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Are Luka's Mavs Over-Thinking Their Problems?

We think the Mavs - and Luka, and Cuban, and all of us - might be over-thinking their "problems.'' DFW Sports Notebook

Whether you’re at the end of your coffee, your day, your week or even your rope, welcome to Whitt’s End 4.23.21 …

*After a deep dive of analysis, maybe we’re overthinking these Dallas Mavericks. Perhaps they’re simply a bored team that plays too – up or down – its level of competition.

They boast several signature road victories: Clippers (by 51). Nuggets (twice). Nets. Hawks. Blazers. Celtics. Knicks. And of course they beat the NBA’s best team – the Jazz – at home earlier this month ... and the defending champion Lakers Thursday night.

READ MORE: Lakers Can't 'Kidnap' Luka as Mavericks Beat L.A

But they also have to own a gaggle of ugly, inexplicable, blowout losses to sub-.500 opponents at American Airlines Center: Hornets (by 19), Bulls (16), Rockets (25), Warriors (31), Pacers (15) and Kings (14). Inexplicably, they are 21-14 against winning teams; 11-12 vs. losers.

READ MORE: Cuban Frankly Addresses 'Dust-Up' Relationship Between Luka & KP

You’d like to think that’s a good sign for the postseason, when every night will be a big game against an elite opponent. You’d also be justified in being alarmed by a team that hasn’t won diddly poo believing it can just turn it on and off. But let’s not overthink it.

*I wholeheartedly concur with ESPN’s Marcus Spears, the Dallas Cowboys should NOT draft Kyle Pitts. Lots of folks I respect – from Hall of Fame personnel guru Gil Brandt to ol’ pal Mike Fisher and his career-long “Best Athlete Available” crusade – disagree, but my thinking steadfastly remains: The Cowboys are a car. A car with four good-as-new tires, and a leaky radiator.

Given the opportunity, why on Earth would you spend money to buy another tire?

Sure, the tire is state-of-the-art and, in theory, will allow you to drive even faster with sexier handling on the curves. Until it won’t. Because, of course, the car will barely make it out of the driveway before the faulty radiator sidelines it into an inoperable, hunk-of-junk clunker.

READ MORE: WATCH: Dallas Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones Meets Florida TE Pitts

Pitts is a talented weapon. But the Cowboys already boast tight end Blake Jarwin, coming off his 2020 breakout season. The Cowboys already own a cache of offensive weapons in Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup and Amari Cooper. Scoring points will not be a problem in 2021, or the foreseeable future. But in case you weren’t paying attention last season, the defense was wretched. Historically horrible. The worst outfit in the NFL. The worst in franchise history.

Dallas surrendered 6,000 yards, an almost unfathomable 57 touchdowns and a whopping 473 points. Do you draft for need? Do you decline a superfluous tire upgrade? Do you grab an urgent fix for the leaky radiator? You bet you do. Or at least you should.

I repeat: Patrick Surtain II, please. And by the way: As we're hearing rumors of the Cowboys, at No. 10 in next Thursday's NFL Draft, talking with the Lions (at No. 7) about trading up ... maybe to ensure Dallas gets Surtain?

READ MORE: Cowboys Strike NFL Draft Alabama Gold - Surtain And Barmore In Mock

I think the Cowboys - as much as they might also like cornerback Jaycee Horn and others - are coming around to that way of thinking, too.

*Way premature overreaction: The Rangers’ Adolis Garcia reminds me of Ruben Sierra. It’s only been 10 days, but the Cuban outfielder that was left off the Opening Day roster has transformed the Rangers and transfixed their fans.

READ MORE: WATCH: Rangers' Adonis - Er, Adolis - Flex

Sierra was a 20-year-old jolt of energy into the organization in 1986. Power from both sides of the plate. Speed. Athleticism. Muscles. Flair, accented by gaudy gold necklaces. He played – and looked – the part of superstar.

There are obvious differences. Mostly, Garcia is 28. But he’s got the bat, the arm, the legs, the machismo and the infectious enthusiasm the Rangers have lacked since Adrian Beltre owned third base. He has three homers in nine games and with him in the lineup Texas is 6-3.

Again, it’s ridiculously early.

But watching Garcia thump his chest and preen around the bases is … Sierra Mist?

*I’m currently workshopping two theories: Either our teams really miss us fans, or our teams just aren’t very good. Since COVID cleared stadiums (or at least dramatically diminished attendance) in 2020, only the Stars have retained any semblance of home-stadium advantage. The Cowboys went 4-4. The Mavs are 15-14. Rangers are 3-6. Stars are a respectable 12-6-8. Do not ask me to begin to explain any of that.

*Sports, for the win. I’ve been chronicling my Big Brothers Big Sisters mentorship of lil’ bro JaJa, and Friday night we shared a memory for a lifetime. Not only did I get to regale him with some history of Jackie Robinson at the Rangers game last Friday night, the dude wound up catching a foul ball.

At his first baseball game.

At his first professional sporting event.

Calmly. Coolly. In between snapping photos with his cell phone. Just reached up and grabbed it with both hands.

Only problem: He now expects this to happen at every game.

*You want a crazy NBA season mixed a distorted wagering perspective? Back in December, the Mavs’ Luka Doncic was the preseason favorite to win Most Valuable Player. Four months into the season he’s averaging 28 points, eight rebounds and nine assists and somehow has plummeted to a long-shot candidate. Las Vegas wise guys’ latest odds have Nikola Jokic as the favorite, followed by six other guys not named Luka.

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He’s kept the Mavs afloat in the Western Conference playoff race. He’s hit multiple highlight buzzer-beaters. He’s … now a 45-1 afterthought to win MVP.

