Dez Bryant’s new deal gives much-needed makeover to Dallas sports landscape

COMMENTARY

AndreDALLAS — Following the Pinkprint Tour concert featuring renowned recording artist Nicki Minaj here Friday night, Dez Bryant is scheduled to host what many have dubbed, “The Official After Party.”

Given the latest developments that have transpired in this city over the past 24 hours, it’s safe to assume that hundreds of local sports fans will undoubtedly have every reason to crash Bryant’s late night gala.

Bryant, the Dallas Cowboys’ prized All-Pro receiver who seemingly had been in a tug-of-war, show-me-the-money slugfest with his employers for some time, on Wednesday reached an agreement with the team on a five-year, $70-million deal.

The deal includes $45 million of guaranteed money accompanied by a $20 million signing bonus.

DEDICATED DEZ --- Dez Bryant’s contract signing, which occurred less than an hour before Wednesday’s franchise tag deadline, served as a colossal makeover for a city whose sports landscape was in dire need of some favorable news, especially considering Dallas emerged as the laughing stock of indignity and discourtesy and stigma just eight days prior. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

DEDICATED DEZ — Dez Bryant’s contract signing, which occurred less than an hour before Wednesday’s franchise tag deadline, served as a colossal makeover for a city whose sports landscape was in dire need of some favorable news, especially considering Dallas emerged as the laughing stock of indignity and discourtesy and stigma just eight days prior. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Such news not only will ensure that Bryant won’t be forced to miss any regular season games amid a threatened holdout via Twitter, but his new deal all but guarantees he will join the rest of his Cowboy teammates when the team heads west to Oxnard, California in late July for their month-long training camp.

Most importantly, Bryant’s contract signing, which occurred less than an hour before Wednesday’s franchise tag deadline, served as a colossal makeover for a city whose sports landscape was in dire need of some favorable news, especially considering Dallas emerged as the laughing stock of indignity and discourtesy and stigma just eight days prior.

After a tumultuous NBA offseason that saw Dallas Mavericks leading scorer Monta Ellis bolt the organization and ink a four-year, $44 million deal with Indiana, and starting center Tyson Chandler accept the Phoenix Suns’ lucrative four-year, $52 million offer, the team unfortunately wound up on the wrong end of arguably the strangest free agency transaction in league history.

That’s when DeAndre Jordan, just five days after verbally agreeing to vacate the Los Angeles Clippers and return home to Texas to sign with Dallas, stood the Mavs up like an unattractive blind date by having second thoughts and electing to re-sign with the Clippers.

What was even more embarrassing for the Mavericks — and the city of Dallas — is that a number of Clippers personnel flew to Houston for a meeting with Jordan to convince him to back out of his deal with the team, all while Mavs owner Mark Cuban was left landloping around town attempting to track down Jordan, all while a plethora of his calls and text messages to the star center were screened in the process.

By the time the clock had struck 12:01 a.m. EST on July 9, the Mavs pursuit of winning the DeAndre Jordan sweepstakes was all but a distant memory.

Jordan, as childish and deplorable and preposterous his actions were with regards to how he had gone about handling business with the Mavs, had made up his mind to return to the Clippers, a team that, upon his re-signing, emerged as a legitimate contender to dethrone the Golden State Warriors.

As for the Mavericks, well, as a consolation prize amid the Jordan fiasco was their ability to lure a struggling, inefficient Deron Williams back to his native hometown to join a team that, given the massive potholes in its starting rotation and bench, could very well wind up on the outside of the playoff picture looking in next season.

Still, despite what has become a rocky offseason for the Mavs, credit Bryant for bringing some renewed enthusiasm, not to mention some much-needed sanguineness and exuberance back to Dallas and its countless die-hard sports fanatics.

