Mavs star Dirk Nowitzki applauds Golden State’s record; relishes his latest milestone

NBA SOUTHWEST DIVISION REPORT

MEMPHIS — In the wake of the Golden State Warriors having carved out more history Tuesday night, among the NBA players who congratulated the world champs was Dallas Mavericks superstar Dirk Nowitzki.

DYNAMIC DIRK --- Even in the wake of the Mavs’ 110-96 loss at Memphis Tuesday night in FedExForum that resulted in Dallas’ second straight defeat, Mavs star Dirk Nowitzki had no idea he had reached yet another milestone to his Hall of Fame career when he became the 17th player in NBA history to record career 1,600 three-pointers.  (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

DYNAMIC DIRK — Even in the wake of the Mavs’ 110-96 loss at Memphis Tuesday night in FedExForum that resulted in Dallas’ second straight defeat, Mavs star Dirk Nowitzki had no idea he had reached yet another milestone to his Hall of Fame career when he became the 17th player in NBA history to record career 1,600 three-pointers.
(Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

“They have a heckuva team,” Nowitzki, the 18-year veteran, told MemphiSport.com following the Mavs 110-96 loss at the Memphis Grizzlies. “I mean, they have everything you need. They have length. They have shooters. They have defenders. They’re really, really deep.”

Not to mention a team that erased a record that stood a little more than two decades.

With Tuesday’s 111-77 lopsided win against the Los Angeles Lakers in Oakland, the Warriors became the first team in NBA history to start the regular season by reeling off 16 consecutive wins, a feat that eclipsed 15-0 starts by the 1948-49 Washington Capitols the 1993-94 Houston Rockets.

What’s even more astounding is that the Warriors’ remarkable early-season display was highlighted by a 50-point drubbing of a Grizzlies team that has advanced to the postseason five consecutive seasons.

“You know, they’re a good team,” Nowitzki said. “Steph (Curry) is playing unbelievable basketball. But not only him. Like I said, they have a great, deep team and they defend. They have lineups to switch up everything.”

GOLD RECORD --- In the wake of the Golden State Warriors carving out more history Tuesday night, among the NBA player who congratulated the world champs was Nowitzki.  “They have a heckuva team,” Nowitzki said. “I mean, they have everything you. They have length. They have shooters. They have defenders. They’re really, really deep.” (Photo by Noah Graham/Getty Images)

GOLD RECORD — In the wake of the Golden State Warriors carving out more history Tuesday night, among the NBA player who congratulated the world champs was Nowitzki.
“They have a heckuva team,” Nowitzki said. “I mean, they have everything you. They have length. They have shooters. They have defenders. They’re really, really deep.” (Photo by Noah Graham/Getty Images)

As for which team will pose as a threat and deal the Warriors their first regular season setback since a 103-100 loss April 7 at the New Orleans Pelicans capped a two-game winless streak is anybody’s guess.

That’s because four of Golden State’s next five games are against teams that didn’t make the playoffs last year, meaning the team that could likely end the historic streak is the Toronto Raptors, who host the defending champs Dec. 5.

Still, whichever team manages to disrupt the Warriors’ impressive undefeated streak, it will have to play arguably its best game in some time against a team that plays this Run-N-Gun, high-powered brand of basketball the sports world hasn’t witnessed in some time.

“They can adjust to every stone that’s thrown at them,” Nowitzki said of the Warriors. “And that’s why they are the champs. They’re very deep and very good.”

DIRK REACHES ANOTHER MILESTONE

Even in the wake of the Mavs’ loss at Memphis Tuesday night in FedExForum that resulted in Dallas’ second straight defeat since reeling off a season-best five consecutive wins, Nowitzki had no idea he had added yet another milestone to his illustrious Hall of Fame career.

With 7:53 remaining in the fourth, a running 3-point jumper off an assist from Raymond Felton allowed Nowitzki to become the 17th player in NBA history to record 1,600 career three-pointers.

According to the 37-year-old German, he acknowledges such a feat comes during time in which he feels he’s playing efficient basketball.

Nowitzki, who entered Tuesday’s game leading the NBA in 3-point efficiency at 53.3 percent, connected on 2 of 5 from outside the arc against the Grizzlies.

“You know, it’s been a long ride,” Nowitzki, the Mavs all-time leading scorer, said of his latest accolade. “This is season 18 and, fortunately, I’ve been healthy. You know, there were actually years where I wasn’t shooting the ball as well as I wanted to. And this year, I’ve been having a decent rhythm and hopefully I can keep it up. You know, 1,600 threes, that’s a lot of threes, and hopefully there’s a few more to come.”

 

AndreAndre 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 [email protected] Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

 

 

 

Here’s 41 sporting moments as sports journalist Andre Johnson turns 41

AndreDALLAS — For the past three-plus decades, sports have played a majestic role in my life.

In fact, sports, for me, have become a way of life.

MOM AND MJ --- In November 2002, I passed up the chance to watch Hall of Famer Michael Jordan play in his next-to-last NBA season when the Washington Wizards played at the Memphis Grizzlies. I felt compelled to pass the pair of tickets to my mother, who said to me after that game, “I can always say I had a chance to watch (Jordan) play.” (Getty Images Photo)

MOM AND MJ — In November 2002, I passed up the chance to watch Hall of Famer Michael Jordan play in his next-to-last NBA season when the Washington Wizards played at the Memphis Grizzlies. I felt compelled to pass the pair of tickets to my mother, who said to me after that game, “I can always say I had a chance to watch (Jordan) play.” (Getty Images Photo)

A lifestyle, of sorts.

A trend that, in assessing the overall landscape of my life, practically personifies the person I’ve become.

Sports, this inspiriting, galvanizing movement that customarily inspire athletes to become empowered through dedication, accountability, and leadership, are what immeasurably fueled my desire to engage in a rather competitive industry whereby I would be afforded the opportunity to meet and interact with athletes from various walks of life.

