Mavs EXCLUSIVE: Shawn Bradley Update; Luka's Climb

Behind the scenes, 7-foot-6 gentle giant Shawn Bradley is way ahead of your sympathy. Mavs and DFW Sports Notebook
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Whether you’re at the end of your coffee, your day, your week or even your rope, welcome to Whitt’s End 3.19.21 …

*Exclusive on former Dallas Maverick Shawn Bradley. He announced this week that he was paralyzed in the wake of a Jan. 20 bicycle accident in which he was hit from behind by a vehicle near his home in Utah. 

READ MORE: Dallas Mavs Ex Shawn Bradley In Serious Accident

Tragic, no doubt. But, behind the scenes, the 7-foot-6 gentle giant is way ahead of your sympathy.

A source close to Bradley tells me that while the initial news items reported "paralysis,'' Shawn has improved to the point at which he is paralyzed now only from the waist down, having recently regained full use of his arms.

Additionally, I'm told, Bradley is mapping out a move back to north Texas. The plan: Open a sports facility in Celina (catering, in part, to disabled athletes), and reach out to Allen native Kyler Murray, now the standout QB of the Arizona Cardinals, as a potential business partner. 

Increasingly positive developments and all things considered, good news about a great guy.

*In news that could be as big as when the NFL moved to something called Fox in 1994, news out of New York is that the league will ends its long relationship with DirecTV when the current contract expires after 2023. The new deal, which will start in 2024, will feature DirecTV’s popular Sunday Ticket moving to ESPN+ and Amazon Prime becoming the new home of Thursday night games. Fox, CBS, NBC and ESPN will re-up their deals and continue their broadcast packages.

*Of course I got the COVID vaccine as soon I was able. Duh. Props to Texas Health Resources for contacting me as part of Group 1C (50+). My first shot was short, sweet and resulted in only a smidge of sore. Second dose scheduled for April 13. 

I did find this interesting the paperwork fine print: The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine is an unapproved vaccine that may prevent COVID-19. There is no FDA-approved vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The FDA has authorized the emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine to prevent COVID-19 in individuals 16 years of age and older under an Emergency Use Authorization. 

Is the shot 100 percent guaranteed? Nope. But, like masks, they’re our best chance to survive a pandemic that’s already killed half-a-million Americans.

*I filled out a March Madness bracket. So did you. And the guy in the (virtual) cubicle next to you? Yep, him too. Your lawyer. Your golf buddies. Even the woman that prefers to watch eliminations on The Bachelor rather than in basketball.

Basically everyone we know, all over the Metroplex, will be consumed by the NCAA tournament over the next three weeks. Just imagine our frenzy if DFW was actually invited to the party.

For all our hoops hysteria, we haven’t enjoyed a Final Four with a local flavor since essentially the days of peach baskets, canvas high-tops and running hook shots.

Prepare to cringe.

There have been 81 Final Fours. Metroplex teams – SMU, TCU, North Texas and UT-Arlington – have made exactly one appearance. One. Worse, DFW teams have won only three tournament games in the last 32 years and haven’t advanced past the second round in 50 years. That’s right, with two berths since 1998 the Prairie View A&M Panthers have as rich of a recent March Madness history as any DFW school.

The vexing void certainly can’t be traced to a lack of talent. The Metroplex regularly produces players that shine in the tournament and, eventually, the NBA. Maybe you’ve heard of LaMarcus Aldridge (Seagoville), Chris Bosh (Lincoln), C.J. Miles (Skyline), Marcus Smart (Flower Mound), Julius Randle (Plano), Myles Turner (Trinity), Deron Williams (The Colony) and Larry Johnson (Skyline)?

Problem, of course, is that we don’t keep our own. On their way to the NBA, all of the above that went to college did so out of the Metroplex. By my math – inexplicable as it sounds – the last home-grown stars at TCU and SMU were Kurt Thomas (1994) and Ira Terrell (1976). That explains our dreadful DFW drought.

READ MORE: Texas Longhorns Odds To Reach Final Four in NCAA?

READ MORE: NCAA Tournament First Round Preview: Texas vs Abilene Christian

UTA lost its only March Madness appearance as a 16-seed in 2008. UNT is 0-3, each time as a No. 15 seed (this year the Mean Green are a No. 13). SMU won a game under Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown in 2015, but the Mustangs’ previous win came under David Bliss in 1988. TCU, which was upset in the first round in 2018 year as a 6-seed, hasn’t won a tournament game since current head coach Jamie Dixon was a sharp-shooting senior guard in 1987.

