Whitt's End: Mavs Review - LeBron Goes Gray, Luka Is OK

Whitt's End: A Dallas Mavs Bubble Scrimmage Review - LeBron Goes Gray, Luka Is OK - Tops Our 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 7.24.20 …

*LeBron James sported a gray beard, Luka Doncic injured his finger and his leg, Boban Marjanovic picked up where he left off and the Dallas Mavericks eventually ran circles around the Lakers in Thursday night’s scrimmage inside the NBA “bubble.” Indeed, I enjoyed a live, albeit meaningless, sporting event much more than I expected. 

Seth Curry hit all six of his 3-pointers. Boban, who produced 31 points and 17 rebounds in Dallas’ final pre-COVID-19 game back in March, put up 17 and 13. The Mavs’ bench and bewildering ball movement finally did in the Lakers, 108-104 in Orlando. 

Only negative was the unbridled tenacity of Luka, who treated the game like Game 7 of the playoffs. He winced in pain while shaking his finger after a second-quarter dunk and in the third limped off the court after appearing to tweak a leg muscle. 

“I’m good,” Luka said afterward. “Not gonna play the whole game in a scrimmage so I’m good.” 

Whew.

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*From 14 thousand, to 14 million. That’s the financial evolution of Dallas Cowboys’ contracts awarded to young No. 88s from 1973 (Drew Pearson) to 2020 (CeeDee Lamb). This year’s rookie receiver agreed to a four-year, $14 million deal this week that includes a signing bonus of $7.7 million

Pearson, who signed as a free agent 47 years ago, received a signing bonus of a whopping $150. 

“Seven twenties and a ten,” Pearson jokes. “Right outta Tex Schramm’s billfold.” 

After being passed over in 17 rounds of the NFL Draft, he went to training camp with a total of $650 in his pocket – $500 of it after quarterback Roger Staubach urged Schramm to pay him so his new favorite target wouldn’t have to take a second job. Upon making the final roster, Drew signed a one-year contract for $14,500 and pocketed another $2,500 for making the playoffs. A look at the 88’s inflation through the years:

1973 Drew Pearson

Contract: 1 year, $14,5k, $150k bonus Stats: 22 catches, 388 yards, 2 TDs

1988 Michael Irvin

Contract: 4 years, $1.8M, $750k bonus Stats: 32 catches, 654 yards, 5 TDs

2010 Dez Bryant

Contract: 5 years, $11.8M, $1.9M bonus Stats: 45 catches, 561 yards, 6 TDs

2020 CeeDee Lamb

Contract: 4 years, $14M, $7.7M bonus Stats: ???

*Admittedly it’s a dicey time for double-standards, but this just doesn’t feel right. The NFL this season will allow players to sport decals on their helmets bearing names or initials of victims of systemic racism and police violence. This will not sit well with the critics of the league’s decision in 2016 to not let the Cowboys wear Dallas Police Department decals in the wake of the downtown ambush that killed five officers. And it shouldn’t.

*I’m convinced the cavemen who first discovered – and named – a “butterfly” were dyslexic. Surely they meant “flutterby”, right?

*Can’t wait to get out to Globe Life Field for Friday’s home opener festivities. Governor Greg Abbott throwing out the first pitch. Charley Pride singing the National Anthem. The red, white and blue bunting. And, this year of course, zero paying fans. 

A grand opening that was supposed to occur March 31 against the Angels is instead July 24 against the Rockies. 

Admits manager Chris Woodward, “Not having fans in the ballpark is a little bit of a buzzkill.” 

Still, it is Opening Day. 

Lance Lynn, who started the last game at Globe Life Park, will do the honors at Globe Life Field. 

“It’s a special moment for the players,” Rangers public address announcer Chuck Morgan said. “I want to make sure that moment is special to them. That they are home, they are in Texas and there are people behind them.” 

The only “fans” in the stands will be 150 socially-distanced team employees, who have the okay from Major League Baseball to watch in suites down the right-field line. Oh, and yeah, the 2,600 cardboard-cutout “DoppelRangers” that include the likenesses of season-ticket holders, a bloody Nolan Ryan and even someone’s dog.

*With an everyday lineup that includes Robinson Chirinos at catcher, Danny Santana in center and Willie Calhoun somewhere, the Rangers feel like a .500 team. Which, in this bastardized season, will mean about 30 wins. Which, in this irregular season, might get them into the playoffs. If baseball’s expanded playoffs – eight teams from each league qualify in 2020 – were in place last year, the 78-84 Rangers would have made it.