Fortunately for me, my dream, thanks in large part to sports, has come full circle, a fantasy that has given way to an assortment of memories, most notably personal ones during which I’ve savored throughout the course of professional sportswriting career.

That said, as I commemorate my 41st birthday on Saturday, I share with you 41 memorable sports moments, according to yours truly.

 

  1. Passing up the chance to watch Hall of Famer Michael Jordan play in his next-to-last NBA season when the Washington Wizards played at the Memphis Grizzlies. I felt compelled to relinquish the pair of tickets to my mother, who said to me after that game, “I can always say I had a chance to watch (Jordan) play.”
  2. Wrapping each wall in my bedroom with magazine photos of NBA players as a junior high schooler in the late 1980s. I knew at the time that someday I’d interview those same players.
  3. Witnessing the San Francisco 49ers thoroughly dispatch the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl 19, 38-16.
  4. Owning my very first authentic NFL football as my mom handed it off to me like a quarterback to running back on my 10th birthday.
  5. Fielding arguably the worst whipping of my life when, on my 15th birthday, I caught the wrath of my mom for throwing a temper tantrum and ripping apart my nightstand. Surely, this isn’t a sports moment in any shape or form. But in a way, it certainly seemed like it, considering I ran around our three-bedroom apartment like an Olympic gold medal sprinter while trying to elude mom’s extension cord.
  6. Watching Michigan edge Seton Hall in overtime in the 1989 NCAA Men’s Basketball championship game as Glen Rice embraced the ball at game’s end and unleashed tears of joy.
  7. Watching Joe Montana’s game-winning touchdown pass to John Taylor with 34 seconds remaining in Super Bowl 23.
  8. Watching the 49ers race to a 27-3 halftime lead and completely dismantle the Denver Broncos, 55-10, in Super Bowl 24.
  9. Witnessing sentimental favorite and the No. 11 seed Loyola Marymount basketball team pulverize Michigan, 149-115, in the second round of the NCAA tournament following the death of Hank Gathers.
  10. The Buffalo Bills losing four consecutive Super Bowls.
  11. The 1984-85 Memphis State men’s basketball team advancing to the school’s second Final Four.
  12. “Never Nervous” Pervis Ellison and Louisville upsetting Duke in the 1988 NCAA championship game.
  13. Anfernee “Penny” Hardway and Treadwell High versus Anthony Douglas and cross-town rival East.
  14. The 1986 New York Mets.
  15. Watching the 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers win the World Series with my paw paw, Edward Johnson, Sr.
  16. Watching Dallas’ World Class Championship Wrestling at the break of sunrise every Saturday with grandpa.
  17. Watching Memphis’ Championship Wresting every Saturday morning with my paw paw and uncles.
  18. Witnessing the Memphis State basketball team win the Metro Conference basketball championship in 1987 against Louisville in the always hostile Freedom Hall.
  19. Witnessing pro wrestler Jerry Lawler become world champion for first time in his illustrious career on May 9, 1988 over Kurt Henning.
  20. The Kansas City Royals’ 11-0 shutout of the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 7 of the 1985 World Series.
  21. Penny Hardaway and the Memphis Tigers losing four times to the Cincinnati Bearcats during the 1991-92 season.
  22. Penny Hardaway losing his final college game where his NBA career began (in Orlando).
  23. Steve Young engineering the 49ers to a 49-26 win over the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl 29.
  24. The scene of Michael Jordan crying on the locker room floor while blanketing the game ball after winning his first NBA title following the death of his father.
  25. Len Bias’ shocking death two days after the 1986 NBA Draft.
  26. Magic Johnson announcing his retirement from the NBA on November 7, 1991 after learning he had acquired the AIDS virus.
  27. Attending Monday night wrestling virtually every week with my uncle, Darryl Crawford.

    H-TOWN --- How can I forget when I covered the 2013 NBA All-Star Game in what was my third full season of covering the league?

    How can I forget when I covered the 2013 NBA All-Star Game in what was my third full season of covering the league?

  28. Covering my very first sporting event as a sports intern for the Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper in May 1996.
  29. Partaking in my second sports internship for The Commercial Appeal in May 2000.
  30. Assuming a full-time job a sports reporter for The Commercial Appeal in August 2000.
  31. Interviewing Laila Ali during her fight in the Mid-South in June 2002.
  32. At the request of Jerry Lawler, meeting the Hall of Fame wrestler over lunch in March 2010 for an exclusive interview that lasted more than two hours.
  33. Covering Kobe Bryant on the night he became the Los Angeles Lakers’ all-time leading scorer in March 2010.
  34. Covering the 2013 NBA All-Star Game.
  35. The 2007-08 Memphis Tiger basketball team.
  36. John Calipari vacating Memphis for Kentucky or, as he said, “the Notre Dame of college basketball.”
  37. Mario Chalmers breaking the hearts of Tiger fans with a game-tying 3-pointer that forced overtime in the 2008 NCAA final.
  38. The Los Angeles Clipper’s historic comeback from 27 points down to shock the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 1 of the 2012 NBA playoffs.
  39. The Grizzlies reaching the Western Conference Finals the following year.
  40. Relocating to Dallas in April 2014 to cover Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks.
  41. Thanking God in advance for allowing me to stick around to witness and savor more sporting moments.

 

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 [email protected] Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Mavs coach Rick Carlisle described Flip Saunders’ death as a ‘dark day’ in the NBA

REMEMBERING FLIP SAUNDERS (1955-2015)

DALLAS — Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle wasted little time paying homage to Minnesota Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders following his team’s two-hour practice Monday morning.

“Flip was one of those guys who was a great and intense competitor, always did it the right way,” Carlisle said while addressing reporters. “And as competitive as he was and as great a coach he was, he had no enemies in this league.”