The last time TCU and SMU made audible noise in the tournament, it wasn’t recognizable as March Madness.

The Horned Frogs’ best run was in 1968, when the event consisted of only 23 teams. That squad, coached by Johnny Swaim and led by stars Micky McCarty and James Cash, lost in the regional final by 35 points to a Houston team that featured a center named Elvin Hayes.

SMU’s deepest dive is DFW’s only Final Four cameo. In 1956, the Mustangs beat Texas Tech, Houston and Oklahoma City to make the 25-team field’s last four. That Final Four was played at Northwestern’s gym in front of crowds estimated at 3,500. The Mustangs, 25-4 and Southwest Conference champs, were led by star Jim Krebs, who made the cover of Sports Illustrated under the title: “Big Jim and the Texas Boom.” SMU, however, lost in the semifinal to a San Francisco team powered by a senior known as Bill Russell. The following year Krebs and the Ponies were eliminated early in the tournament – in overtime – by another decent big man: Kansas junior center Wilt Chamberlain.

Getting road-blocked by the likes of Hayes, Russell and Chamberlain is no embarrassment, and DFW’s empty mantle is actually just an extension of Texas’ troubles. To get back to Final Fours, DFW teams have to keep the best local players. But even if they don’t, March Madness won’t have trouble keeping our interest.

*You know you’re a legitimate MVP candidate when you score 42 points and the opposing coach says “For the most part defensively, we did a good on him.”

That’s why you, me, Clippers’ coach Tyronn Lue and Luka Doncic are flabbergasted by the Dallas Maverick’s declining odds. 

READ MORE: More Likely NBA MVP: Mavs' Luka Doncic or Nets' James?

Luka began the season as the No. 1 favorite for MVP. In the last month he’s merely averaging 30 points on 50-percent shooting and racks up triple-doubles as effortlessly as the rest of us collect wrinkles. But as of Thursday, Luka now only has the sixth-best odds (12-1) behind LeBron James, Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Does not compute.

*Dallas Cowboys’ free agency scoreboard: Coming = Swing tackle Ty Nekhe and defensive linemen Carlos Watkins, Tarell Basham and Brent Urban. Staying = Dak Prescott, special-teams ace C.J. Goodwin, receiver Cedric Wilson and slot corner Jourdan Lewis. Going = L.P. Ladouceur, Chidobe Awuzie and Blake Bell.

READ MORE: Cowboys NFL Free Agency Tracker

I know it's not all “tier-one” ... but the word is two more impactful guys may be on the way.

I bet in free agency in the coming day they sign a starting safety and I bet they sign a maybe-starting corner ... and shouldn't we want to hand out free agency grades until after at least we get through the first week?

*Saw a friend of a friend’s iPhone Wednesday night and the little red notification number attached to her emails blared … 29,154. If I have three unread communications, I’m bothered. Cannot fathom having 30,000.

*Ranking the NFC East quarterbacks in 2021: 1. Dak; 2. Daniel Jones; 3. Jalen Hurts; 4. Ryan Fitzpatrick.

I mean, that’s embarrassing, right? In 1993, the division boasted Troy Aikman, Phil Simms, Randall Cunningham and Mark Rypien, better known as three Super Bowl winners and a league MVP.

*Two weeks until the Texas Rangers’ season opener at Kansas City and they’ve got – sorta – a set lineup. Isiah Kiner-Falefa. David Dahl. Joey Gallo. Then probably Khris Davis and then … ??? Without consistent hitters, I will argue that manager Chris Woodward will struggle to find a consistent batting order. Stop me if you’ve heard that before.

READ MORE: 'Danger Theory': How Rangers Plan to Produce Runs The Modern Way

In 60 games last year, the Rangers used 58 lineups. Yikes.

*Was it just me, or did the Dallas Stars’ “reverse retro” all-white uniforms look like Spearmint-flavored Stormtroopers?

*COVID has changed our world forever and skewed our sense of time. When the March Madness schedule was released, I asked my brother if he wanted to venture out and watch Texas’ first-round game.

“I don’t know,” he said. “That’s late!”

Saturday’s tip-off: 9 p.m.

Granted we’ve both rounded 50, but there was a time – pre-pandemic – in which 9 p.m. didn’t feel like 2 a.m. COVID’s restrictions and short-circuited options has made us all homebodies. For a year, staying in has trumped going out. There’s nothing wrong with that. Unless you wanna, ya know, watch some March Madness anywhere other than your couch.

*Hot.

*Not.

*Mavs won their season series against the Spurs, Nuggets and Clippers. As they climb the Western Conference standings, that could be important.