*Speaking of the Texas Rangers, I opined a month ago that I was surprised our baseball team’s name hadn’t come under sensitivity scrutiny. For a reminder about the details of the original “Rangers” – racism, lynchings and all – check out this powerful history lesson.

*Comet Neowise is gone from our skies, not to be visible again for 6,800 years. But it’s got nothing – potentially – on what we could witness on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020. On that date, DFW could for the first time ever be treated to games on the same day by the Cowboys (at the Los Angeles Rams), Rangers (home against the Oakland A’s), Mavericks (if they make the Western Conference semifinals) and Dallas Stars (if they make the Western Conference Finals). The unprecedented quartet configuration will take some heady play and fortunate scheduling. But it’s doable. At this point, 2020 owes us something special.

*I’m a dork and we’re in the middle of a pandemic, so it’s the little things. Laying in my pool several times this Spring/Summer, I’ve found myself mesmerized by a giant hawk floating effortlessly above. Not once in probably a dozen occasions have I seen it even once flap his expansive wings. It just floats, effortlessly. It’s beautiful really. Hypnotic. Soothing, somehow. I’m 93% appreciative and 7% hopeful he doesn’t mistake me for a field mouse.

*The NFL nixing all preseason games reminds me of another Jimmy Johnson-Jerry Jones psychological tug-of-war from the good ol’ days. 

The Cowboys went all the way to Japan during the 1992 exhibition season, playing the Houston Oilers for the Governor’s Cup in something called the American Bowl played inside the Tokyo Dome. (I was confounded by Japanese citizens wearing masks in public back then. Now? Duh.) 

Johnson, who despised preseason, yanked his starters after one series and Houston eventually won, 34-23. On the lonnnng flight home, an angry Jones refused to talk to his head coach. His reason? The winner of the American Bowl was awarded a life-size bronze samurai warrior statue. During the game, Jerry expressed to his coach that he’d really like to win that statue. ... 

It went back to Texas not with Jones, but rival Oilers’ owner Bud Adams. After what I can only imagine was exaggerated eye-rolling, Johnson eventually led the Cowboys to win Super Bowl XXVII. 

“You got the Lombardi trophy,” Johnson said to Jones. “You still worried about having that stupid statue?”

*The Tokyo Dome still stands and was ready to be a host venue for the 2020 Summer Olympics, which – if not for #youknowwhat-19 – were scheduled to stage its Opening Ceremonies Friday.

*If you saw Dr. Anthony Fauci’s first pitch Thursday night, the ball was trying to tell us all what social distancing is supposed to look like. The 79-year-old’s offer was about 79 wide left.

*Hot.

*Not.

*Looking at the scraggly facial hair sported by LeBron, Curry and the Lakers’ JaVale McGee, gotta wonder if razors are allowed inside the “bubble.”

*Count Fox NFL insider Jay Glazer as a Dak Prescott believer. Though, I’m not really sure in what role. “

He’s the guy,” Glazer said after the Cowboys failed to reach a long-term deal with Prescott. “I’ve said it all along, there’s so much other stuff that goes into being the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. He does a lot of other things behind the scenes with the way he leads them and the way he helps his teammates take care of themselves. People just don’t understand. He probably doesn’t get enough credit for that.” 

I mean, those attributes sound amazing for the … equipment manager, assistant coach or perhaps accountability partner. But last time I checked, the No. 1 skill of an NFL quarterback needs to be accurately throwing the ball to the right place at the right time. Dak ain’t there. Yet.

*Former Cowboys’ scout and current 105.3 The Fan co-host Bryan Broaddus, however, isn’t so convinced. Broaddus, who worked for the team up until late 2019, said on the air Thursday that he asked a former Cowboys’ assistant coach if he believed Prescott wanted to play for the Cowboys.

“At this point, no, I don’t think so,” Broaddus said the coach told him. “However, he will not say it or show it. The kid is a stud and very mentally strong.”

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*This is what happens when a country has been fighting a virus for five months and there is still no standardized plan: Couple weeks ago a local golf course had an employee test positive for coronavirus. The place shut down for a week for deep cleaning and testing of co-workers who came in contact with the positive case. But yesterday, Washington Nationals’ star Juan Soto tested positive hours before his team’s opener against the Yankees. Soto didn’t play, but there was zero effort to postpone the game or immediately test his teammates.

