Whitt's End: Mavs News Cycle Is NBA's Juiciest

Richie Whitt

Whether you’re at the end of your coffee, your day, your week or even your rope, welcome to Whitt’s End 10.16.20 …

*I’m already ready for next Mavs season to be this season. Fall weather and a hint of Halloween makes me pine for some NBA. Not the end of the Lakers’ bubble title, but the start of 2021. Sounds like the tip to next season won’t come until next calendar year.

But when basketball returns, the Dallas Mavericks will be in the middle of the juiciest conversations. In fact, they already are.

To wit ...

Las Vegas oddsmakers are tabbing them with the 11-best title chances at 30/1 and – sure enough – Luka Doncic is the favorite to win MVP.

Meanwhile, I saw Magic Johnson on ESPN this week. “Luka come on to the Lakers, I like that,” he said. While that Hollywood fantasy won’t happen, could MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo to the Mavs be a legit possibility? Maybe. Check back with me in a year. ... or maybe just this offseason, depending on what he says to the Bucks' supermax.

READ MORE: Mavs 'First In Line for Giannis' - Report - Sports Illustrated

For now, Dallas is supposedly a "front-runner for Giannis ... while the guys at the Step Back Mavs Podcast are so giddy with Mavs glee that they're going crazy trying to invent James Harden-to-Dallas scenario.

The Mavs' news cycle is ... juicy. Maybe even the NBA's juiciest.

*While some fans – and ill-informed TV talking heads – wasted oxygen this week debating whether Dak Prescott has played his last down as a Dallas Cowboy, I worry more about the same scenario with Tyron Smith.

The dominant left tackle is scheduled for season-ending neck surgery. The Cowboys expect him to make a “100-percent recovery”, but … Dak needs to heal bones; Tyron nerves in his neck.

Smith’s been a decorated-yet-underrated warrior since the Cowboys drafted him 9 overall in 2011. In his last appearance this season, for example, he played all 82 offensive snaps against the Browns. He’s under contract until 2023 and won’t turn 30 until December, but if his Cowboys’ career is indeed over he’s already done enough to be inducted into the Ring of Honor.

Smith’s body of work aligns with the only offensive linemen in the ROH: Rayfield Wright and Larry Allen. He made seven Pro Bowls (Allen 11, Wright 6) and four All-Pro teams (Allen 7, Wright 6). All three were selected to NFL All-Decade Teams: Smith 2010s, Allen 1990s and 2000s, and Wright 1970s. Smith’s resume is dented only by team success, as during his 10 seasons Dallas managed only two playoff victories. Wright and Allen both own Super Bowl rings.

Safe to say Smith – who paved the way for two Ezekiel Elliott rushing titles – is the third-best offensive lineman in franchise history. The two slightly ahead of him are not only in the Ring of Honor, but the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

*Josh vs. Wash. Since Josh Hamilton and his considerable baggage are in the Texas Rangers’ Hall of Fame, so too should be Ron Washington and his considerable baggage. Hamilton suffered multiple addiction relapses and infamously quit on his team. Washington was suspended for using cocaine during the season and infamously quit on his team.

Each imperfect.

But I can argue that the manager had just as much to do with the team’s back-to-back World Series appearances in 2010-11 as the slugger. Wash is back in Arlington for playoff baseball this week as 3 base coach for the Braves. Here’s hoping – demanding – his No. 38 is retired at Globe Life Field after he retires. Perhaps next to Josh’s No. 32.

*Even after their Dak disaster, the Cowboys still have the best starting quarterback in the NFC East. Give me Andy Dalton over Carson Wentz (Eagles), Daniel Jones (Giants) and Kyle Allen (Washington).

READ MORE: Dak To Dalton: What's Next For Cowboys? - Sports Illustrated

*Seeing the hours-long lines for early voting this week made me wonder: Why isn’t there an app for that? Here in the world’s most technologically advanced country (sorry, China), we can go online to do almost everything: Shop, manage bank accounts, pay taxes, register vehicles, waste hours watching TikTok videos, even use a 3D printer to build a house.

We can register to vote online, so why can’t we actually vote online?

In the name of COVID and convenience, voting should be merely a button push away. In 2016’s Presidential election, only 55% of America’s population voted. Want that number – as it should – to climb to 100%? Give us an app. It’ll happen someday. When it does, we’ll look back – the same way we do with football chain gangs, tennis linespersons and TVs without remote controls – and wonder what took so damn long.

*Kyler Murray returns to DFW this weekend with more wins at AT&T Stadium than any quarterback not named Tony Romo or Prescott. Murray is 6-0 in Arlington: 5-0 with Allen High School and 1-0 with Oklahoma.

*I know we’re all done with COVID. Problem: COVID ain’t done with us. Dallas County on Wednesday elevated its COVID danger level to “Red.” Why? Because in the past 10 days, DFW hospitalizations were up 43% to more than 1,000 per day. Trend = troubling.

