be in the mix to hoist the O’Brien trophy every year for the foreseeable future. Just not this year.

There’s very little interior defense. There’s a tendency to stand around and watch the two superstars. They still haven’t learned how to hold a lead. And they melt down on basics and fundamentals at the worst times. They still need another season or so of experience and seasoning before they’re going to win this thing.

Dallas mostly controlled last night’s game with double-digit leads throughout the second half. They had a seven point lead with 45-seconds to play. But a simple box out and rebound on a missed free throw with three seconds remaining in regulation wasn’t executed and the resulting tip-in tied the game and the Mavs were out of gas. Houston went on an 8-1 run in those 45-seconds and then ran away with it in the extra period.

Last night’s disappointing come-from-ahead loss likely means the Mavericks will face the top-seeded Lakers or the second-seeded Clippers in the first round of the playoffs instead of the Jazz or OKC. Dallas went from moving up in the standings to staying put. And it’s going to prove to be disastrous.

But wasn’t it fun?

Luka’s routine triple-double. KP’s silky smooth dominance. Hardeway’s leadership. Curry’s tenacity. And where did Trey Burke come from?!?

And the “Equality” jerseys. What a great touch. When every other NBA player is customizing his own jersey and coming up with his own personal racial justice slogan, the Mavericks decided to all wear the same word. What a powerful statement and what a positive move for individualism taking a back seat to team unity.

I feel so good about this Dallas Mavericks team.

Next year.

Peace,

Allan

Dirk Owns Dallas

The Big German owns Big D.

Dirk Nowitzki took out a full page ad in yesterday’s Dallas Morning News to say “Thank You” to Mavericks fans and to the city after 21 Hall of Fame years in Dallas. It’s a rare kind of letter from a professional superstar athlete of Dirk’s caliber. Humble. Grateful. Selfless. Sincere.  Reflective. Kind. Two DMN sportswriters have confirmed that Dirk worked on this letter for a couple of weeks; these are all his words; it’s not ghost-written. And you can tell it’s from his heart.

Dirk could run for mayor of Dallas and win it today. When it comes to Dallas sports, he’s in an exclusive club with Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman. Staubach, of course, is in a class all by himself. He spent his entire career with the Cowboys, he won two Super Bowls in Dallas, he was a model citizen and team player, and he made his permanent home in Dallas when he retired. For the past 39 years and for the next 39 years, Staubach could run for Governor of Texas or the U.S. Senate and win it immediately. He’s that beloved in Dallas and throughout the state. Aikman also spent his entire career with the Cowboys , he won three Super Bowls, he was a model citizen and team player, and he also made his permanent home in Dallas when he retired. For some reason — somebody help me articulate this — it doesn’t feel like Aikman’s in the exact same category as Staubach. But he’s close. Right there with Dirk.

Mike Modano’s not in that class. He won a Stanley Cup as the face of the franchise with the Stars in 1999. Model citizen and team player, advocate for the sport and the city, but he finished his career in Detroit. And it’s hockey.

The very nature of baseball means nobody’s going to play their entire career with the Rangers. Plus, the Rangers have never won a championship. Nolan Ryan could be governor of Texas whenever he wants, but he doesn’t own Dallas. Jim Sundberg and Pudge Rodriguez could make the Dallas city council, but they don’t own the city. Besides, they played all their home games in Tarrant County.

Am I missing somebody? I think it’s Staubach, Aikman, Dirk. In that order. Does anybody else in Dallas sports belong in that group?

Peace,

Allan

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