FABULOUS FLIP --- Flip Saunders, who returned to Minnesota for a second stint last summer and compiled more than 1,000 victories during a professional coaching career that spanned more than three decades, died Sunday of cancer at the age of 60. Saunders’ death comes just three days before the Timberwolves’ season-opener at the Los Angeles Lakers. (Photo by Nam Y. Huh/AP)

FABULOUS FLIPFlip Saunders, who returned to Minnesota for a second stint last summer and compiled more than 1,000 victories during a professional coaching career that spanned more than three decades, died Sunday of cancer at the age of 60. Saunders’ death comes just three days before the Timberwolves’ season-opener at the Los Angeles Lakers. (Photo by Nam Y. Huh/AP)

Saunders, who returned to Minnesota for a second stint last summer and compiled more than 1,000 victories during a professional coaching career that spanned more than three decades, died Sunday of cancer at the age of 60.

Saunders’ death comes just three days before the Timberwolves’ season-opener at the Los Angeles Lakers and two days after the team announced he would not return this season as he continued to battle his dreaded disease.

Saunders announced in August that he was being treated for Hodgkin lymphoma during which doctors described it as “very treatable and curable.” Saunders, in fact, said at the time he had planned to remain the Timberwolves’ head coach and president of basketball operations.

However, after enduring a setback last month that led to him being hospitalized, the team turned the coaching duties over to interim Sam Mitchell while Milt Newton assumed the general manager responsibilities.

In assessing Saunders’ coaching career that also included stints with the Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards, Carlisle ironically liken Saunders’ style of coaching to the late Chuck Daly, the former Pistons coach who led the franchise to back-to-back NBA championships in 1989 and 1990.

“He reminded me a lot of Chuck Daly,” Carlisle said. “He was innovative. He was creative. He was a great coach that coached a lot of different kinds of teams, and he was an impact guy as a GM as well.”

A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Saunders was also part-owner of the Timberwolves, although he is widely known for his 35-year coaching tenure.

With the emergence of a young Kevin Garnett, Saunders guided Minnesota to its first-ever playoff berth in 1996-97, his first full season as an NBA head coach. The following year, he led the Timberwolves to their first-ever winning campaign, then helped propelled the team to a franchise-record 50 victories in 1999–2000, a feat they repeated two seasons later. (Getty Images Photos)

With the emergence of a young Kevin Garnett, Saunders guided Minnesota to its first-ever playoff berth in 1996-97, his first full season as an NBA head coach. The following year, he led the Timberwolves to their first-ever winning campaign, then helped propelled the team to a franchise-record 50 victories in 1999–2000, a feat they repeated two seasons later. (Getty Images Photos)

Saunders assumed his first NBA job when he joined the Timberwolves in May 1995 as general manager, working alongside former college teammate Kevin McHale. Seven months later, he was named the team’s head coach, replacing Bill Blair after Minnesota had gotten off to a dismal 6-14 start.

Two seasons later (1996-97), with the emergence of a young Kevin Garnett, Saunders guided Minnesota to its first-ever playoff berth in his first full season as an NBA head coach. The following year, he led the Timberwolves to their first-ever winning campaign, then helped steer the team to a franchise-record 50 victories in 1999–2000, a feat they repeated two seasons later.

LASTING IMPRESSION ---When asked how Saunders’ legacy will be remembered, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle paused briefly then said, “He’s one of the most respected coaches in history. Getty Images Photo)

LASTING IMPRESSIONWhen asked how Saunders’ legacy will be remembered, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle paused briefly then said, “He’s one of the most respected coaches in history. Getty Images Photo)

Consequently, Saunders was fired midway through the 2004-05 season during which the Timberwolves had failed to advance to the playoffs for the first time in nine years.

However, following coaching stints in Detroit (2005-2008) and Washington (2009-2012), Saunders rejoined the T-Wolves organization last summer before his health began to decline.

Saunders, whose professional coaching career began in 1988-89 with the CBA’s Rapid City Thrillers, led the Timberwolves to the Western Conference Finals during the 2003-04 season.

When asked how Saunders’ legacy will be remembered, Carlisle paused briefly then said, “He’s one of the most respected coaches in NBA history. There’s no doubt about that. He experienced great success. And he helped build that Minnesota franchise, really, from the depths of the lottery to a team that was in the Western Conference Finals.”

With the NBA regular season set to begin on Tuesday, Carlisle described Saunders’ passing as a “dark day” for the NBA.

“But we’ll all look back at all of the great things he did and all of the wonderful things he stood for and we’ll learn from his example,” Carlisle said.

The Mavs will wear lapel pins throughout the season in Saunders’ memory, Carlisle said.

Dallas’ season-opener is Wednesday night at 9 CST at Phoenix, the first of a three-game road trip.

 

AndreAndre 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 [email protected] Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

 

 

 

 

Ex-U of M star Danton Barto gives worthy advice to pro football hopeful Braylon Burks

DALLAS — Braylon Burks doesn’t shy away from the notion that he is auditioning for a roster spot on professional football team.

PRO DREAMS --- Just recently, Dallas native Braylon Burks was introduced to Danton Barto, a former University of Memphis All-American linebacker and ex-Canadian Football League standout who currently works as a college scout for the St. Louis Rams.  According to 24-year-old Burks, he came away thoroughly appreciative and knowledgeable about what it takes to assume --- and retain --- a roster spot as a pro. (Photos courtesy of SAGU Athletics)

PRO DREAMS — Just recently, Dallas native Braylon Burks was introduced to Danton Barto, a former University of Memphis All-American linebacker and ex-Canadian Football League standout who currently works as a college scout for the St. Louis Rams.
According to 24-year-old Burks, he came away thoroughly appreciative and knowledgeable about what it takes to assume — and retain — a roster spot as a pro. (Photos courtesy of SAGU Athletics)

So much, in fact, that the former South Oak Cliff High standout has gone to great lengths in recent weeks to absorb as much pivotal advice he can as he prepares to fulfill a long awaited dream he’s had since his childhood days of playing recreational football in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Just recently, Burks was introduced to Danton Barto, a former University of Memphis All-American linebacker and ex-Canadian Football League standout who currently works as a college scout for the St. Louis Rams.