*Something I never expected to type this season: The Rangers have the best starting rotation in the American League. I knew their season would be predicated on run prevention more than run production, but their starting ERA is 3.24.

READ MORE: A New Normal? Texas Rangers Starting Pitching On Hot Streak

Screenshot that while you can. Because we both know it won’t last.

*My idea sure to be a supreme summer seller: Beer popsicles. Am I right?

*Derek Chauvin being found guilty of murder was a soothing reminder that America can still get it right. After a three-week trial, the jury deliberated 10 hours before rendering its verdict. Reminded again of the absurdity of the O.J. Simpson trial: 11 months long, with only four hours of jury deliberation.



*Can’t say the same for the Mavs’ two TV analysts, but Rangers’ play-by-play voice Dave Raymond has grown on me. He’s subtle. Clever. Self-deprecating. Excited only when appropriate. And he can deftly play off diverse sidekicks C.J. Nitkowski or David Murphy. I actually watch Rangers games with the sound turned up, which is extremely rare for me these days.

*Reminder: We can’t control people’s actions, only our reactions to them. I’m at the gym this week doing some interval training. On the treadmill, then nearby for some weights or exercises. Back and forth. On and off. I put my towel and water on the treadmill, only to return after one interval to find them both on the floor and a man walking on my treadmill. Mind you, there are literally hundreds of treadmills in this gym. And I don’t take kindly to a stranger handling my towel and/or water in this COVID culture. My initial impulse was to aggressively confront the guy. But after taking a deep breath, I instead just moved my stuff one treadmill down and continued my workout.

Feel better about it. I’m pretty sure.

*Oops. My bad. After further review, I need to tweak my list of the 10 worst draft picks in Cowboys’ history. Giving that they cut him – could’ve taken T.J. Watt instead – Taco Charlton has to be on that list. Let’s bump Felix Jones, shall we? At least he contributed to a playoff win.

*America’s dirty little (big) COVID secret: Almost 80 percent of those hospitalized are overweight. Given that now we know Vitamin D (sunshine, hello!) is one of the virus’ best combatants, ordering those shelter-in-place lockdowns of already unhealthy folks was like closing the doors with the killer already in the house.

*The added ambience. The roar of the crowd. The palpable intensity. The guy spilling his beer trying to snag a foul ball. Sure, I’ve missed fans in stands. But then I’m watching a Knicks game this week and as Julius Randle steps to the free-throw line the couple thousand inside Madison Square Garden start an “MVP! MVP!” chant. Randle’s having a great year and all but – c’mon folks – he won’t finish in the Top 10 in voting.

The return of fans is a reminder that they’re irrational, delusional homers. God love ’em.

*Globe Life Field is a beeyooty, but for whatever reason the Rangers have trouble scoring runs in their home park. Average runs on the road: 5.5; at home: 2.1.

*NFL hypocrisy at its worst: In 2015 the league quashed Tony Romo’s effort to host a fantasy football convention in a Las Vegas convention center in which no gambling actually takes place.

In 2021 the league has okayed Gisele Bundchen, Tom Brady’s better half, to join wagering site DraftKings as a special advisor to the board of directors.

*Take a bow, Joey Gallo. Not only has the Rangers’ slugger been on base in all 19 games, on Tuesday he swallowed his power pride and bunted against the Angels’ stupid shift for an RBI single.

READ MORE: Texas Rangers' Joey Gallo Displaying Incredible Patience

His light-pole homers that make SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays are cute, but the next step in Gallo becoming a real star is taking what the defense gives him. Hitting rockets into the shift for loud outs may be satisfying to the “go big or go home” crowd, but diversifying his attack will make the Rangers a better team.

*Those of us that questioned why the Cowboys would part ways with one of their best pass rushers now have our answer. Turns out Aldon Smith’s problems are not a thing of the past.

*With nobody going to the movies in 2020 it’s hard to understand how The Oscars are still a thing. Of the films nominated for Best Picture, I’ve seen exactly one: The Trial of the Chicago 7. Really good. But merely one of the best movies in a historically inept year.

In a related story, coming out this summer: Fast & Furious 9. Nine! I’m truly sad for America that we find cars driving fast so dang entertaining.

*Can’t imagine this needs to be said, but here goes: Take all these NFL mock drafts with tiny slivers of grains of salt. ESPN expert Mel Kiper Jr. released his latest mock this week and has the Cowboys taking Utah safety Jamar Johnson with the 99th overall pick.

Preposterous, because Johnson played at Indiana.

*After the recent surge in mass shootings I’ve come to these conclusions: They won’t stop until we have meaningful gun reform. Our traditional reaction of “thoughts and prayers” is wholly ineffective.

*So, you think you’re an elite athlete who has mastered mind-over-matter? Allow me to introduce you to the Barkley Marathons, a 100-mile race so brutal only 13 people have finished in 35 years.

*RANGERS RISK: We all think the Texas Rangers are going to be putrid this season. Our lil’ roundtable revealed predicted win totals of anywhere between 61 and 78, but no one thinks .500 is plausible. Let’s put our money where our mouth is. I’m going to bet a virtual $100 against the Rangers every game this season and, after six months and 162 games, see where I wind up. I’ll keep a running tab right there each Friday and come September I’ll (wink) disperse my profits to my most loyal readers. RECORD: 9-10. TOTAL: -$373.

*This Weekend? Saturday is for tennis and then some Mavs-Lakers. Sunday is for jetting off to Mexico for some … I know, I know. At this point I’m going to need some R&R from all my R&R. But I quarantined for all of 2020. Indulge me. Please and thank you. As always, don’t be a stranger.