Whitt's End: Mavs Vs. Clippers? Irrational NBA Playoffs Fun

Whitt's End: Dallas Mavs Vs. Clippers? Irrational NBA Playoffs Fun, Plus 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 8.14.20 …

*Bubble half-full or half-empty? Irrational Dallas Mavericks’ optimism: They should be 6-2!

Of their five losses in Orlando, one was in double-overtime to the Rockets in which they blew a seven-point lead with 45 seconds remaining, one was by two points to the Suns, one by three points to the Blazers and one came in Thursday’s meaningless finale to Phoenix in which Luka Doncic sat out the second half.

Irrational Dallas Mavericks’ pessimism: They could be 0-8!

Two of their wins came in overtime after improbable late rallies and one was over the Jazz after Utah led by 22 but pulled its regulars the entire fourth quarter.

Rational Dallas Mavericks’ reality: They are entertaining. Doncic will dazzle. Their games will be high scoring. But the playoff matchup with Clippers is undesirable, at best.

READ MORE: Fish - Inside Clippers' Plan To Stop Luka

Los Angeles is bigger, stronger, more experienced and has three defenders – Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Patrick Beverly – that can provide different, difficult defensive looks to Luka. The Mavs are 0-3 against the Clippers including a 15-point loss last week. In the three losses, Doncic is only 9-of-33 on 3s and the Mavs – who averaged 122 points per game in the Bubble – managed only 99, 107 and 111.

*Jerry Jones’ “grace” was worth the wait. After remaining deafeningly silent for four months on everything from Dak Prescott’s contract to America’s turbulent social justice, the Dallas Cowboys owner on Wednesday promised to respond with “grace” to players that kneeled in protest during the National Anthem.

Bravo!

No matter which team you root for in today’s emotional climate, a little grace toward the opposite opinion will go a long way. Besides, Grace > Glory Hole.

READ MORE: Jerry Jones Open-Minded On Social Justice: 'We'll Do It With 'Grace' 

*Your career or your family? Professional athletes aren’t the only ones grappling with opting out these days. COVID-19, when combined with rudderless leadership from our Texas education system, is forcing good coaches like Tim McDonald to make bad choices.

McDonald is a respected girls volleyball coach in Fort Worth. Moved from Poly High School last year to take a job (freshmen head coach/varsity assistant) with a Kennedale program expected to compete for a state title in 2020. In late July he was informed that, because of the coronavirus, the teams would hold two-hour outdoor practices for the time being.

Whew. A relief to McDonald, who lives with a wife and son both with underlying health issues that put them in the high-risk category of the virus.

But the next day, abruptly, the rules changed. So did his life.

“I was told by my athletic director that it was now full-speed ahead,” McDonald told me Thursday. “Five-hour practices in the gym and I needed to start scheduling scrimmages and games. Everything somehow was just back to normal.”

The cause of the about-face? Kennedale, like most Texas high schools, started ignoring its local medical professionals and instead following the marching orders of the University Interscholastic League.

“All the sudden I had a decision to make,” said McDonald. “My career or my family.”

Though the Tarrant County Department of Public Health recommends cancelling “events of any size in which people will be in close contact,” the UIL recently gave the green light to 4A schools to resume athletic activities based on the generalization that most were rural schools where cases and community spread were mitigated.

There are, however, entire 4A districts within the urban sprawl of Dallas and Tarrant County.

“We’re ignoring science and medicine and following decisions made by politicians?” McDonald said. “It still doesn’t make sense to me.”

While the UIL allowed 5A and 6A teams to delay their starts, Kennedale also further muddied the waters by deciding to delay school from August 12 to August 26, and then making it online only the first month. Like universities across the country, Kennedale was readily exposing its athletes – and coaches, and coaches’ families – to a contagious, deadly virus they were cautious to let their at-large students be around.

McDonald went with his gut instinct, and pushed back. He told the school he didn’t feel comfortable coaching the close-proximity sport of indoor volleyball.

“But they told me it was in my contract,” McDonald said. “For a while it was contentious.”

He’s been coaching volleyball for 10 years and said – if push would’ve escalated to shove – he would’ve found a way.

“I couldn’t afford to get fired and go bankrupt,” he said. “So I probably would’ve set up a tent, slept in my garage and kept my family safe.”

Fortunately, Kennedale is allowing McDonald to – with a pay cut, of course – keep his teaching gig. In the winter he is scheduled to begin coaching outdoor soccer.

“I teach my son and my students to respect authority,” McDonald said. “So it’s difficult to stomach when we let what should be professional medical advice to be outweighed by a political process orchestrated by people who do not qualify as scientists or doctors.”

To his knowledge, McDonald is the only 4A volleyball coach in DFW that has decided to opt out.

“It’s super-surprising,” he said. “This has weighed on me. If I make the wrong choice here, I’m talking about life and death for my family.”