According to the 24-year-old Burks, the Dallas native came away thoroughly appreciative and knowledgeable about what it takes to assume — and retain — a roster spot as a pro.
After all, who better to learn from than someone who has spent years not just as a player in the professional ranks, but has functioned as the chief executive officer of a professional football franchise?

Barto is a former Arena Football League coach, a stint that included a brief tenure as an assistant and subsequent head coach of the now-defunct Memphis Xplorers of the arenafootball2 league. To his credit, Barto enjoyed a wealth of success in Memphis, having guided the Xplorers to a championship.

BIG CHANCE --- Fortunately for Burks, it’s safe to assume his golden opportunity to put his skills on display will take place as early as before year’s end.  Burks said he has been in discussion with team officials of the Arena Football League’s Green Bay Blizzard for a possible tryout. Also, he has generated interest from a few other AFL teams, most notably the Arizona Rattlers.

BIG BREAK — Fortunately for Burks, it’s safe to assume his golden opportunity to put his skills on display will take place as early as before year’s end.
Burks said he has been in discussion with team officials of the Arena Football League’s Green Bay Blizzard for a possible tryout. Also, he has generated interest from a few other AFL teams, most notably the Arizona Rattlers.

For someone who has familiarized himself with the pros and cons with regards to making a favorable impression on pro scouts and general managers, Barto lessoned Burks the best way he knew how during a phone conversation Burks said lasted approximately 15 minutes.

“(Barto) said there is nothing wrong with Arena Football,” Burks told Sports Journalist Andre Johnson. “He said I must learn as much as I can, stay focused, and don’t get caught up in other things.”

Other things such as what’s in the past are exactly where they belongs — in the past.

For instance, following a remarkable stint at South Oak Cliff in which he emerged as the catalyst for the Bears on both sides of the ball, the 6-foot-7 Burks consequently took his talents to Southwestern Assemblies of God University in nearby Waxahachie, Texas, where he played sparingly, in large part because of a number of coaching changes.

By and large, among those who admittedly were discouraged in Burks’ lack of playing time was his mother, Kimberly Session, who sensed her son — whom SAGU current head coach Frank Tristan in a telephone interview on Tuesday emphasized boasts “a wealth of size and is a true talent” — has possessed the mechanics all along to play major college football.

Professional football too.

DREAM CHASER --- Aside from working his daytime job and partaking in his customary community service as a way to enhance his resume, Burks trains intensely, sometimes as many as five times per weeks, sometimes as late as 10 o’clock nightly.

DREAM CHASER — Aside from working his daytime job and partaking in his customary community service as a way to enhance his resume, Burks trains intensely, sometimes as many as five times per weeks, sometimes as late as 10 o’clock nightly.

“He has been overlooked like so many other great players,” said Session, who has played an integral role in aiding her son to generate the essential exposure in hopes of playing at the professional level.

FOLLOW BRAYLON ON SOCIAL MEDIA: Facebook: Braylon Burks
Instagram: BBURKS_BALLIN
Email: [email protected]

Aside from working his daytime job and partaking in his customary community service as a way to enhance his resume, Burks trains intensely, sometimes as many as five times per weeks, sometimes as late as 10 o’clock nightly.

As he tells it, there is simply no room for error, no time to let up, especially considering his support system has become solid than it has ever been in some time.

“I am very confident in myself as well as my abilities and I feel that God has divinely favored me with a gift of being a professional athlete as well as being a strong leader in the community,” Burks said. “I perform at my best when my back is against the wall. I also feel I can play at the professional level if granted an opportunity. It takes a lot of work, patience, hard work and faith.”

Fortunately for Burks, it’s safe to assume his golden opportunity to put his skills on display for a pro team will take place as early as before year’s end.

The former high school teammate of Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Jacquies Smith, Burks said he has been in discussion with team officials of the Arena Football League’s Green Bay Blizzard for a possible tryout. Also, he has generated interest from a few other AFL teams, most notably the Arizona Rattlers.

So far, things appear to be holding up nicely for this resilient, opportunistic youngster, who doesn’t shy away from the notion that he is auditioning for roster spot on professional football team.

“I feel like I can play at the next level,” Burks reiterated.

More than anything, he acknowledges, he plans to heed the advice given to him by Barto.

“He just said to me, ‘Keep your eyes on the prize and know what is important,’” Burks said. “He said some guys are comfortable where they are, so I must make sure I keep my eyes on the prize.”

Spoken like a big, soft-spoken athlete who’s yet clinging to Texas-size dreams.

 

AndreEDITOR’S NOTE: If you have a child or team that is seeking exposure and would like an in-depth sports news story, call Reporter Andre Johnson at 901-690-6587 or Facebook message him for details under “Andre T. Johnson.”

