Whitt's End: Coronavirus Delays Luka Doncic's Development - In A Way That Mirrors Dirk's

Richie Whitt

Whether you’re at the end of your coffee, your day, your week or even your rope, welcome to Whitt’s End 3.20.20

*Luka Doncic is trying to go where Dirk Nowitzki went with the Dallas Mavericks, including around an unforeseen detour. Dirk’s rookie season in 1998-99 was delayed and ultimately significantly altered by an NBA lockout. The dysfunction between players and owners lasted 204 days, erasing training camp, canceling the All-Star Game, pushing Opening Night into February and shortening the schedule to 50 games.

The league’s current COVID-19 delay has so far cost Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks four games, and counting. Instead of excitedly gearing up for Monday’s showdown with the Houston Rockets, the next time we’ll likely see Doncic on the court might be a yet-unscheduled NBA charity exhibition game.

So what does Luka do to kill some time?

Juggle toilet paper.

*Christmas Eve, 1993. Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback Troy Aikman – age 27 and on the cusp of leading his team to a second consecutive Super Bowl victory – becomes the richest player in NFL history. With his record contract, he is the first player signed into the new millennium and one of the last to land a mega-deal before implementation of the league’s new salary cap.

“It’s great, I’m not gonna lie,” Aikman told me at the time. “But the way things are going, it’ll be real soon that somebody makes more than me.”

His haul: 8 years. $50 million. $11 million signing bonus. When he led the Cowboys to an attempted three-peat in 1994, Aikman’s base salary was $1.75 million.

Dak Prescott, who will turn 27 before his next regular-season snap, has one playoff win. In 2020, as it stands now, he will be paid more for a single season than any player in Cowboys’ history: $33 million.

Tag, he’s it.

*Day 1 Without Sports: Surely there’s a game on. Somewhere?! ESPN Classic, all is forgiven!

*Can you imagine a New England Patriots fan seeing Tom Brady in a Tampa Bay Buccaneers uniform? Why yes, unfortunately, we certainly can. Not that Brady in the Bay won’t be the most shocking sports uniform switcheroo since Michael Jordan joined the Washington Wizards, but we’ve had plenty of ours becoming theirs.

The Top 10 most nauseating sights DFW sports fans have been forced to stomach:

10. Michael Finley as a Spur;

9. Calvin Hill as a Redskin;

8. Steve Nash as a Sun;

7. Tony Dorsett as a Bronco;

6. Jason Kidd as a Sun;

5. Michael Young as a Phillie;

4. Josh Hamilton as an Angel; 3. Pudge Rodriguez as a Marlin;

2. Mike Modano as a Red Wing;

1. Emmitt Smith as a Cardinal. And, yes, Jason Witten as a Raider might crack this list once we get a glimpse.

*Day 2 Without Sports: I know we want to wipe out this virus. But a run? On toilet paper?

*Day 3 Without Sports: Wait, why does Smokey Bear wear pants … but no shirt?

*When the sports world stopped – on or about March 11 – the Mavericks just got a surprisingly huge, 31-point, 17-rebound performance from Boban Marjanovic, the Texas Rangers’ Isiah Kiner-Falefa was lighting up Spring Training with 13 hits in his last 21 at-bats, and the Dallas Stars had a season-log, six-game losing streak.

Wonder if we’ll remember any of that when – if – the 2020 seasons reload?

*COVID-19 confusion: Katy Trail organizers chastise Dallasites for – gasp! – running and walking too close together while attempting to get some stress-relieving fresh air. But, inexplicably, those criticized for being out in the open air are allowed, even welcomed, to squeeze into an airplane and sit within six inches of others for hours.

Does. Not. Compute.

*Day 4 Without Sports: I found a girl on my couch. Apparently, she’s my girlfriend. She seems nice. I think I’ll ask her name.

*In this time of unsettling uncertainty, it’s comforting to know that some things indeed never change. L.P. Ladouceur agreed to a new one-year, $900,000 contract, paving the way for his 16 consecutive season as the Cowboys’ long-snapper. He hasn’t missed a game – or a snap, that I can remember – since 2005.

*Unintended consequences: We’re grudgingly learning to slow down, smell the roses and identify who truly matters in our lives. Forced proximity creates either fatal friction or forever fellowship. Oh, also, our diminished driving and downshifted factory production will result in cleaner air and a temporary deceleration of climate change. So there’s that.

*Day 5 Without Sports: Question I miss asking: “What’s the score?” Question I’m already tired of asking: “What day is it?”

*Witten’s not a Cowboy. Dirk’s not a Maverick. Brady’s not a Patriot. Kobe Bryant’s not alive. Dad’s not healthy. March Madness is not a thing. We’re not allowed to eat in restaurants. Beyond bizarre. If 2020 was a computer, I’d unplug, wait 30 seconds, plug back in and try to reboot.

*Hot.

*Not.

*Kinda quietly, the Cowboys’ re-signed kicker Kai Forbath. He was 10-of-10 in three games last season. But his vagabond history – six teams in 10 seasons – suggests we will be anguishing over makeable misses in our near future.