YES...NO --- DeAndre Jordan, just five days after verbally agreeing to vacate the Los Angeles Clippers and return home to Texas to sign with Dallas, stood the Mavs up like an unattractive blind date by having second thoughts and electing to re-sign with the Clippers. (Photo by Cliff Murphy/Getty Images)

YES…NO — DeAndre Jordan, just five days after verbally agreeing to vacate the Los Angeles Clippers and return home to Texas to sign with Dallas, stood the Mavs up like an unattractive blind date by having second thoughts and electing to re-sign with the Clippers. (Photo by Cliff Murphy/Getty Images)

The Cowboys, coming off of a memorable campaign that ended with a 12-4 regular season finish, coupled with an exceptional postseason display that ended with Bryant’s controversial catch-no catch play in the waning moments at Green Bay in the divisional round, have locked up their best offensive playmaker for the next five years.

News that came to fruition after Big D was left holding its collective breath days leading to the NFL’s franchise tag deadline.

News that provided this city’s sports landscape with a much-needed makeover after what was a drama-filled offseason for Mavs.

News that’s almost certain to prompt Dallas sports fans to crash Bryant’s official after party Friday night.

The best party in Dallas hosted by the guy who’s responsible for invoking life back into this tradition-rich sports town.

Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. A 2000 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Journalism, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division from Dallas, Texas. To reach Johnson, send an email to andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

 

Pastor with Memphis ties plays Kevin Durant’s speech before his congregation

IRVING, Texas — Kevin Durant’s emotional speech last week during a new conference in which the Oklahoma City Thunder superstar was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player not only impacted the sports world, but it also has left a favorable impression among various religious organizations.

CLUTCH SPEECH --- After being named the NBA's Most Valuable Player for the first in his career, Oklahoma City Thunder superstar caught the sports world by storm with an emotional speech in which he labeled his mother, Wanda Pratt, as the "real MVP." (Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE Getty Images)

CLUTCH SPEECH — After being named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player for the first in his career, Oklahoma City Thunder superstar caught the sports world by storm with an emotional speech in which he labeled his mother, Wanda Pratt, as the “real MVP.” (Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE Getty Images)

Such was the case Sunday morning when longtime West Irving Church of God In Christ senior pastor Andrew Jackson, Jr., played a portion of Durant’s 20-minute speech throughout the sanctuary’s loudspeakers as his congregation tuned in with intentness during its Mother Day’s service.

According to Jackson, Durant’s tribute to his mother, Wanda Pratt, during a tear-jerking, demonstrative speech was a vital reminder of the tireless contributions, particularly in homes run by single African-American women.

 

Andrew Jackson, Sr. and his wife, Sandra, moved in 1986 from Memphis to the Dallas area, where Jackson has since been pastoring West Irving Church of God In Christ. (Photo submitted by West Irving COGIC)

Andrew Jackson, Sr. and his wife, Sandra, in 1986 moved from Memphis to the Dallas area, where Jackson has since been pastoring West Irving Church of God In Christ. (Photo submitted by West Irving COGIC)

“Basically, in this society where we having so many homes being led by women, I think it’s important that they receive encouragement and support for what they do,” Jackson, who relocated to the Dallas area from Memphis in December 1986, told MemphiSport. “Raising boys and raising girls…the father may be missing in the home and all of that pressure and responsibility fall on the single mother. And to read Kevin’s Durant’s story and to hear of his story, his mother was his motivation. She encouraged and she pushed him even when they were told they were not going to make it.”

Pratt, the mother of four, gave birth to Durant when she was 21 years old. The Washington, D. C. native has since emerged as arguably the most-celebrated player in the NBA.

This year, Durant was a unanimous choice for league MVP after leading the NBA with 32 points per game, becoming the first player to win both the scoring title and MVP award in the same year since Allen Iverson did it in 2000-2001.

Durant scored a game-high 40 points in Game 4 of the Thunder’s best-of-7 playoff series Sunday against the Los Angeles Clippers. But that weren’t enough as the Clippers erased a 22-point first half deficit to even the series at two games apiece with a 101-99 win.

Game 5 is Tuesday night at 8:30 CST in OKC’s Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Durant all but solidified the NBA’s highest individual achievement award when he registered at least 25 points for 41 consecutive games, a stretch that prompted Miami’s LeBron James to hint that his two-year run as league MVP was nearing an end.

