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Luka Doncic & 'Unicorn': Kristaps Porzingis Trade Ends Mavs '20-Year Duo' Run

Unicorn is no GOAT, ranking Cowboys Super Bowls, making money on Mavs and catching up with the salon shyster, all in this week's DFW sports notebook

WHITT’S END: 2.11.22

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

*On Feb. 4, 2019, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban beamed, and bristled. He had just orchestrated a blockbuster trade to acquire the NBA’s “Unicorn”, 7-foot-3 All-Star Kristaps Porzingis, to pair him with budding superstar Luka Doncic. And he wasn’t open to hearing from skeptics who contended that his team gave up too much for a player that might be both too expensive and too fragile. 

“Our goal,” Cuban interrupted a questioner during Porzingis’ introductory press conference, “is to keep them together for the next 20 years.”

Barely made it three. 

Thursday’s deadline-beating trade of Porzingis to the Washington Wizards for Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans abruptly, sadly – yet predictably – ended the Unicorn Undertaking. 

When healthy and motivated, Porzingis was decent in Dallas. But his catch-and-shoot perimeter game was inconsistent. He was unable to initiate offense off the dribble or with a play-making pass. And, mostly, he was – ahem – injury-prone. 

Porzingis deteriorated into DFW’s tallest part-time employee, showing up for work just more than half the time as a Maverick and this season playing in only 34 of 55 games. (Seriously, did he even qualify for the team’s employee benefits?) 

An athlete’s most important ability is availability. During his first 12 seasons in Dallas, Dirk Nowitzki missed a total of only 32 games. Over 21 seasons, he had 14 in which he missed five or fewer games. And for his career, Dirk played in 91 percent (1,522 of 1,674) of possible Mavs games. 

Porzingis, meanwhile, missed his final five games as a Mav with a bruised knee, and over three seasons played in only 64 percent (134 of 209) of possible games. 

Look, Robin wasn’t always the perfect sidekick for Batman. But he showed up in way more than 64 percent of the episodes. No secret that the “Unicorn” was no GOAT. Porzingis was indeed unique, but only as a fantasy that appeared about as much as a winged horse with a horn on its forehead.

*Perhaps unburdened (wink) by his former teammate's departure, Doncic went out Thursday night and produced the second-highest scoring game in franchise history. 

He made seven 3-pointers against the Clippers in the first quarter en route to 28 points (he missed two free throws to break Dirk's record of 29 in quarter set in '09) and finished with a career-high 51. Only four Mavs have scored 50: Luka, Dirk, Jamal Mashburn and Jim Jackson. I witnessed the last two performances that, amazingly, came within two weeks of each other - on the road, no less - in November of 1994. 

Said Luka of his performance, "I'm tired as Hell."

*Hard to fathom there are 26-year-olds living in Dallas with no idea what it’s like to experience the Cowboys in the Super Bowl. 

I was fortunate to attend three of the five Cowboys’ Super Bowl wins as a writer for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The other two I watched on TV and remember – both times – my parents letting me miss school the ensuing Monday because it was a “Cowboys holiday.” 

Since it’s been so long – and because we’re just not that amped about Rams-Bengals – let’s dig the Cowboys’ Super Bowl wins out of the moth balls and rank ’em. There are five of ‘em. And they each represent the same thing – a championship season. But for different reasons and personal preferences, some are better than others.

5. XXVIII 1993 Cowboys 30, Bills 13 – About as ho-hum as a Super Bowl can get, it was another expected blowout over another overmatched Bills’ team in the wake of Dallas’ bigger victory over the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. The Cowboys actually trailed at halftime, but dominated the second half, 24-0, by simply handing the ball to Emmitt Smith.

4. XII 1977 Cowboys 27, Broncos 10 – Beating former teammate Craig Morton and Denver’s hyped “Orange Crush” defense was satisfying, but topping a hapless opponent that committed eight turnovers hardly felt super. The sloppy Cowboys committed 12 penalties, two turnovers and allowed Roger Staubach to be sacked five times – and still won in a blowout. By far Dallas’ worst-played championship.

3. XXX 1995 Cowboys 27, Steelers 17 – Finally, the Cowboys exacted revenge from the hated rival that twice beat them in ‘70s’ Super Bowls. That in itself made this one memorable. But, honestly, the sensation was a tad dulled by Barry Switzer’s coaching, Larry Brown’s MVP and a hint that the dynasty was coming to an end. In retrospect, we should’ve enjoyed this one more at the time.