*Went out to The Star in Frisco Wednesday and witnessed the loneliest, most important job in DFW sports. As Jerry was conducting his virtual press conference in an empty room above, a member of the Cowboys’ staff was on the practice field below, cleaning. Everything. 

He walked with a mask on his face, gloves on his hands and a plastic container on his back, diligently spraying/sanitizing everything in sight. Footballs. First-down markers. End-zone pylons. Blocking sleds. Goal-post pads. Water bottles. The works.

If a Cowboy contracts COVID-19, it won’t be from infected equipment on the training camp practice field.

READ MORE: Complete Cowboys Coverage At CowboysSI.com

*Last week I provided an update of long-time DFW radio engineer Ted Nichols-Payne, who is fighting COVID-19. A week later, he’s out of the hospital but not out of the woods.

“No change in how I feel,” he said Thursday on Facebook. “No fever but still have all the nagging symptoms, body aches and a somewhat overwhelming at times “sick” feeling. Took a nap and felt worse than before. This virus is no joke.”

READ MORE: Whitt - COVID In The Broadcast Booth

Tweak your “hoax” posts accordingly.

*The Texas Rangers have their cutesy cardboard cutouts. The NBA has digitized fans in its stands. But I’m betting Jones and the Cowboys – and perhaps the entire NFL – will be innovative enough to create a revenue-producing idea that will put both those league’s ideas of “virtual fans” to shame.

As CowboysSI.com was first to report: The Cowboys' scientific models tell them they can have anywhere from 30-to-50-percent capacity at home games, with fans sitting in designated "pods.''

Here’s betting the empty seats, however, don’t remain “empty.”

*If you’ve followed me at all through the years, you know I lean liberal. I long for a world of diversity, inclusion and fairness, regardless of sexual orientation or skin color. I was particularly troubled by the long line of police brutality against unarmed black men, punctuated by May’s murder of George Floyd. I was moved to do something more tangible than posting a hashtag or buying a rubber bracelet. So, with plenty of downtime during quarantine, I got certified by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Dallas and am now a proud new bestie to 14-year-old Ja Ja.

He has grown up without a positive male role model in his life, and my pledge is to do my best to fill that void. We hung out for the first time this week. I introduced him to two things he had never experienced: Dirk Nowitzki and fried shrimp. He schooled me in the music of rapper Juice Wrld. Pretty sure I’m going to be the one that most benefits from this relationship.

*COVID-19, College Football 3. With the Pac 12 and Big 10 canceling the 2020 season, what’s the point of the Big 12 and perhaps SEC playing? (For what it’s worth, the Pac 12 made its studies conducted by medical professionals available to media while the SEC said it will not. Hmm.)

The season will amount to a glorified exhibition. No true national champion. No legit Heisman Trophy. And you think the 40-something bowl games were weak sauce before with their 5-6 teams … Only thing authentic about the year will be the revenue taken in by the playing conferences. For some, that’s reason enough to play.

Money talks. Yet again.

*MVP of the NBA Bubble is between Luka, the Suns’ Devin Booker and Blazers’ Damian Lillard. Is it too soon, by the way, to call Doncic the greatest statistical player in the history of the Mavericks?

READ MORE: Luka Absence Proves His Presence: MVP of NBA Bubble

Dirk obviously won a championship and Luka is yet to win his first playoff game. But Dirk’s stats were cumulative and consistent over his 21-year career. He never led the league in any individual stat category for a single season. Luka this year will lead the NBA in triple-doubles with 17.

*Medicare for all? Should be a no-brainer. Earlier this year my dad was diagnosed with cancer and spent 79 days from January to March in the hospital. The bills are now rolling in. His total? Would you believe $760,000?! Without insurance he’d – shoot, we’d – be flat broke.

And I realize there are families dealing with this grim reality every single day. America is the wealthiest country on the planet. The health of its citizens should be priority No. 1.

*Only the most irrational of Rangers’ fans thought Nick Solak’s drive to right field was a home run and not a four-base error. And the Rangers should be embarrassed for appealing the ruling. The ball literally hit in Angels’ outfielder Jo Adell’s glove and flipped over the fence. If a similar play happened to a catcher, no question it would be a passed ball. If you still think Solak deserves a home run, your baseball opinions are hereby asterisked*.

*Those of you old enough to remember the deep, flexible defensive line of Tolbert and Maryland and Casillas and Jones and Lett, etc. that helped the Cowboys to three Super Bowls in four seasons in the mid-’90s must be salivating at what’s going on along this year’s defensive front.

The 2020 rotation could include DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford, Gerald McCoy, Dontari Poe, Aldon Smith, Randy Gregory and now Everson Griffen.