KING DETHRONED --- Durant amassed 119 of the possible 125 first-place votes in ending Miami Heat superstar LeBron James' two-year league MVP run. (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE Getty Images)

KING DETHRONED — Durant amassed 119 of the possible 125 first-place votes in ending Miami Heat superstar LeBron James’ two-year league MVP run. (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE Getty Images)

“I would say he’s playing the most consistent basketball as far as MVP this year,” James told MemphiSport during an April 9 interview. “I mean, he’s put up some great numbers.”

Durant’s remarkable display ultimately led him generating 119 of the possible 125 first-place votes. James, a four-time league MVP, amassed the remaining six first-place votes.

During his acceptance speech, a tearful Durant expressed thanks to his mother for looking out for him and his siblings, labeling her “the real MVP.” His tribute was replayed Sunday throughout West Irving’s sanctuary, one Jackson acknowledged was paralleled to the sermon he gave to his congregation: “What Kind Of Woman Am I?”

Jackson, the son of longtime Memphis-area pastor Andrew Jackson, Sr., told the 300-plus worshippers five things a virtuous woman should do, one of which is to influence the community.

“She’s going to the PTA meetings, she’s talking to the principal, she’s there making herself known,” Jackson told his congregation. “She influences the community in a way that it is positive.”

In addition, Jackson said he believes Durant’s speech is just what the NBA needed amid the controversy surrounding embattled Clippers owner Donald Sterling. Sterling’s recorded racial remarks, recently released by TMZ, sent shock waves throughout the sports world and black community, thus leading to his lifetime ban from the NBA.

“I think (Durant’s) speech saved the NBA,” Jackson said. “I think his speech really put a huge impact on the NBA because first of all, the NBA is made up of 80 percents minorities. And for him to have that wherewithal of what his mother did for him, that was really about African-American boys. It’s a great sport that many people enjoy and I just think that Kevin Durant sealed the deal.”

Also, Jackson said that while Durant’s detailed tribute to his mother is prevalent to the issues within the black community, he hopes other preachers will share his speech with their congregation.

“It’s out of the box,” Jackson said. “It’s certainly speaks to our society when most homes in the African-American community are being led by single mothers.”

Andre Johnson covers the NBA for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

WNBA player Jasmine James believes L. A. Sparks will survive latest fiasco

While Phoenix Mercury point Jasmine James admittedly was “shocked” after learning the Los Angeles Sparks’ ownership group on Thursday had ceased operations, the former Bartlett High and University of Georgia star believes the organization can survive arguably its worst transition in its 17 years of existence.

The Sparks, one of the WNBA’s original eight franchises that began playing in Inglewood, Calif. in 1997, on Thursday relinquished ownership of the team to the league and laid off their entire front-office staff, including general manager Penny Toler, coach Carol Ross, and her assistants. Such a development sent shocks waves across the league, most notably among players like the 22-year-old James, who grew up watching the Sparks evolve into one of the league’s elite franchises with WNBA championships in 2001 and 2002.

Phoenix Mercury point guard Jasmine James (left) was among the WNBA players who were shocked after learning the Los Angeles Sparks' ownership had ceased operations Thursday and laid off its entire front office. Still, the former Bartlett High and Georgia star believes the Sparks will play an 18th WNBA season this year. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Phoenix Mercury point guard Jasmine James (left) was among the WNBA players who were shocked after learning the Los Angeles Sparks’ ownership had ceased operations Thursday and laid off its entire front office. Still, the former Bartlett High and Georgia star believes the Sparks will play an 18th WNBA season this year. (Photos by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Now after news spread of the organization having ceased operations, the possibility exists that the league’s second-biggest market will be without a team when the WNBA begins its 18th season in June.

“At first, I was shocked,” James told MemphiSport in an interview Saturday morning from São José dos Campos, Brazil, where she is currently playing international basketball. “It is slightly disappointing to see their organization going through this because the Sparks have been around the WNBA since it very first began. When I was younger, the Sparks always had an amazing fan base and support system so to learn about the financial losses that they had this past year was disappointing.”