2. XXVII 1992 Cowboys 52, Bills 17 – A 15-year wait for another title was worth it as Garth Brooks and Michael Jackson performed at the Rose Bowl. Troy Aikman threw five touchdown passes and only Leon Lett’s premature celebration prevented Dallas from setting a Super Bowl record for most points scored.

1. VI 1971 Cowboys 24, Dolphins 3 – There’s always a special place in your heart for your first love, and Super Bowl. Devastating title-game losses to the Packers were finally softened by a dominating defense and Bob Lilly’s epic 29-yard sack of Bob Griese. “Next Year's Champions” no more. The feeling was 70-percent joy, 30-percent relief and 100-percent wonderful.

*In a diluted West weakened by the drastic declines of the Lakers, Clippers and Blazers, the Mavs have a legitimate opportunity to move up to the fourth seed in the playoffs. 

But … are they better today than yesterday? 

Dinwiddie is coming off a torn ACL and experienced a declining season in Washington, while it’s been more than a month since Bertans played more than 15 minutes in a game for the 24-29 Wizards. The Mavs ridded themselves of an injury-prone player with a bad contract, in exchange for two mediocre players with bad contracts. 

Mavs fans won’t want to hear this, but the best thing about the trade is that Dinwiddie – if healthy and back in form – provides an insurance policy if Jalen Brunson leaves next summer via free agency.

*And, sorry, but this not-so-intimidating photo of Bertans likely won't soothe your hurt feelings about Dallas "not getting enough" for Porzingis. Seriously, is that his head photo-shopped on Shawn Bradley's body? 

Take away his jersey and if I gave you 100 guesses at his profession "NBA" wouldn't cross your lips.

*But, hey now, the acquisition of long-time Luka buddy Goran Dragic would change our tune now wouldn’t it?

*Cowboys all-time sack leader DeMarcus Ware will be a Hall of Famer. Just not - surprisingly - a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

*Struggling – like most of us – to care who wins Super Bowl LVI? Here, let Jerry Jones make his plea for your rooting interest.

*Speaking of Jerry, ol’ pal Jimmy Johnson had this take on Colin Cowherd’s TV show this week: “Jerry doesn’t ever want to admit he’s wrong, so he’s gonna hang with whoever … and try to make it work. I think he really values the talent on that team so much that he feels like Mike McCarthy can be successful and improve, especially with Dan Quinn and Kellen Moore staying.”

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*Remember that sweetheart of a human who went to jail because she refused to close her Dallas salon at the height of the COVID pandemic? Turns out Shelly Luther is now running for political office in Austin and – oh yeah – being unhappy that she can’t laugh at transgender teens

On what planet would anyone consider her a kind, loving, accepting, representative woman?

*Same Mavs organization that traded for the fragile Porzingis once upon a time in 1997 traded for and then – trust me, I was in the building – hung a banner in Reunion Arena celebrating the NBA “Iron Man” streak of A.C. Green, who played his 907th consecutive game in Dallas and eventually ran his total to 1,192. 

In an era of “load management”, Green’s number might be one of the most untouchable records in all of sports.

*State of our union: An Arlington woman walked into a Perkins restaurant last week and handed her waitress a note saying she had been kidnapped, asking her to call 911. When officers arrived, the woman told police she was joking. Turns out she thought it’d be funny to video the waitresses’ reaction and post it on TikTok. 

The woman was cited for disorderly conduct. 

What are we doing?!

*Final analysis: Porzingis was a decent throw-in on the Tim Hardaway Jr. trade that the Mavs have now sorely lost. 

In 2019 Dallas sent Dennis Smith Jr., DeAndre Jordan, Wesley Matthews and two first-round picks to the New York Knicks for Porzingis, Hardaway Jr., Trey Burke and Courtney Lee. Three years later the Mavs have Hardaway Jr. and Burke; the Knicks have Dallas’ 2023 first-round pick.

*Hot.

*Not.

*We did find someone who oughta know who love, Loves, LOVES the Mavs trade. In fact, Magic Johnson says he now ranks Dallas as the third-best team in the West.

*According to the confused Commanders, the NFL’s best defense belonged to the ’85 Bears, the Dolphins went undefeated in ’73 and the Cowboys ’90s dynasty produced Super Bowl wins in ’93, ’94 and ’96. How does Washington does not fix the inexplicable gaffe on its fancy new logo?!