READ MORE: The Upsides - And Downfalls - Of Everson Griffen

Like Smith and Lawrence and Gregory, Griffen arrives with some character issues that must be corralled. But the guy is a four-time Pro Bowler that as recently as 2018 was ranked No. 19 on the NFL Network’s Top 100 players. New defensive line coach Jim Tomsula desires linemen equipped with talent, but also the versatility to play multiple positions and techniques. Déjà vu, please.

*Hot.

*Not.

*While I agree with Prescott that “the healthiest team wins” and concur that the Cowboys staying at The Omni hotel adjacent to the team’s practice facility at The Star can’t be a bad thing, it’s not like the idea is at all revolutionary.

READ MORE: Camp Bubble: '90% Of Cowboys' Living In Hotel, Says Dak

From dorms in Austin and Wichita Falls to hotels in San Antonio and Oxnard, the Cowboys always spend their summer training camps housed together. Besides, if only – as Dak suggests – 90 percent of the players are in the hotel, that’s not at all a bubble.

We all know that when you have a bubble with even the tiniest hole in it you don’t have a bubble. You have a pop, then an ex-bubble. The Cowboys are, therefore, concocting an almost bubble. Which is a non-bubble. If we’ve learned anything since March, it’s that the virus needs only one person to spread.

*It’s past time the Rangers invest in one of those buzzer gizmos for Rougned Odor.

*I’d like to thump on the noggin’ the person who coined a “pair of pants.” What part of a singular item of clothing warrants a “pair”? If it pertains to the two legs, then why don’t we also call it and its two arms a “pair of shirts”? And pants? Plural? Why? Just so wrong on so many levels. When I get dressed, I put on my shirt and my pant. You?

*When did giant, thick, gold necklaces make a comeback on the Rangers? Odor, Jonathan Hernandez and newcomer Derek Dietrich are all wearing the gawdy jewelry outside their jerseys, making them look more like Studio 54 patrons than baseball players.

*When’s the last time you ran as fast as you possibly can? I’m guessing the average American can’t remember. And that’s sad.

*I thought DFW sports fans were better than this, but they’re not. Kneeling during that national anthem isn’t OK, but somehow booing is? A smattering of the 3,000ish fans at Wednesday’s FC Dallas game in Frisco booed when players took a knee during the anthem.

Said FC Dallas defender Reggie Cannon, “It’s absolutely disgusting. Our fans are booing us in our stadium for taking a stand in what we believe in? It’s disgraceful.”

Turns out in America there are those that embrace the ideas of liberty and freedom … as long as they agree with the ideas being expressed. Think of kneeling as a bad customer review. The players still love and want to frequent the company, but they have suggestions on how to improve the customer experience.

*Oh, so now that he’s the offensive coordinator of the Giants, Jason Garrett doesn’t want to talk about his time as head coach of the Cowboys? Perfect. Because I personally don’t want to hear it.

READ MORE: Cowboys Ex Garrett Goes 'Full-Robot' In Giants Media Session

Garrett had a decade to open up and show us his personal side (which I know to be engaging and endearing). But despite constant pleas from fans and media to be passionate – or merely human – he stubbornly, robotically stuck to talking only about generic “football” and his precious “process.”

Garrett’s time in Dallas is defined by his record which, like his public persona, was a bland flavor of mediocre. No revisionist history necessary.

*People struggling to feed their families – much less pay their phone bills – will not like this one bit. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson this week took a $64 million retirement package that will pay him $230,000 per month – month – for the rest of his life.

*Deion Sanders is not a good person. Don’t take it from his wife that was involved in the nasty divorce or the parents who felt betrayed by his fraudulent Prime Prep Academy. Take it from me, who witnessed it first-hand in 2012.

At the time I hosted a radio show on 105.3 The Fan and the station had a namesake sports bar in Victory Park. We invited Deion to the bar to be a guest before a big Monday Night Football game. He showed up, which was great. He wasn’t paid for his appearance, and his time is certainly valuable. But he also brought along a posse of about six people. While Deion talked with us on the air, his group ate and drank and drank and ate some more. Deion and his table stayed for the entire game, running up a bill that totaled over $1,000.

When presented with the tab, Deion scoffed. “Y’all can’t be for real with this.”

With that, he and his posse left. Without leaving even one penny for a tip. And you know my reaction when it came out this week that Deion left NFL Network for something called Barstool Sports when asked to take a pay cut.

*Still can’t explain what a Bitcoin is, but I wish I had a couple. The cryptocurrency that was worth $4,000 in March is now worth $11,500. That’s a pretty good return on … whatever it is.

*In case there was any debate, the NBA continues to be more popular than MLB. Basketball games on ESPN are drawing 1.39 million fans, compared to only 1.03 million for the network’s baseball games. How jacked up is baseball because of coronavirus? The Braves have played 20 games; the Cardinals only five.

*This Weekend? Friday: Hot Air Balloon ride. Saturday and Sunday back on Earth: Golf. As always, don’t be a stranger.