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 [email protected] Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

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 [email protected] Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

 

Mavs coach Rick Carlisle praises each Southwest Division team on making playoffs

SOUTHWEST SUCCESS --- Dallas Mavericks coach Carlisle’s most memorable campaign as an NBA coach came four years ago when he led Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs to their first world championship in franchise history, a six-game upset of the Miami Heat in their best-of-7 NBA Finals series. That year, three teams from the NBA’s Southwest Division (Dallas, San Antonio, and Memphis) had clinched playoff berths. This year, however, each of the division’s five teams have advanced to the postseason, a feat that was effectively decided on the regular season’s final day when the New Orleans Pelicans clinched a berth with a 108-103 win against the Spurs. (Joe Murphy/Getty Images Photo)

SOUTHWEST SUCCESS — Dallas Mavericks coach Carlisle’s most memorable campaign as an NBA coach came four years ago when he led Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs to their first world championship in franchise history, a six-game upset of the Miami Heat in their best-of-7 NBA Finals series. That year, three teams from the NBA’s Southwest Division (Dallas, San Antonio, and Memphis) had clinched playoff berths. This year, however, each of the division’s five teams have advanced to the postseason, a feat that was effectively decided on the regular season’s final day when the New Orleans Pelicans clinched a berth with a 108-103 win against the Spurs. (Joe Murphy/Getty Images Photo)

DALLAS — First team to 16 wins…

“The first one to 16 will have a pretty nice piece for their jewelry cabinet,” Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said while addressing reporters Thursday afternoon at American Airlines Center.

Carlisle was alluding to the 16 teams that have punched tickets to this year’s NBA playoffs, a nearly two-month-long marathon that will culminate with one franchise hoisting the covenant Larry O’Brien trophy.

Now in his seventh season as the Mavericks’ head man, arguably Carlisle’s most memorable campaign as an NBA coach came four years ago when he led Dallas to its first world championship in franchise history, a six-game upset of the Miami Heat in their best-of-7 NBA Finals series.

That year, three teams from the NBA’s Southwest Division (Dallas, San Antonio, and Memphis) had clinched playoff berths.

This year, however, each of the division’s five teams have advanced to the postseason, a feat that was effectively decided on the regular season’s final day when the New Orleans Pelicans clinched a berth with a 108-103 win against the Spurs.

HOT HANDED HARDEN --- The Southwest Division champion Rockets (56-26) are led by NBA Most Valuable Player candidate James Harden, the league’s second-leading scorer. Winners of three straight, the Rockets are in the postseason for a third consecutive year. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

HOT HANDED HARDEN — The Southwest Division champion Rockets (56-26) are led by NBA Most Valuable Player candidate James Harden, the league’s second-leading scorer.
Winners of three straight, the Rockets are in the postseason for a third consecutive year. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

“I think this is the toughest division in all of (professional) sports,” Carlisle said. “It has been for the last several years.”

Among the reasons is the Spurs (55-27) undoubtedly have been the division’s most consistent and dominant team. Making their franchise-best 18 consecutive postseason appearance when they open defense of their NBA title Sunday night at the No. 3 seed Los Angeles Clippers (56-26), the six-seeded Spurs have won five world titles during this stretch.

As for the Mavs, erasing the memory of last year’s seven-game opening-round defeat to San Antonio certainly will be a brutal task, considering seventh-seeded Dallas (50-32) will face the No. 2 seed Houston Rockets Saturday at 8:30 p.m. CST in Game 1 of their best-of-7 opening-round series.

BLOCK PARTY --- Marc Gasol (left) and the fifth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies (55-27), whose 9-7 division record was the best among the other four teams, is making their franchise-record fifth consecutive playoff appearance and will open postseason play Sunday night at 7 CST against the fourth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers in FedExForum. (Photo by Jerome Miron/Getty Images)

BLOCK PARTY — Marc Gasol (left) and the fifth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies (55-27), whose 9-7 division record was the best among the other four teams, is making their franchise-record fifth consecutive playoff appearance and will open postseason play Sunday night at 7 CST against the fourth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers in FedExForum. (Photo by Jerome Miron/Getty Images)

The Rockets (56-26) are led by NBA Most Valuable Player candidate James Harden, the league’s second-leading scorer.

Winners of three straight, the Rockets are in the postseason for a third consecutive year. Dallas is making its second straight playoff appearance.

The fifth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies (55-27), whose 9-7 division record was the best among the other four teams, is making their franchise-record fifth consecutive playoff appearance and will open postseason play Sunday night at 7 CST against the fourth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers (51-31) in FedExForum.

Memphis’ best postseason outing during this span took place two years ago when the Grizzlies manufactured their highest winning percentage and advanced to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in team history.

Arguably the surprise Southwest Division team to make the playoffs is New Orleans.

The NBA’s fourth youngest team with an average age of 24.9 years, the Pelicans (45-37) played arguably their most complete game of the season, which couldn’t have come at a better time, considering New Orleans controlled its own destiny.

Led by Anthony Davis’ 31 points and 13 rebounds, the Pelicans withstood a furious late rally by the defending champs to solidify the Western Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot in the regular season finale, thus ending a four-year postseason drought.

Next up for upset-minded Pelicans is an opening-round date with the top-seeded Golden State Warriors, starting with Saturday’s Game 1 at 2:30 p.m. CST.

Led by Stephen Curry, whom many consider the frontrunner for league MVP, the high-octane Warriors enter the postseason with the NBA’s best record at 67-15.

Come Saturday, the race to 16 wins begins.

Which, of course, begs the question: Will the Larry O’Brien trophy remain in the Southwest Division for a second consecutive year?

As far as Carlisle is concerned, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone if it does.

“It’s just quality teams from top to bottom,” Carlisle said of the Southwest Division. “During the battles of the division opponents during the year, I mean those were slugfest games. They were extremely meaningful. There’s a lot of wear and tear. (Games) were very physical. They’re emotional. But when you get a division like this, that’s the way it’s supposed to be, and it gets everybody primed for this time of year.”

Let the nearly two-month-long marathon begin.

First team to 16 wins…

DrePicAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send an email to [email protected] Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Mavs star Dirk Nowitzki reflects on playing days with close friend Steve Nash

NBA SOUTHWEST DIVISION REPORT

DALLAS — When Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said after the 2003-04 season that he wanted to build his franchise around a younger Dirk Nowitzki then passed up signing Steve Nash to a long-term deal, among those who expressed their displeasure with the move was Nowitzki.