*Not many “winners” when a global pandemic is killing people and ruining livelihoods. But deep in their dark, cheating souls, I bet the Houston Astros are thankful to be shoved from the headlines. For now.

*Day 6 Without Sports: Contagion is creepy in its accuracy. Made nine years ago, the movie – just like our current reality – features a virus that starts with a bat. That infects an animal sold in a Chinese street market. That “jumps” to a human. That becomes a pandemic. That is help spread by a bumbling American response. That introduces the need for “social distancing.”

I know, wow. Contagion wasn’t just coincidentally prophetic. Producers consulted infectious disease scientists, who knew something like this was possible all along.

*I don’t fret over the Cowboys losing Byron Jones (396 different players have intercepted a pass since his last pick, Week 8 of 2017). I don’t fret over them losing Jeff Heath (a try-hard overachiever who missed way more big tackles than he made big plays, and Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix is here to help).

I do, however, commence major fretting over the loss of Robert Quinn (who had 11.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss in 14 starts).

And yes, I say that knowing Gerald McCoy (who plays inside, mostly) is also here to help.

*Stay up late. Sleep in. Work in your peejays. No gyms open. Organized sports leagues kaput. Fast food drive-thrus beckoning. Netflix binging the new default. Gonna be real easy to get real lazy and real fat, real fast.

*The airline industry is already angling for a bailout, claiming it will be bankrupt in two months? Aren’t these the same companies that in the past decade or so have stopped serving actual food and started charging for bags and seat selection? Besides, every worthy financial advisor will tell you to sock away three months’ salary, ya know, just in case. Sympathy for the airlines? Not when company CEOs have been making this kind of scratch.

*Day 7 Without Sports: Channel 8 asked Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley why he didn’t follow Dallas’ lead on closing restaurants and bars in an attempt to slow the virus’ spread.

Said Whitley, “This is not a deadly disease. Yes, there are folks dying, but I’m just not going to do it.”

The virus is revealing a lot about us. Including stubbornness, and stupidity.

*If it’s true that Amari Cooper turned down an offer from the Washington Redskins to be the highest-paid receiver in football, then we need to forgive a couple of his late-game tap-outs. Not all, but some.

That kind of loyalty is rare. And in this day and age, remarkable.

*A sign of how discombobulated we all are: Organizers of the French Open tennis tournament rescheduled their legendary Grand Slam event from its usual late May start until Sept. 20. Oops. The U.S. Open is scheduled to end Sept. 16. I know the virus is causing unavoidable inconveniences, but asking tennis players to play a major on a hard court in New York, then fly to Paris and only four days later begin another major – on a totally different surface (clay), mind you – is preposterously ill-conceived.

*Day 8 Without Sports: One of the few businesses that can thrive during the outbreak is real estate. On Tuesday, 275 new homes were listed for sale in DFW. Thursday, another 503. Open houses may be a no-no, but private showings and negotiations – via an agent – are full-speed ahead.

On the other hand, sports bookies. Ouch.

*Six Super Bowls, sealed with a Pick Six. After an unprecedented career highlighted by six Super Bowls, Brady’s legacy as a Patriot ended with a resounding thud. His last pass in New England was deflected, intercepted and returned for a touchdown by the Tennessee Titans’ Logan Ryan to clinch the AFC Wild Card Game last January.

That image invokes memories of Roger Staubach who, in a shocking 1979 playoff loss to the Rams, threw his final completion as a Cowboy to … offensive lineman Herb Scott.

*In two epically miserable weeks, the stock market lost every dollar of its gains built over the last four years. And estimates are that the virus’ economic impact to the U.S. will be one … trillion. With a t.

I remember getting a Stage 3 math headache in 1980 when Nolan Ryan became the first athlete with a contract topping $1 million. I understand that a trillion is a million millions. Doesn’t mean I can fathom it.

*Day 9 Without Sports: Things I wish I didn’t have the time or need to look up: HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. Rubeola is the virus that causes Measles. And SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19, short for Corona Virus Disease 2019.

In a related story, I’m watching birds fight over worms. Bottom of the 3, Cardinals lead the Blue Jays, 2-1.

*You always said you’d read more, if you only had more time. Well? In case you’re going to make good on that promise, here are my Top 10 stories from the last decade. Bon appetit.

*Day 10 Without Sports: First it was no stadium crowds. Then, no groups larger than 50. Then 25. 10. Finally, shelter in place. But since there isn’t – yet – a ban on intimate gatherings of 2, expect a boom of babies born around Christmas. And, yes, some of the girls will be named Corona.

*Always thought it was silly when someone in the media posed one of those hypotheticals that began “If the season ended today … ”. Not anymore.

*Alas, there is quaran-tainment with a DFW flavor: A home-grown “player” to root for in a “sport” still being “played.” Well, sorta. Tune in tonight to the obscure TV network, Universal Kids. It will present, at 5 p.m., the show American Ninja Warrior Junior and 13-year-old contestant and Dallas native, Isaiah Thomas. Welcome to our very abnormal new normal.

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*This weekend? Friday: Shelter. Saturday: In. Sunday: Place. As always, don’t be a stranger. (But only, of course, from a distance of six feet.)

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