*Very cool announcement from Fort Worth hip-hop artist Kevin Dewayne. The DFW rising star has signed with Grammy-winning producer Jeff Bass, the guy responsible for several of Eminem’s hits. “To my family and friends, I vow to remain the same humble, caring, and loyal person I have always been,” Dewayne says. “As easy as the Lord gives, he can take away.” Amen to remaining grounded, while soaring to new heights.

*From the Dept. of Some Industries Are Indeed Pandemic Proof: A Houston topless bar has set up a drive-thru where patrons can watch performers – two-song limit, please – while they wait for their food orders. Gotta admit, kinda genius.

*DFW sports fans cannot criticize nor giggle at the NFL team formerly known as the Redskins temporarily being called “The Washington Football Team.” We once rooted for a baseball team that its games at “The Ballpark in Arlington.”

*As if you didn’t already know we were oversaturated with “National … ” Days, July 21 was “National Junk Food Day.” Otherwise known around my house as “Every Weekend.”

*With healthy bodies at a premium, playoff experience more valuable than ever and, at most, only 36 games to be played in the remainder of the NBA season, wonder if Mavs owner Mark Cuban was tempted to lure Dirk Nowitzki out of retirement? A hired gun, not unlike Dion Waiters and J.R. Smith to the Lakers or Jamal Crawford to the Nets. 

Admittedly, it’s more selfish than realistic. After all, Dirk gave us 21 years. But the thought of Luka creating open looks for Nowitzki on the wing would make the NBA re-boot more than worth it.

*2020, meet 1980. Fox’s baseball tripleheader on Saturday will feature CGI, virtual fans … doing “The Wave.” Because, apparently, one new idea deserves to be ruined by an antiquated one.

*The overkill of neon signage behind home plate makes Globe Life Field’s centerfield view reminds more of Billy Bob’s than baseball. Kinda sad that the official christening will be attended by a grand total of zero fans. Imagine buying a $1.2 billion mansion and having no one show up to the housewarming party. If you build it, they will come. Unless a virus tells them they can’t.

*Not sure how many Texans should be pondering vanity license plates at a time when 40 million Americans are unemployed, but if so there is now a Whataburger version. It’s good late-night, post-drinking grub, but … on your car? Every. Single. Day?

*Not sure if it’s a sign of how much we miss sports or are merely curious about Globe Life Field, but Fox Sports Southwest’s Rangers-Rockies exhibition Tuesday night drew a 1.72 rating making it the most-watched “Spring Training” game in network history.

*A five-month Spring Training, followed by a baseball Opening Day in late July? That’s like salivating over your big gift under the Christmas tree ... then being told you can't open it ... then watching the tree come down … then waiting while Winter turns to Spring and then Summer ... then being handed a different gift ... that's 66% smaller ... Merry Christmas?

*I know who shouldn’t be running our country: Airlines. Despite small seats, the elimination of meals and exorbitant baggage fees in recent years, the industry can’t take a couple months without packed planes before bleeding out. United lost $1.6 billion in the second quarter of 2020 and our American showed a net loss of $2.1 billion. The company’s “cash burn rate” during the pandemic got as drastic as $55 million per day. Ouch. Meanwhile, you know who should be running things? Tesla. The computer-car company moving its headquarters to Austin somehow made a profit of $104 million while the airlines were dying.

*Cowboys snippets: Former ’90s defensive line coach and Oklahoma head coach John Blake passed away this week after suffering a heart attack during a walk. He won two Super Bowl rings and had impeccable rapport with his deep, talented, group. … Former defensive end Greg Ellis has been named head coach of Texas College in Tyler. … Current linebacker Jaylon Smith continues his impressive philanthropy, last week awarding $600,000 to winners of his Minority Entrepreneurship Institute’s Shark Tank-like competition.

*Want the cancel culture world to explode? Have an NBA or MLB player kneel during the National Anthem while … holding up a can of Goya black beans.

*Weird? Sure. But I can envision 50,000 at Texas’ Darrel K. Royal Stadium much more than I can only 12,000 at Lambeau Field for a Packers’ game.

*No offense, Dr. Fauci, but since the NBA’s “bubble” has led to zero COVID-19 cases out of 346 players tested, can’t we promote commissioner Adam Silver to America’s top infectious disease superhero?

*This Weekend? Friday it’s golf in Muenster, then Rangers-Rockies at the new joint in Arlington. Saturday is pool time. Sunday it’s golf in Anna, then tennis in the 5 p.m. heat in Dallas. Never said I was smart. As always, don’t be a stranger.