*This is why it’s dicey to offer blanket, unequivocal “Back the Blue” support: Sr. Cpl. Thomas Hartmann of the Dallas Police Department turned himself in on a witness tampering charge for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend's baby daddy this week. Another Dallas cop, Terry Charles, was arrested on a drunk driving charge at 3 a.m. Saturday, after police in Cedar Hill found him asleep in his car.

Life isn’t black or white. It’s shades and hues and tints of gray in between.

*Props to my alma mater’s dynasty, as the UTA Movin’ Mavs won their 9th National Wheelchair Basketball Association championship. They beat Alabama, 66-51, for the title last week. One of DFW’s most underrated and underreported programs.

*Company called Shipt delivers snacks to all 50 states and has determined that the official March Madness numbing nosh of Texas is … Goldfish. Would’ve bet on pizza. Yes, as a snack. Don’t judge.

*Quick, who has played in the most Cowboys games? Okay, maybe you got Jason Witten. But I’ll betcha a nickel you didn’t know that No. 2 on the list is long-snapper L.P. Ladouceur. After 16 seasons, his era of perfection is over. The Cowboys plan to sign the Rams’ Jake McQuaid, leaving the 40-year-old Ladouceur with a legacy of ZERO bad snaps and just two games short of Witten’s record.

*While some of us are training for a Spartan event at the end of the month, leave it to Mavs owner Mark Cuban to think way outside the box jump. His “boot camp” caters to AI, which makes not my legs spin, but rather my head.

*Luka’s skill and the NBA’s softness have combined to cheapen the triple-double. I covered an NBA in the 1990s in which arm-bars were permitted, cutters weren’t allowed to freely cut without a bump and flopping was frowned upon in favor of in-your-grill defense. The result: The 1999 NBA Finals featured the Spurs beating the Knicks in five games in which they scored 90+ points only once, scored 78 in the title-clincher and held New York below 80 in four of the five games. 80!

Otherwise known as halftime in 2021.

Luka’s skill. Enhanced, unfathomable shooting range. More defensive restrictions leading to up-tempo, more free basketball. And the relaxing of rules that now allow carrying the ball, Euro-steps and step-step-step-step-back jumpers have combined to reincarnate the game.

Bottom line: Once a headline achievement, there were six triple-doubles in the NBA Wednesday night. Still remarkable. Just becoming regular.

*Feel-good, motivational tale for when you start to feel sorry for yourself: In 2015 Dallas police officer Ed Lujan was working security at a nightclub when four men got into a fight and were escorted out. In the parking lot, one of them got into an SUV and ran down – then over – Lujan. The officer suffered a traumatic brain injury, along with a severed tongue, broken teeth, broken neck, broken sternum, dislocated hip and shattered right leg.

Lujan, who has publicly forgiven his assailant, is not only back at work, this weekend he’s participating in the St. Patty’s Day Triathlon. Take that, life!

*I don’t expect the Rangers to do a lot right on the field in 2021, but they’ve already won off of it with the formation of the Charley Pride Fellowship Program. It allows rising college juniors and seniors a 10-week internship in the team’s front office. Bravo! Pride, a country music legend and Rangers fan for 50 years, passed away last December.

*During our COVID lockdown we all became more – shall I say – resourceful? But Netflix, finally, is on to us. Dangit.

*Drew Brees retires from the Saints with a Super Bowl ring and the NFL’s all-time passing yards record. Makes us feel awfully silly for the hoopla we produced over Tony Romo’s departure. Or at least it should.

*Despite the hardest freeze on record just a month ago, DFW botanists predict our precious bluebonnets will bloom on time for a characteristically colorful Spring. The flowers, it seems, were protected from the cold under the blanket of snow. The key now: Steady rain and temperatures in the mid-80s until April 15. Fingers crossed.

*Several of us Duncanville High School buddies have gathered the last two Summers for a mini-reunion/golf tournament at RB Golf Club & Resort in Bridgeport. Fun little track. Beautiful views. And, now, an important player in the world of philanthropy. RB announced this week that its popular charity tournament series – the Charity 10 – will return this year as the Charity 15. Why? Because it’s growing. Last year the series raised $100,000 for 10 North Texas charities. This year it will benefit 15 and up its prize money to $15,000. To play, sponsor of apply to become a beneficiary, details are right here.

*My Final Four: Gonzaga. Houston. Florida. Alabama. Give me the Zags, you can have the field.

*This Weekend? Friday let’s get out for the first time in a long time (masked, of course) and watch some March Madness at an actual sports bar. Saturday morning it’s tennis. Sunday … chill. As always, don’t be a stranger.