*Hot.

*Not.

*I know it’s well-intentioned, but saying Dak will “come back stronger and better than ever!” is just silly. And unrealistic. The limits of his comeback are essentially out of his control. It’s not as though he somehow failed because of a lack of conditioning and can, therefore, do more cardio work to improve his endurance. Nor did he get hurt because he wasn’t flexible enough. His injury also wasn’t a product of lack of effort.

So, how is it exactly that he’s supposed to come back better and stronger?

When his bones heal, he can return to his previous level. But it’s disingenuous to believe recovering from a serious leg injury that required surgery will make him somehow faster. And do we really expect him to be a better passer after six months away from the field?

The hard truth is that Dak’s dedicated rehab or unrelenting desire will be defenseless against another quirky, awkward, unlucky tackle. Hope he returns to the player he was pre-injury, then cross your fingers. But stop predicting a new-and-improved Dak in 2021.

*Some people use COVID as an excuse to get lazy and fat. Others, like a buddy of mine, shrug off 2020’s numerous obstacles and finish one of the most grueling endurance events on the planet, the MOAB 240. It’s a solo, non-stop, 240-mile run through Utah’s desert, canyons and mountains. After finishing second place in just over 62 hours, he dropped at the finish line and banged out 24 pushups. Blown. Away.

*God help us if we ever perfect contact tracing and COVID infects Kevin Bacon.

*I’m old enough to remember way back when #hashtags were #poundsigns and #numbersigns.

*The Cowboys’ two wins have come on buzzer-beating field goals, at home, against opponents with a combined record of 0-10. Despite losing 10 of their original 22 starters to season-ending injuries, they remain the favorite to win the NFC East.

*COVID cancellations: In Dallas, the annual Crystal Charity Ball won’t take place for the first time since 1963, following the assassination of JFK. In Fort Worth, the annual Stock Show is kaput. And it wasn’t scheduled until February. Yikes. Things are supposed to be better in 2021, no?

*Judge Amy Coney Barrett will be confirmed to the Supreme Court, but is it too much to ask that she knows the five freedoms granted all Americans by the First Amendment? Her recalling the right to free speech, press, religion and assembly, but drawing a blank on the right to protest is like a successor to Roger Goodell not being able to name the NFC East among the NFL’s eight divisions.

*I admit to taking way too much joy at the Houston Astros’ bats and mouths being silenced in the ALCS. Pretty good year to be a sports fan in Tampa, huh? The Lightning won the Stanley Cup. Rays headed to the World Series. Tom Brady taking snaps for the Buccaneers. Jealous. Very jealous.

*My Billboard Music Awards review: Winners were that dude with face tattoos, the most annoying song ever, and a really fat guy that looks like Chris Gaines.

*If 2020 did one thing right, it prompted the NFL to cancel the Pro Bowl. Move the game back to Hawaii, or end it permanently. Oh, and another thing actually. The U.S. is on pace to experience the fewest deaths (15) in a year from lightning strikes. Not surprisingly, Texas leads the nation with three. Surprisingly, the record-low number isn’t because of COVID.

*Amari Cooper continues to be an enigma. Too often, he sandwiches one-handed catches and breathtaking tip-toe snag around bizarre absences. His percentage of plays this season has steadily diminished: 94 to 91 to 79 to 76 to 63 against the Giants last Sunday. Michael Gallup’s skyrocketing improvement and the arrivals of Cedric Wilson and CeeDee Lamb be damned, I expect Cooper to at least be on the field.

*Quincy Carter smoked his way out of a job and Clint Longley sucker-punched Captain America. But has there ever been a sadder human to play quarterback for the Cowboys than Ryan Leaf?

The guy that started three games for Dave Campo in 2001 avoided jail time in California this week by pleading guilty to domestic violence. Since leaving the Cowboys and retiring from the NFL, Leaf has been arrested and in/out of jail for felonies involving burglary, drugs and fraud. In his epically disappointing career he went 4-17, throwing 14 touchdowns and 36 interceptions. He was drafted 2 overall in 1998, behind a guy named Peyton Manning.

*I’d rather have a premier quarterback to play with, rather than a powerful motivation to play for.

*A “loss” is all about perspective. Across Texas this year, almost four million lost their jobs. In Southlake this week, a woman went for a massage and left her 6-carat diamond ring, wedding band and earrings worth a combined $115,000. There’s real-world problems. And then there’s first-world problems.

*When they could kill us with a kick or a stomp or a buck at seemingly any moment, why do horses put up with us riding them?

*Stick to sports? Nah, I’d pay to watch NBA Finals MVP LeBron James visit President Donald Trump’s White House.

*This Weekend? With COVID rallying, only two weeks until the dreaded Fall time change and no Cowboys game, there is opportunity/pressure for an active Sunday. But these days, hunkering in the house always seems like Plan A. As always, don’t be a stranger.

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