Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Suns also rise while the Mavericks' fortunes collapse

As much as it pains me to say this, it's time to write the obituary on any chances the Dallas Mavericks had on winning an NBA championship -- at least in the Dirk Nowitzky era. I was concerned when they lost to the Heat they had blown their one real chance of winning a title, but then they seemed to improve in 2006-07, only to implode in the first round of the playoffs. But that was a matchup abberation, I tried to convince myself; surely the Mavs would be back.

And, yes, they are back, but, at best, they are back as the third best team in the Western Conference and probably only around the fifth or sixth best team in the NBA. This became dreadfully obvious today when the Phoenix Suns announced they were acquring Shaquille O'Neal for Shawn Marion.

Now that I'm willing to accept the fate that has befallen my beloved Mavericks (and, no, a trade for Jason Kidd will do nothing to resurrect their fortunes), I really do like this deal because is makes things far more tantalizing in the West. The rivalry between the Suns and the Los Angeles Lakers has been getting increasingly chippy of late. When the Lakers acquired Paul Gasol from Memphis last week, L.A. became the class of the West. But now, bringing Shaq back to the West and putting him on the team that's Kobe's biggest rival? My oh my, this is going to be fun.

Once more, the Suns don't even have to play Shaq. They can place him in a rest home in the Arizona desert somewhere, let him get somewhat healthier, and then bring him back just in time for the playoffs. It has been said by those who know more about basketball than I that Phoenix's helter-skelter type of play is great fun to watch and wins a lot of games, but doesn't produce championships. That's one of the reasons Mavs coach Avery Johnson took his team out of its run-and-gun style.

So what happens if Phoenix plays San Antonio in an early playoff round? Just trot out a rested Shaq and it's goodbye Tim Duncan; Steve Nash toasts Tony Franklin.

But I do hope Shaq plays when the Lakers come to Phoenix on Feb. 20. I would really look forward to this and, now that the Mavs are officially out of championship contention (it's between the Lakers and the Suns in the West, the Celtics and the Pistons in the East) I need something on the NBA horizon to look forward to.

I can't see anything the Mavs can do at this point to get back into contention. Certainly a stupid trade for Jason Kidd which forced them to surrender the team's future (i.e., Devin Harris) wouldn't be in their best interests even for the present because of the moves made by the Suns and the Lakers.

Of course, that's not to say a Dallas team can't pull off a stupid trade. I've been hearing rumors the Cowboys are talking about a doozy, a trade that would send Marion Barber and its two top draft choices to Miami for the rights to select Darrin McFadden in the upcoming draft. What are those people drinking at Valley Ranch? For one thing, I have seen nothing whatsoever to indicate McFadden is a better running back than Barber. More versatile, maybe, but not better. And why, with holes that can be filled with those top two draft choices, would you give them away? My son said it best: This sounds like New Orleans giving away all its draft choices for Ricky Williams. Williams was one of the great runners in the last 20 years of college football but is MIA as a pro.

Unless you have pre-school-age children, you might not be familiar with The Doodlebops (not to worry, this is not the drastic changing of the subject that it appears). The Doodlebops have a television show on the Disney Channel that follows a rigid formula for every episode, a formula that requires them about one third of the way through to leave their clubhouse for a studio to record a song they have just written. As they are about to leave, a rope drops from the ceiling and despite the frantic pleas of "don't pull the rope" from children everywhere, Moe Doodlebop (trust me, I'm not making this up) pulls the rope and is rewarded by a cascade of water that falls on his head.

I know Cowboys owner Jerry Doodlebop Jones must be enchanted by the notion of acquiring the most famous college football player to come out of Arkansas since Lance Alworth, but Jerry, I'm pleading with you: "Don't pull the rope!"

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