Founded prior to the league’s inaugural season in 1997, the Sparks were most recently owned by Williams Group Holdings (Paula Madison, majority owner) and Carla Christofferson, Mack Fixler, and Lisa Leslie (minority owners) until the team’s executives went their separate ways earlier this week. Madison reportedly said that since becoming owner in 2007, she and her family had lost approximately $12 million, including around $1.4 million this past season.

That one of the league’s most popular franchises had been home to a number of marquee name players, including Leslie, Candace Parker, Nikki

Lisa Leslie and Candace Parker were among the high-quality players who wore an L. A. Sparks uniform during their WNBA careers. Whether the Sparks will play an 18th consecutive campaign this year is unclear.

Lisa Leslie (left) and Candace Parker were among the high-quality players who wore an L. A. Sparks uniform during their WNBA careers. Whether the Sparks will play an 18th consecutive campaign this year is unclear.

Teasley, and Tina Thompson, among others, many throughout the women’s basketball universe hope the Sparks can resolve their brutal financial hardship in the coming months and remain a member of what is currently a 12-team WNBA.

“The continual growth of the WNBA is always a priority for the WNBA as well as the players,” James said. “I think that it shows there are still areas of improvement, but those things are being worked out daily by the head people of the league.”

Even if the Sparks fail to acquire new owners before the start of the 2014 season, James said she doesn’t believe the team’s financial adversity is a trend other franchises around the league are facing, although several teams have either folded or relocated in recent years.

In 2009, for instance, the WNBA announced that the Detroit Shock would relocate to Tulsa, Oklahoma. Then, exactly one month later league officials announced that the Sacramento Monarchs had folded due to lack of support from its current owners, the (George) Maloof family, who were also the owners of the Sacramento Kings at the time. Consequently, the league announced it would seek new owners to relocate the team to the San Francisco Bay area. However, no ownership was found and, as a result, a dispersal draft was held weeks later.

“Honestly, I’m not overly concerned about the future of the WNBA,” said James, who played in 16 games (playoffs included) for Phoenix after joining the team last July. “We have great people working every day to make sure that the WNBA continues to grow and get better. The league will be fine.”

Though the future of the Sparks appear to be bleak, James believes fans in the Los Angeles market will continue to witness professional basketball during the summer months in Staple’s Center, where the team has played for the past 14 seasons.

“I believe the Sparks can survive this development,” said James, adding that she expects to return to the WNBA for the upcoming season. “They were one of the first WNBA teams originally, and they are one of the premiere (teams) right now. They should be fine.”

Andre Johnson covers the NBA for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Grizzlies hope to atone for home struggles during six-game stretch in FedExForum

For the Memphis Grizzlies, there has been nothing sweet about playing at home in recent weeks.

HOMEWRECKERS ---Playing in FedExForum hasn't been pleasant for veteran Tayshaun Prince and the Grizzlies in recent weeks. Memphis, which opens a five-game homestand Saturday starting with Brooklyn, has dropped three straight and four of its last five at home. (Photo by Christopher Davis/MemphiSport)

HOME WRECKERS —Playing in FedExForum hasn’t been pleasant for veteran Tayshaun Prince and the Grizzlies in recent weeks. Memphis, which opens a six-game homestand Saturday starting with Brooklyn, has dropped three straight and four of its last five at home. (Photo by Chris Evans/MemphiSport)

Given the Grizzlies’ lethargic play of late in FedExForum, what veteran shooting guard Tony Allen labeled the “Grindhouse” two years ago has become virtually an establishment that has brought about much criticism among spectators, given Memphis has found it difficult to protect its home court in what has become one of the toughest places for opponents in recent years.

The Grizzlies (8-7) have been dealt three consecutive defeats at home and have dropped four of their last five outings in FedExForum, this after managing a 32-9 home record last year.

“You know, we caught some boos early in the season,” Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger said before practice Friday morning at the team’s practice facility. “That doesn’t feel very good. And I think there’s extra pressure playing at home and we want to do well at home. And our guys have played their hearts out the last three or four years or whatever and laid it on the line, so I’m sure that hurt them a little.”