BEST OF FRIENDS --- Dirk Nowitzki (right) and Steve Nash had become close friends during the six seasons in which they played together for the Dallas Mavericks. However, after Mavs owner Mark Cuban had declined to match the Phoenix Suns’ offer to Nash, which was a reported $63 million over six years, Nash reluctantly bolted Dallas for Phoenix after the 2003-04 season, news Nowitzki admittedly didn’t sit well with him. (Photo by D. Clarke/Getty Images)

BEST OF FRIENDS — Dirk Nowitzki (right) and Steve Nash had become close friends during the six seasons in which they played together for the Dallas Mavericks. However, after Mavs owner Mark Cuban had declined to match the Phoenix Suns’ offer to Nash, which was a reported $63 million over six years, Nash reluctantly bolted Dallas for Phoenix after the 2003-04 season, news Nowitzki admittedly didn’t sit well with him. (Photo by D. Clarke/Getty Images)

Nowitzki and Nash had become close friends during the six seasons in which they played together here.

However, after Cuban declined to match the Phoenix Suns’ offer to Nash, which was a reported $63 million over six years, Nash reluctantly bolted Dallas for Phoenix, news Nowitzki admittedly didn’t sit well with him.

“I was disappointed,” Nowitzki told MemphiSport following the Mavericks’ 101-94 win against the San Antonio Spurs Tuesday night in American Airlines Center. “That was pretty obvious. We thought originally that Fin (Michael Finley), myself, and Steve would have a long run together. But Phoenix swooped in and gave him a heckuva deal.”

After an NBA career that spanned 17-plus seasons and was highlighted by eight All-Star appearances and two league MVP awards, Nash officially announced his retirement Tuesday afternoon.

HE SAID IT --- Said Nowitzki in Nash leaving Dallas for Phoenix: “I was disappointed,” Nowitzki told MemphiSport following the Mavericks’ 101-94 win against the San Antonio Spurs Tuesday night in American Airlines Center. “That was pretty obvious. We thought originally that Fin (Michael Finley), myself, and Steve would have a long run together. But Phoenix swooped in and gave him a heckuva deal.”

HE SAID IT — Said Nowitzki on Nash leaving Dallas for Phoenix: “I was disappointed,” Nowitzki told MemphiSport following the Mavericks’ 101-94 win against the San Antonio Spurs Tuesday night in American Airlines Center. “That was pretty obvious. We thought originally that Fin (Michael Finley), myself, and Steve would have a long run together. But Phoenix swooped in and gave him a heckuva deal.” (Photo by Glenn James/Getty Images)

Nash, 41, had been under contract with the Los Angeles Lakers for the past two-plus seasons before injuries ultimately reduced his effectiveness and forced him to call it a career. Prior to joining the Lakers, Nash spent eight seasons with Phoenix, where he enjoyed arguably his best moments as a pro.

Having joined a Suns team that inherited emerging young players Shawn Marion and Amar’e Stoudemire, Nash showed that even as a then-seven-year veteran, he was still very much in his prime. Nash had become only the third point guard (Magic Johnson and Bob Cousy) to capture consecutive league MVP awards (2005-2006) and the first Canadian to win the NBA’s most covenant individual award.

Ironically, Nash barely missed out on seizing a third consecutive MVP trophy, placing second with 44 first place votes, 39 shy of Nowitzki’s 83.

“Well, he was one of the greatest guards to ever play,” Nowitzki said of Nash. “He was an unbelievable competitor, as mentally tough as they get, as mentally tough as anyone I’ve seen in this league. He wanted the big shot. He wanted to be a part of the big games, played through injuries. He was just as tough as it gets and he was my friend.”

Unfortunately for Nash, a rash of injuries in recent years significantly limited his ability to perform efficiently, thus leading to him officially calling it a career.

RISING SUN --- Having joined a Suns team that inherited emerging young players Shawn Marion and Amar’e Stoudemire, Nash showed that even as a then-seven-year veteran, he was still very much in his prime. Nash had become only the third point (Magic Johnson and Bob Cousy) to capture consecutive league MVP awards (2005-2006) and the first Canadian born player to win the NBA’s most covenant individual award.

RISING SUN — Having joined a Suns team that inherited emerging young players Shawn Marion and Amar’e Stoudemire, Nash showed that even as a then-seven-year veteran, he was still very much in his prime. Nash had become only the third point (Magic Johnson and Bob Cousy) to capture consecutive league MVP awards (2005-2006) and the first Canadian born player to win the NBA’s most covenant individual award.

After sustaining a broken leg during his first season with the Lakers, Nash was never the same player again. Consequently, he endured neck, back, and muscle issues from which he never recovered.

Last summer, Nash announced that this season would be his last. However, after experiencing continuous back pains that have been hampering him since the preseason, Nash on March 21 formerly announced his retirement.

Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Nash played at the University of Santa Clara before he was selected with the 15th overall pick by Phoenix in 1996.

A little more than a decade removed from having played with Nash, Nowitzki finally was able to put his and Nash’s careers into perspective.

“I was disappointed at the time,” Nowitzki said of Nash’s unceremonious departure from Dallas. “But you know, looking back at our careers, maybe it was better that way. We both flourished away from each other. But looking back, I’ll always have a smile on my face of the times we had together.”

To his credit, Nash’s unorthodox style of play inspired a number of other NBA point guard, most notably fellow international player Tony Parker of the Spurs.

“He was one of the best point guards in the history of the league,” Parker said. “He had a great mind for basketball. He was a great passer obviously and we’re definitely going to miss him. I’ve had some great battles against him when he was with the Phoenix Suns. I wish him luck in his next challenge in life. We’ve always been good friends and learned a lot just watching him play.”

DrePicAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send an email to [email protected] Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

 

Quincy Pondexter on recent trade from Memphis Grizzlies: ‘I’ll never forget it’

NBA SOUTHWEST DIVISION REPORT

DALLAS — Quincy Pondexter on Monday was asked if he has any hard feelings toward the Memphis Grizzlies after the organization dealt him to the New Orleans Pelicans in early January.

CALLING HIM OUT? When asked on Monday night's game at Dallas whom he sensed were among those within the Grizzlies organization who felt it was best to part ways with him, New Orleans Pelicans shooting guard Quincy Pondexter went as far as to hint that Memphis coach Dave Joerger initiated the trade.  “That’s the way it seems, right?” Pondexter said. (Photos by Steve Mitchell/Getty Images NBAE)

CALLING HIM OUT? When asked on Monday night’s game at Dallas whom he sensed were among those within the Grizzlies organization who felt it was best to part ways with him, New Orleans Pelicans shooting guard Quincy Pondexter went as far as to hint that Memphis coach Dave Joerger initiated the trade.
“That’s the way it seems, right?” Pondexter said. (Photos by Steve Mitchell/Getty Images NBAE)

“I can’t answer that,” Pondexter told MemphiSport.com prior to the Pelicans’ game at the Dallas Mavericks.

Given his unorthodox body language as he sat in front of his locker in the visitors’ locker room in American Airlines Center, coupled with the notion that Pondexter admittedly anticipated a lengthy tenure with a Memphis team that boasts NBA championship aspirations, it’s safe to assume that the recently-acquired New Orleans small forward is indeed harboring ill-feelings over how his stint with the Grizzlies ended.

Now in his fourth NBA seasons, the 26-year-old Pondexter appeared in 168 games for the Grizzlies before he was involved in a three-team trade on January 12. The Pelicans announced that they traded guard Austin Rivers to the Boston Celtics and rookie Russ Smith to the Grizzlies in exchange for Pondexter and a future second round pick.

The move reunited Pondexter with the team to which he was traded moments after he was drafted 26th overall by Oklahoma City in 2010.

“It was extremely hurtful,” Pondexter said of the Grizzlies electing to trade him before the season’s halfway point. “You know, it’s somewhere I thought would be home for me. But it’s a couple of people in the organization who didn’t feel the same way and I’ll never forget it.”

When asked whom he sensed were among those within the Grizzlies organization who felt it was best to part ways with him, Pondexter went as far as to hint that Memphis coach Dave Joerger initiated the trade.

“That’s the way it seems, right?” Pondexter said.

Surely, Pondexter and Joerger have had their share of disagreements, most notably last year during a Grizzlies home game against the Brooklyn Nets.

A game in which Pondexter was seen staring down Joerger several times after making a number of key second-half shots before finishing with 22 points, Pondexter was ultimately disciplined for his unprofessional gestures. During timeouts, Pondexter could be seen uttering profanity as a way of showing his displeasure with Joerger’s decision to bench him.

Having recently been installed as a starter for a Pelicans, who trail Oklahoma City by just one game for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, Pondexter has wasted little time making his presence felt. Arguably his best outing since being dealt to New Orleans came February 25 against visiting Brooklyn during which he scored a career-high 25 points.

Having recently been installed as a starter for a Pelicans, who trail Oklahoma City by just one game for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, Pondexter (left) has wasted little time making his presence felt alongside star center Anthony Davis. Arguably his best outing since being dealt to New Orleans came February 25 against visiting Brooklyn during which he scored a career-high 25 points.

Prior to that game, Pondexter had played sparingly for the Grizzlies, averaging 18 minutes during what was an injured-ridden season for the former University of Washington star.

Pondexter on Monday reiterated that he has taken ownership of the situation and subsequent fallout with Joerger, saying he’s sorry for such behavior he believes contributed to his recent trade from Memphis.

“You know, I’ll never forget that night,” Pondexter said. “I made a bad decision. I was immature at the time. I’ll never forget the mistake I made, staring him down and showing him up. I felt like I should have been playing. But at the end of the day, he had the last say and I’m not there anymore.”

While Pondexter believes Joerger is mainly responsible for his unceremonious exit out of Memphis, he sensed there were others within the organization who sided with his former coach.

“There was a couple who probably didn’t want me there,” Pondexter said. “And I wanted to end my career there. That’s how much I love the city.”

CHANGE OF HEART --- For a while, it seemed that Pondexter was a right fit for the Grizzlies, who rewarded the Fresno, California native with a four-year extension in just third full season with the team. Prior to that year, Pondexter averaged a career-best 21.1 minutes per game and played a pivotal role for a Grizz team that made its first ever Western Conference Finals appearance. (Getty Images photo)

CHANGE OF HEART — For a while, it seemed that Pondexter was a right fit for the Grizzlies, who rewarded the Fresno, California native with a four-year extension in just third full season with the team. Prior to that year, Pondexter averaged a career-best 21.1 minutes per game and played a pivotal role for a Grizz team that made its first ever Western Conference Finals appearance. (Getty Images photo)

For a while, it seemed that Pondexter was a right fit for the Grizzlies, who rewarded the Fresno, California native with a four-year extension in just his third full season with the team. Prior to that year, Pondexter averaged a career-best 21.1 minutes per game and played a pivotal role for a Grizz team that made its first ever Western Conference Finals appearance.

“I signed a four-year extension because I loved (Memphis) so much,” Pondexter said. “It was painful at first. But, of course, you know you live and learn and I’ve got another opportunity here.”

To his credit, though, it’s an opportunity of which Pondexter has taken full advantage much like his stint in Memphis.

Having recently been installed as a starter for the Pelicans, who trail Oklahoma City by just one game for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, Pondexter has wasted little time making his presence felt.

Arguably his best outing since being dealt to New Orleans came February 25 against visiting Brooklyn during which he scored a career-high 25 points.

