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Coach Jason Kidd's Mavs - Infuriating and Impressive - Are Two-Faced

A Cowboys' coach takes tough road to the Big Easy, Mavs fans get what they asked for and the Rangers make a Tsunami splash, all in this week's DFW sports notebook ...

WHITT’S END: 12.3.21

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

*Jason Kidd must be ready to pull his hair out, er, maybe his glasses off. Why? Because his Dallas Mavericks are inconsistent, unpredictable and downright infuriating.

Example: Two nights after playing one of their worst games of the season in a lethargic blowout home loss to the Cavaliers, the Mavs strolled into New Orleans and produced their most impressive offensive outburst in franchise history. They scored 139 points and set a record by shooting 57 of 83 from the floor (68.7 percent), topping the previous high of 67.7 on March 24, 1983.

One night your wife throws a shoe at you and leaves you to eat beans out of can; the next she serves up steak and lobster wearing lingerie. Good luck walking in that front door with confidence the next time you get home.

All of this two-facedness, by the way, is especially bothersome because there the NBA West playoff door is ajar. The Suns and Warriors top the standings with great records. But two traditionally (to Dallas) scary teams, the Clippers and Lakers, are mediocre. LeBron James is getting in trouble for punching guys and moving into COVID protocol.

It would be a great time for the "infuriating'' Mavs to be replaced by the "impressive'' Mavs.

*If life and the NFL was fair, he would’ve been the Dallas Cowboys’ “body double” head coach Thursday night in New Orleans.

Instead, Kris Richard found himself coaching against his former team.

In 2018 the Cowboys won a playoff game behind the NFL’s No. 6 scoring defense that made Richard – their defensive play-caller alongside coordinator Rod Marinelli – a hot commodity for coaching vacancies both as a defensive coordinator and head coach. He was an animated assistant that players loved and executives noticed. Richard received nibbles, interest, even interviewed with as many as six teams for various upgraded jobs. Nothing stuck. Then when Mike McCarthy took over for Jason Garrett in January 2020, Richard found himself a free agent.

More interest. But no matches.

He turned down what he considered parallel moves and wound up sitting out the 2020 season in a sort of one-man protest against “the system”. Last offseason he again interviewed – with the Packers, Raiders and Bengals – but ultimately settled for a job as defensive backs coach on Sean Payton’s staff.

Before his two years in Dallas, Richard help build Seattle’s legendary “Legion of Boom” defense in Seattle under a coordinator named Dan Quinn. There was a time we all thought Richard would be the Cowboys’ next defensive coordinator. But Thursday night it was Quinn who stepped out of the Cowboys’ coaching booth onto the sideline to fill in for COVID-diagnosed McCarthy while Richard held the same position in 2021 he did in 2018.

Life isn’t fair. Nor is the NFL. And it all leads to a question: Is Quinn a "better coach'' than Richard? Might Richard have been at least as successful as Dallas' head coach as McCarthy? And, of course, after Thursday there is the inevitable "Is Quinn better than McCarthy?'' question.

In the end, "better'' is who wins. Or, at least, who gets a chance to win.

*We all learned some fascinating math this week, courtesy of the Texas Rangers. Turns out that 102 losses can be subtracted by a mere $561 million. Give the team’s ownership credit. It pledged to add $100 million to the 2022 payroll and then – despite our skeptical eye rolls – put its money where its mouth was by signing star infielders Marcus Semien and Corey Seager.

So much for following the Astros’ mid 2010s blueprint of losing 100+ games while patiently building through the draft and farm system. The Rangers opened their wallet and immediately cut to the front of the line … at least as far as Hot Stove playmakers.

They may not win the World Series (though the additions of Semien and Seager did immediately improved their odds from 150-to-1 to 80-to-1) but next season they also won’t lose 100+ games. And baseball fans in DFW will now be able to name at least two Rangers.

Big signings. Small steps.

*We can criticize Brian Kelly and Lincoln Riley and Sonny Dykes for being disloyal and jumping ship amidst college football’s crazy coaching carousel, but here’s the hard, cold truth: There may be a person that would – out of sheer loyalty to co-workers – turn down a multi-million-dollar raise and a promotion to their dream job, but I don’t know them. And neither do you.

*If only my life was as exciting as my spam folder. Went digging for an email this week and fell down the rabbit hole of blocked missives. If my spam offers were legit, just in the last two weeks I’d have received $95,000 via random drawing to my Cash App, $75,000 in damages from a class-action lawsuit and $1.7 million from “Mr. George Adamson”, who clearly and unquestionably works for the “Federal Ministry of Finance.” Oh, and I also have multiple women begging to show me their nude photos and a company desperate to settle my IRS debt, so … sign me up for my spam alternative universe. I’m in.

*Wouldn’t you know it, the Rangers finally steal the spotlight and Major League Baseball responds by shutting down its operation because … oh, it’s just another routine lockout.

*Female friend of mine recently made me stop and think about the way we stop and think about sports. Re-telling a sports gambling story, I told her I lost $2,000. “Well,” she said, “how much did you win?” Yeah, but … $2,000 is the net, not the gross. After only an hour of explaining and diagramming and explaining some more, the light bulb went off. “Oh,” she exclaimed, “I got it now!”

Later she asked me the score of the game on TV. When I told her 31-14, she responded “See, if it’s all about the net why didn’t you just tell me plus-17?” Hmm. She has a … point?

*Mavs are – yawn – 11-9 after 20 games and I still keep asking myself this question: How are they distinctly better than the teams that lost in the first round of the playoffs the last two seasons? And, sorry Mavs fans, be careful what you wish for.