Fortunately for the Grizzlies, they will have a golden opportunity to erase the memory of their recent home court struggles beginning Saturday when they host the Brooklyn Nets at 7 p.m. CST to start a six-game homestand, their longest home stretch this season. While playing in their building proved to be an enormous advantage, of sorts, last year for the Grizzlies, which enabled them to generate their best winning percentage (.683) in franchise history by posting a 56-26 mark, Memphis surprisingly has enjoyed more success on the road, having won five of eight games away from FedExForum.

So how to explain Grizzlies’ constant woes in what had become an unfriendly environment for opposing teams in years past?

“We get out there and feel like it’s just us,” Joerger said. “We’re not worried about winning or losing. On the road, it’s just you. But you have that expectation on the road, to just go compete and we need to carry that into the homestand. It doesn’t matter if we’re playing an Eastern Conference team or a Western Conference team. It doesn’t matter. We’ve just got to keep plugging away and getting better. By and large, we’ve improved over the last couple of weeks, but we’ve just got to continue to get better.”

Before Jeorger switched to a tighter rotation during the Grizzlies’ recent West coast road trip that resulted in four consecutive wins, among Memphis’ notable issues was its inability to close out games and, most importantly, acquire the essential defensive stops that allowed the Grizzlies to blossom into one of the NBA’s most efficient defensive teams last year.

Also, before producing a season-best four-game undefeated streak, the Grizzlies’ struggles surfaced, in large part

Dwight Howard (far left) and the Rockets overcame a 14-point deficit Monday night to hand the Grizzlies their lastest home defeat, which was Memphis' third in as many games in FedExForum. (Photo by Christopher Davis/MemphiSport)

Dwight Howard (far left) and the Houston Rockets erased a 14-point deficit Monday night to hand the Grizzlies their latest home defeat, which was Memphis’ third in as many games in FedExForum. (Photo by Chris Evans/MemphiSport)

because veteran big men Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, the team’s top two scorers, were ineffective offensively, averaging a combine 26.6 points and 14.9 rebounds per game. Additionally, Memphis surrendered 99.4 points to the opposition while committing 16.9 turnovers. However, during the team’s recent road trip, Gasol and Randolph returned to form, averaging a combined 43.8 points and 21 rebounds for a Grizzlies team that suddenly mirrored the proverbial “grit grind” squad that advanced to the Western Conference Finals last year.

“I think consistent effort,” said Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley, explaining Memphis’ recent home struggles. “I think we’ll play great in a half, three quarters, and then one of those quarters, we let down and we don’t come with the same focus and consistency. We let team back in games. We let teams play harder than us and that’s not in our nature. And we can’t do that at home.”

The good news for a Grizzlies team Joerger contends is trying to find its identity with the key loss of Gasol — who is sidelined indefinitely with an MCL sprain to his left knee — is that there is still much basketball to play in a season that is only 15 games old, one in which the Grizzlies have an ample amount of time to atone for the scattered boos that have been heard throughout their building in recent weeks. After Saturday’s contest against the Nets, the Grizzlies then welcome Phoenix, the Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State, Orlando, and Oklahoma City to FedExForum.

Of those six teams, four advanced to the postseason last year with Memphis eliminating the Clippers and Thunder in the playoffs’ opening two rounds before falling to the Spurs in the conference finals.

“It doesn’t bother me,” Joerger said of the unfavorable reactions from Grizzlies fans of late. “It was a small percentage of people, so it’s not something to go on and on about. It was what it was. We’re going to play as hard as we can. We certainly enjoy playing at home. We’ve had a nice advantage at home in the past. But we’ve caught some teams that had been playing very well. New Orleans came in and played a must-win game. Rudy Gay kind of had his revenge game, which is what most NBA guys will do, so hopefully he got that out of his system. And we played some good teams in San Antonio and Houston. Like I said, it doesn’t matter who we play. We’ve just got to keep getting better.”