*Love me some Don Nelson, but you’re telling me he’s one of the NBA’s 15 all-time best head coaches? I mean, a record 1,335 wins over 31 seasons is nice and all, but his next minute coaching in the NBA Finals will be his first. How can you be one of the greatest ever without coaching one of the league’s two best teams in any season? (You can’t.)

*Really, you can go to Dallas’ fancy-pants NorthPark Mall, zip into Zales and walk out with $30,000 in jewelry? When I’m at that mall there are security guards and off-duty, armed cops seemingly everywhere.

*Former Cowboys receiver Rocket Ismail will take part in an appetizing, star-studded Super Bowl event tonight in Southern California. 

Dallas-based and award-winning Café Momentum culinary training center is partnering with the NFL Players Coalition for a shindig that will feature youths aged 15-19 – that have been in the juvenile justice system – cooking and serving dinner to the likes of former NFL stars Warrick Dunn, John Randle and Orlando Pace at L.A.’s famed restaurant, Rossoblu. Yes, there is life after incarceration. And with second chances provided and bolstered by Café Momentum, those second chances can be downright delicious.

*Lucky Texan walked into the “Bobcat Kuntry” convenience store last week in Celina and wound up a millionaire. Simply by buying a scratch-off ticket. I’ve never won more than $5. Ever. Of course, I’ve also never shopped in “Bobcat Kuntry”, so what am I thinking?

*Want an even easier way to make money? Simply bet the under in Mavs home games. In their last 22 at AAC, 18 have gone under the combined point total posted by oddsmakers. By any wagering metric, 18-4 is no joke.

*On a night after his set during his comedy tour, 65-year-old Bob Saget banged the back of his head on something, thought nothing of it, went to sleep and … never woke up. Death is never easy, but – in the big picture – that’s not a bad way to go. Final memories were telling jokes and laughing, before dying in his sleep. Sign me up for that.

*The Cowboys won something in February! Sort of. Backup running back JaQuan Hardy – teamed with a pro gamer named “Jelty” – won $175,000 this week in Streamer Bowl III, an eSports video game tournament that included NFL stars Aaron Jones, Christian McCaffrey and Kyler Murray.

*Popular narrative I’m not buying: Matthew Stafford wasn’t good enough to elevate the Detroit Lions to even one playoff win in 12 seasons, but he’s great enough to be the reason the Rams win the Super Bowl? It kinda harpoons the fairy tale, but the Rams were good enough to be in the Super Bowl without Stafford just three years ago.

*So who’s really in charge: Mother Nature or Old Man Winter?

*In a continuing quest to look under all of life’s sports rocks, in 2022 I might check out something called the Texas Arena League. It’s professional polo. Hockey on horseback. Who knew, right? There are matches between local teams – $5 tickets for crying out loud – this weekend in Kaufman and Feb. 25-27 in Brookshire. See ya there!

*Was at the gym this week and a guy was walking around with one of those Yetis adorned with what I figured were motivational words. But upon closer inspection: Birds. Aren’t. Real. What the what? Whoa! “Over the last several decades the U.S. government has replaced every single living bird with robotic replicas.” I honestly can’t tell if it’s parody … or not.

*No-brainer: Dan Quinn has been named NFL 2021 Assistant Coach of the Year. Under him, the Cowboys defense was so good it made us forget that in 2020 it was historically, horribly bad.

*TV viewership for the Opening Ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in Beijing saw a 43-percent drop from 2018. I find that curiously satisfying.

*As if you needed another log on your fire of fury at Porzingis, he is a fan of the … Washington Commanders. Good riddance. Porzingis never seemed “all in” with the Mavs. Sincere or not, however, gotta give him props for a fond farewell.

*I’m always listening to some sorta music as I feed the Whitt’s End beast. This week somehow I stumbled onto this. Read something you disagree with? Blame the monotonous, yet hypnotic beat.

*Oh, and Valentine’s Day isn’t a real thing. Ignore.

*This Weekend? Saturday morning let’s enjoy the Spring(ish) weather for some tennis. Saturday night let’s have a cocktail(s) at one of Dallas’ hidden gems. Sunday let’s go to a Super Bowl soiree that a buddy has been hosting for 33 years. As always, don’t be a stranger.