When you were growing up, did your parents ever make your whole family go around the Thanksgiving dinner table and say what you're thankful for? Mine did, every single year. And that's what we're doing with sports today. For two reasons.
First, because Thanksgiving is the greatest holiday of the year. It's the one day we all get to live like Rick Ross. Eat five times too much, sit back and rub your stomach proudly like a king, and then go take a long nap. Plus you get to have a vacation, leftovers, and four or five full days of outrageous laziness. In exchange, the only real responsibility is to take some unspecified amount of time to be grateful for what we have in life.
This stupid sports column can be that gratitude.
Second, and more importantly, we need this. I need this. Somewhere in the middle of Monday Night Football, sports just got too depressing. Derrick Rose going out for the year, watching RG3 go from the most exciting rookie we'd ever seen to the most depressing player in football, and then Bradley Beal — I'm still not ready to talk about how badly I jinxed Beal last week. But yes. There has been a lot of sports news lately that will bum you out. The most depressing sports news makes it twice as important to remember everything that makes sports awesome. And it's the season to rejoice and give thanks, so why not?
Here are 10 reasons all sports fans should be grateful this year.
So much amazing is happening, and the Shootaround crew is back to help you keep track of it all. You'll find takes on moments you might've missed from the previous night, along with ones you will remember forever.
This Garden Belongs to Paul George
Chris Ryan: Is Paul George the third-best player in the NBA right now? Did Paul George walk into Madison Square Garden and guard the Knicks' best player (both on the perimeter and in the post)? Did he match Carmelo's 30-point night with a 35-point turn of his own? Did he go into the visitors' locker room, see a glass case marked "Break in Case of Fourth-Quarter Emergency," think about the people who had came before him who had broken things at Madison Square Garden, laugh, shatter it, and score 12 in the final period of regulation and 13 of the Pacers' final 18, including three free throws to send the game into overtime? Did he punch Shump's layup off the backboard? Did he walk off the court like the legend in the making that he is and get dap from celebrities in the making like A$AP Rocky?
The Dallas Mavericks are the last team to have ousted the Miami Heat from the NBA playoffs. As we all know, Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs bested LeBron James and the Heat in six games in the 2011 NBA Finals, clinching their first championship on Miami’s home floor. Although that series was Nowitzki’s finest moment, it also inspired James to drastically transform his game. He's never been the same since.
We've been getting in the mood for basketball for a few weeks now, but the NBA season doesn't officially begin until Media Day.
That's when everything that's amazing and ridiculous comes back at once. The photos, the quotes, the trash talk, the outrageous predictions. It's all there. And it's been even better the past few years, because Twitter makes it easier than ever to share all the best moments. With the help of Danny Chau and the rest of the NBA Internet, let's run through some important moments from around the league.
Over the weekend, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban took to his blog — normally an outpost for stock investing advice, third-way political observations, and Shark Tank updates — to explain not just the Mavs' current offseason but the entire series of decisions he'd made since they won the championship in 2011. The complaint from a noisy section of the fan base is that he let most of the team's talent leave so Dallas could pursue the white whale of future cap space — or, if you believe the more conspiratorial arguments, to coast off the championship win and save money.
Cuban's post didn't have a lot to say that he hadn't already said in the press. But its format (sort of like a misguided apology e-mail you'd send your ex-girlfriend late at night to explain why you'd been such a dick) and its timing (Mavs season tickets, on sale now!) require some sort of notice.
It's mid-July, the offseason is two weeks old, the second (or third?) Dwightmare is officially over, and we have at least three teams who vaulted themselves into the title contender conversation. This summer's especially fun because teams who were good last year (Nets, Rockets, Warriors, Clippers) have gotten much better, and then you have a separate group of teams who are going into scorched-earth tanking mode already. In a normal year, you're not technically tanking until you bench your best players for the final three months of the season, but what the Sixers just did has gotta qualify. Ditto for the Suns, Magic, and especially the Jazz, who let Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap walk and then replaced them with Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson. INSPIRED.
The offseason is always great, but this one's been especially fun as two sides of the league do everything they can to either contend for a title or gut their roster and lose 50 games. In the middle we have the Lakers, reloading with Chris Kaman and Jordan Farmar and Nick Young as Kobe's wingmen for next year. Again, the offseason is GREAT.
Anyway, to celebrate the season, let's check out a handful of teams and hand out grades for what's happened thus far. We begin with the trade that kicked everything off back on draft night …
Injuries to Danilo Gallinari and Kenneth Faried have George Karl understandably scrambling for healthy rotation parts, but I’m not sure the world is ready to watch the Wild Child front line play heavy minutes. On their very first possession as a duo against Houston on April 6, Jeremy Lin blew by McGee’s overly aggressive and off-balance help defense on a pick-and-roll and launched a layup that Anthony Randolph, helping from the weak side, blatantly goaltended.
Randolph and McGee have combined for at least a dozen moments of sublime chaos since, including a half-dozen alone in Denver’s wild and very necessary win Monday night in Milwaukee — more silly goaltending infractions, two completely out-of-control offensive fouls by a stumbling Randolph, and at least one McGee into-the-stands rejection so dumb McGee expressed immediate regret that he didn’t just catch the ball.