Not to mention help re-establish the Grindhouse as a hostile environment for the opposition.

Andre Johnson covers the NBA for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist

Metta World Peace really likes the Memphis Grizzlies

Photo by Justin Ford

Photo by Justin Ford

While the entire city of Memphis was up late watching the Grizzlies battle the Clippers in Game 5, so was the basketball player formerly known as Ron Artest.

Metta World Peace liked what he saw from Lionel Hollins and company. He shared his thoughts via his twitter:


Email: kevin@memphisport.com
Twitter: @cerrito

SEE ALSO:

MSL: 4.27.13

BOM MSL 2012

HOUR 1:
(Segment 1) Kevin Cerrito and Marcus Hunter  recap the week’s big Grizzlies-Clippers stories during the Starting 5.
(Segment 2) Superfan Clipper Darrell calls in to talk about the Grizzlies-Clippers playoff rematch.
(Segment 3) Shenanigans

MemphiSport Live

 

HOUR 2:
(Segment 1) The return of Hang Up & Listen.
(Segment 2) Bongo Lady and her embarrassed son from the Memphis Grizzlies games join Kevin Cerrito and Marcus Hunter in studio to talk about her fame, bongoing, and more.
(Segment 3)  Woohoos and Boos.

 SEE ALSO: Video of Bongo Lady performing at Grizzlies-Clippers Game 3


MemphiSport Live

Kevin Cerrito and Marcus Hunter host MemphiSport Live (MSL) on Sports 56 & 87.7 FM every Saturday from 11:00 am – 1:00 pm. MSL was voted 3rd Best Sports Radio Show in the 2010, 2011 & 2012 Memphis Flyer Best of Memphis poll.

Follow the MSL hosts on Twitter @cerrito @MHUNTER_FOX13

VIDEO: Bongo Lady performs at Grizzlies-Clippers Game 3

Whether her son likes it or not, “Bongo Lady” has become a fan favorite for late game timeout antics during Grizzlies home games.

Watch “Bongo Lady” step up her game for a performance at Game 3 of the 2013 Grizzlies-Clippers series:

Email: kevin@memphisport.com
Twitter: @cerrito

SEE ALSO:

Photos: Famous faces at Game 3 of Grizzlies vs. Clippers


Here are the best social media pictures featuring some of the famous people in attendance at The Grindhouse for Game 3 of Grizzlies vs. Clippers:

Email: kevin@memphisport.com
Twitter: @cerrito

SEE ALSO:

Steve Kerr doesn’t like Rick Trotter, Memphis doesn’t like Steve Kerr

stevekerrFollowing the Memphis Grizzlies’ 94-82 Game 3 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers, former NBA player and current TNT announcer Steve Kerr decided to let everyone in the world know he does not like how Grizzlies PA announcer Rick Trotter does his job.

Email: kevin@memphisport.com
Twitter: @cerrito

SEE ALSO:

MSL: 4.20.13

BOM MSL 2012

HOUR 1:
(Segment 1) Kevin Cerrito and Marcus Hunter recap the week’s big stories during the Starting 5.
(Segment 2) I would rather _______ than cheer for the Clippers.
(Segment 3) Tri-State Defender Grizzlies reporter Kelley Evans joins the guys in studio to preview the Grizzlies-Clippers playoff series.


MemphiSport Live

 

HOUR 2:
(Segment 1) More Grizzlies-Clippers talk.
(Segment 2) Memphis Grizzlies PA announcer Rick Trotter joins Kevin Cerrito and Marcus Hunter in studio on MSL to play the 2013 edition of Have Rick Trotter Say Whatever You Like.
(Segment 3)  Woohoos and Boos.


MemphiSport Live

Kevin Cerrito and Marcus Hunter host MemphiSport Live (MSL) on Sports 56 & 87.7 FM every Saturday from 11:00 am – 1:00 pm. MSL was voted 3rd Best Sports Radio Show in the 2010, 2011 & 2012 Memphis Flyer Best of Memphis poll.

Follow the MSL hosts on Twitter @cerrito @MHUNTER_FOX13