We (myself included) all wanted to see what 7-foot-2 center Moses Brown could do. We got our answer this week when he was embarrassingly bullied in the lane and under the basket by Cleveland’s 6-10 Jarrett Allen. After committing as many turnovers as he scored points (two) and picking up four fouls in 11 ugly minutes against the Cavs, Brown was back on the bench playing only garbage time against the Pelicans.

Next time we try to trick ourselves into thinking the Mavs are a contender in the West, consider their lack of interior play and then watch the 19-3 Suns start Deandre Ayton and back him up with the rejuvenated (former Mav) JaVale McGee.

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*The Cowboys had linebacker Micah Parsons as the No. 1-ranked defensive player on their board last April but wanted to draft cornerback Patrick Surtain II. Any way you slice it, they had it right. Surtain had his first Pick-Six last Sunday for the Broncos while Parsons is the favorite for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. He was just named Defensive Rookie of the Month, joining Dexter Coakley (1997), DeMarcus Ware (2005) and Leighton Vander Esch (2018) as Cowboy honorees.

In the last 40 years, there are only 11 rookies who've totaled 10 or more sacks in their first 12 games. The list includes Reggie White, Derrick Thomas, Charles Haley, Von Miller ... and Micah Parsons.

*Sadly, I was right when I wrote this for CBS nine years ago this month: America loves its guns way more than it hates the tragedies caused by guns.

Another school shooting this week, this time by a 15-year-old in Michigan.

Faced with Columbine, Sandy Hook and the hundreds of mass shootings that have followed, we essentially ask “How many?”, offer hollow “thoughts and prayers” and then go about the business of protecting the outdated Second Amendment as though it were oxygen.

During a decade of continued slaughter, we’ve done nothing to prevent guns from being the No. 1 weapon of choice of mass murderers.

*The Rangers’ Wednesday press conference to announce the signing of Semien and Seager was surreal. Off the top of my head, it belongs up there in DFW sports history with Terrell Owens … Dick Motta quitting … SMU Death Penalty … Alex Rodriguez … Jason Kidd traded … Mavs toxic workplace.

Nothing, however, compares to the two Jerry Jones-Jimmy Johnson press conferences in the big meeting room at Valley Ranch: One coming in 1989 and one going in 1994.

*Hot.

*Not.

*It’s not often the Rangers are relevant in November. But on a memorable Cyber Monday in which they spent a half-billion dollars while the Mavs lost at home to the Cavs and the Cowboys lost a head coach to COVID and an offensive lineman to suspension for a post-game punch, the day belonged to baseball.

*Got into a friendly family debate at Thanksgiving over this simple question: “How do you say New Orleans?” Turns out there are countless ways and after enough turkey and spirits none of them sounded anywhere close to correct.

I go with “New OR-lee-inns” and yes, it sounds ridiculous.

*Talk about an accelerated exit: Two years ago today, Jason Garrett was the head coach of a 6-6 Cowboys team trying to repeat as NFC East champions. Now he is out of football, since fired by the Cowboys and Giants. Ouch.

*Good news: There is a new music venue in Dallas’ Design District opening Dec. 14. Bad news: The opening act at Echo Lounge will be … Sting. Pass.

*I’m old enough to remember speeding down the highway and suddenly slowing down when I saw drivers going the opposite direction flash their lights in a courtesy warning of a hidden police car ahead. What happened? 1. We assume everyone has a radar detector?; 2. We’re no longer truly the United States of America?

*This has probably happened to all of us and I can’t figure out if it’s a product of heightened mental awareness or plain ol’ coincidence. This week Jamie Foxx shot hoops at American Airlines Center before a Mavs game, and I’m wisecracking that at this point they could probably use Rick Fox. Lo and behold, two nights later I come across one of those cheeseball Christmas movies on Hallmark – don’t judge – and guess who is the leading man? Yep, the three-time-NBA-champ-turned-actor himself. Weird. Or is it?

*Remember way back when the Rangers traded veteran shortstop Elvis Andrus and then built an entire marketing campaign around his successor, Isiah Kiner-Falefa? Yeah, me neither. Suddenly they have two vastly superior shortstops on their roster. Will be interesting to see where and how Kiner-Falefa fits in 2022.

*Though we were busy obsessing over the new omnicron COVID variant this week, we were supposed to observe “World AIDS Day.” Did you know we have an actual plan to rid the planet of the disease by as soon as 2030? 

Let’s be honest, when Magic Johnson announced he had HIV and then kept on living we all put AIDS on the back burner of our worry stove.

*Two plays usually predictive of wins in the NFL are blocked punts and kickoff returns for a touchdowns. The Cowboys have lost games – at home, mind you – with one of each.

*I’ve heard of “third time’s the charm”, but would you believe a three-peat lottery winner?

*Next time you “got too busy” to squeeze in that hour-long workout, consider that 60 minutes is exactly four percent of your day. We always have time for what we deem important. Happy sweating!

*Rangers’ TV analyst Mark McLemore on 2022: “Now we really get to see what kind of manager Chris Woodward is.” Wait, so managing has nothing to do with managers and everything to do with players? Got it.

Give me the best players with the worst manager and I’ll kick the butt of your team with the worst players and the best manager. Every time.

Nothing against Woodward, but he’s not going to suddenly be a better manager in 2022. He’ll simply have better players.

*This Weekend? Let’s take advantage of this unseasonably warm weather and uncharacteristically Cowboys-less menu to play tennis for likely the last time in 2021. As always, don’t be a stranger.