A survey of the players and teams making moves in last night's NBA action.
1. Dirk Nowitzki
Robert Mays: Well, don’t look now (actually, you probably should look), but the Mavericks are coming. Dallas is 10-4 in March, and with last night’s OT win against the Clips, the Mavs are a game behind the Lakers for the last playoff spot in the West.
Last night’s Dirk performance was just the latest step in an upward trend that would make any team that draws Dallas in the first round a bit uneasy. After missing most of the first two months of the season, Nowitzki’s gone from 16.9 points on 44.2 percent shooting in January to 18.9 on 52.9 percent in March. His 33 last night were a season high, and they came on 21 shots — another season high. Just as the Mavs need Dirk to be Dirk, he finally can be.
In case you were out all night looking for the afikomen, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
Dallas got a crucial win in the Western Conference playoff race, beating the Los Angeles Clippers, 109-102, at home. Clippers forward Blake Griffin, who had a potential game-winning shot waved off at the end of regulation after he fouled Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki, said after the game, "Dirk, man, respect his game, but the guy's a real Batusi dancer." When told of Griffin's comments, a puzzled Nowitzki asked, "Wait, is he calling me old? Like Adam West? Or lame? Is he saying I cheated? I don't get it. We won the game. What the hell is this? Ask him what he meant by that." When asked, however, Griffin responded, "Nah, guy just dances the Batusi, you know" before winking at the gathered media and jutting out his mouthpiece with a half smile.
The United States Men's National Team earned a rare road point at the Estadio Azteca, holding Mexico to a scoreless draw in a World Cup–qualifying match. U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann credited his team's resolve to their prematch preparation, in which Klinsmann himself berated his team in Spanish and threw bags of unidentifiable liquids at them as they attempted corner kicks. When asked if his own experience winning matches in Mexico with West Germany led him to that training technique, Klinsmann responded, "Um sure. Yes. Let's go with that."
Early in the second quarter last night against Milwaukee, veteran backup Mike James slowly walked the ball up the court before getting his Dallas team into its offense. The possession’s first real action didn’t come until about 10 seconds in, a rip screen (angled back screen) by O.J. Mayo to bring Dirk Nowitzki to the back-side block.
When the Mavericks' star forward secured the post-entry pass from James, the shot clock had already dwindled near single digits. A well-timed dig (help defender dropping down to swipe at the ball) on Nowitzki forced a pass out to Mayo at the top of the key. A hasty drive-and-kick series between the two followed, and the big German was eventually forced to launch a tough, contested jumper that came up about 3 feet short of the rim.
When the Dallas Mavericks won the NBA title two years ago, they did so with an offense that relied primarily on brilliant half-court execution. A group that combined Nowitzki with two heady Jasons (Kidd and Terry), lob machine Tyson Chandler, and sharpshooter Peja Stojakovic posted an excellent offensive rating of 107.6 in its run to the championship.
The Mavs dropped to 22-29 after a crazy, last-second loss to Atlanta on Monday in Dallas, and they are in serious danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since 1999-2000 — Dirk Nowitzki’s second year in the league. Dallas has known nothing but success since then, most of it built around a jump-shooting big man who redefined the NBA and has solidified his place as one of the 25 greatest players ever with a memorable title run in 2011. Nowitzki sat down for an extended one-on-one with Grantland after that Monday loss to reflect on his career, his legacy, the current Dallas team, Shark Tank, and Shawn Marion’s shooting mechanics. What follows is an edited transcript of our chat.
For the remainder of the NBA season, The Triangle will be breaking down the biggest games of the week. Up first: Knicks-Mavs, a game in which Tyson Chandler returned to Dallas and faced the team he won a championship ring with last season. In Dallas's 96-85 victory, Dirk Nowitzki resumed his single-footed heroics and Carmelo Anthony gave more fuel to his growing army of critics.
What Was at Stake
Since the Knicks had amassed their full arsenal of weapons — Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, Baron Davis, and Iman Shumpert returned from injury, and J.R. Smith came back from joyriding junkets down the Yangtze River — they’d gone 2-3, with losses to Boston, Miami, and New Jersey going into Tuesday's game. The two wins were in games that presented challenges as daunting as spotting someone in Los Angeles wearing a fedora: One was a trouncing of a depleted Atlanta team, the other a rout of the Cavs. (Even then, the Knicks trailed at the half by 12.)
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
Monday was Randy Moss' birthday, and he made the surprising announcement that he wants to play football next season. In a moment that was perhaps too candid, he asked, "anyone out there looking to ruin their NFL franchise?"
Carmelo Anthony is set to return from injury later this week, and insisted that he can co-exist with Jeremy Lin on the floor. Lin, for his part, said he can't co-exist with Anthony, and has hired spunky actor Cuba Gooding Jr. to play the role for the foreseeable future.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports over the weekend.
In a fast-paced, entertaining game, De'Anthony Thomas rushed for 155 yards on just two carries as Oregon won its first Rose Bowl in 95 years with a 45-38 win over Wisconsin. Photographs from the last victory, in 1917, show that rather than their trademark green-and-yellow, the Ducks used to wear black-and-white uniforms.