“He could be a two-way player where he could defend his position and other positions,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said of Pondexter. “He’s shown the ability on certain nights where he could knock down shots and make plays for us. He has shown intangibles, whether it be just know how to guard a guy, using his length to guard or contest shots, and knowing how to guard. But he’s been in a lot of big games in Memphis, so that’s something I can’t give him. He has that experience.”

Among the things about which Pondexter is appreciative are the Pelicans offering him the chance to continue what he started in Memphis. Now that he’s becoming acclimated in New Orleans, he contends his unceremonious departure from Memphis is where it belongs.

Behind him.

“I’m happy here,” Pondexter said.

Fielding the question as if he expected it.

DrePicAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send an email to [email protected] Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Dallas Mavericks express appreciation for Cowboys’ unlikely resurgence this year

DALLAS — When the Dallas Cowboys punched their ticket to the playoffs by dismantling the Indianapolis Colts, 42-7, in Weeks 16, among those who seemed in high spirits was Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.

Ever since the Cowboys’ shocking win at defending Super Bowl champion Seattle in Week 6, Cuban has been among those often making bold predictions about a Dallas franchise that hadn’t advanced to the postseason since 2009.

LOYAL FAN --- Dirk Nowitzki is among the Dallas Mavericks players who has been complementary of the Dallas Cowboys' resurgence this season. The 12-time All-Star says the Cowboys are peaking at the right time and could very well win it all in February. (Photo by Brad Mills/Getty Images/NBAE)

LOYAL FAN — Dirk Nowitzki is among the Dallas Mavericks players who has been complementary of the Dallas Cowboys’ resurgence this season. The 12-time All-Star says the Cowboys are peaking at the right time and could very well win it all in February. (Photo by Brad Mills/Getty Images/NBAE)

Cuban, in fact, doesn’t shy away from the notion that he believes this year for the high-powered Cowboys could very well end the way last season ended for the Seahawks.

Dallas’ quest for a sixth NFL championship begins Sunday when the Cowboys (12-4) welcome the Detroit Lions (11-5) to AT&T Stadium at 3:40 p.m. CST in an NFC Wild Card game.

“Wasn’t that exciting?” said Cuban, when asked his reaction after the Cowboys had clinched their elusive playoffs berth, coupled with the Philadelphia’s loss a day earlier against Washington that eliminated the Eagles from postseason contention. “It’s awesome, man. I love it.”

So much, in fact, that Cuban, a Cowboys season-ticket holder, has gone as far as to predict that Dallas will represent the NFC in Super Bowl 49 February 1 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Tempe, Arizona.

As Cuban tells it, the Cowboys (12-4), winners of four consecutive games after routing each of their opponents in December, appear destined to claim their sixth Lombardi trophy in the franchise’s tradition-rich history.

“Hey, I predicted them to go to the Super Bowl and beat Denver, 52-51,” Cuban said. So I’m sticking to that…for them to win against the Broncos.”

Although Cuban wasn’t in attendance to witness Dallas’ lopsided win against the Colts that earned the Cowboys the NFC crown, he said he’s mostly happy for Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones.

“It was good for Jerry,” said Cuban, adding he has yet to reach out to and congratulate the Cowboys’ longtime owner. “I’m happy for him.”

Like Cuban, it seems a majority of the Mavericks locker room has gained a thorough appreciation for the Cowboys’ resurgence in this, a season in which many national media prognosticators didn’t expect them to savor a winning campaign.

“Now everybody certainly is jumping on the (Cowboys’) bandwagon,” Mavericks 16-year veteran and 12-time NBA All-Star Dirk Nowitzki said. “Hopefully, they can keep it going and win it all.”

Like Mavs owner Mark Cuban, it seems a majority of the Mavericks locker room has gained a thorough appreciation for the Cowboys’ resurgence in this, a season in which many national media prognosticators didn’t expect them to savor a winning campaign. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images North America)

‘WE DEM BOYS’ — Like Mavs owner Mark Cuban, it seems a majority of the Mavericks locker room has gained a thorough appreciation for the Cowboys’ resurgence in this, a season in which many national media prognosticators didn’t expect them to savor a winning campaign. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images North America)

On Friday, the NFL’s All-Pro team was released, with the Cowboys having garnered a league-best four players on the roster. Among the notable players making the team was running back DeMarco Murray, the NFL’s leading rusher, and wide receiver Dez Bryant. Dallas’ Zack Martin was the lone rookie to make the All-Pro squad.

Still, in a year that essentially has given way to pandemonium throughout Dallas’ Metroplex, as well as a slew of accolades off the field, the Cowboys’ success this year undoubtedly has prompted their global fan base to anticipate a lengthy postseason run, one America’s Team hopes will culminate with a downtown Dallas parade, blanketed by confetti and the hoisting of a sixth Lombardi trophy sometime in mid-February.

So much for what many expected to be yet another disastrous season.

“Those guys look good, man,” Mavericks guard Raymond Felton said. “They’ve been doing great all year. I’m glad to see them keeping it going. I hope they make a long, a far push and win it all.”

Surely, a win on football’s grandest stage would silence more critics in what has already has been deemed a remarkable season in Big D.

DrePicAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send an email to [email protected] Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Tyson Chandler thrilled to be back in Dallas after title run three years ago

NBA SOUTHWEST DIVISION REPORT 

DALLAS — As far as Tyson Chandler is concerned, it’s the “little things” that matter.

Such was the case when Chandler in June was traded back to the Dallas Mavericks after a three-year absence from the team.

Within hours after news spread of his return to the organization, Chandler fielded text messages and emails from close acquaintances with whom he established close-knit bonds during his lone season with the team in 2010-11.

HAPPY RETURN --- During the Dallas Mavericks' Media Day session Monday at American Airlines Center, veteran center Tyson Chandler said he's happy to have reunited with the team he helped capture its first NBA championship three years ago. A 13-year pro, Chandler was traded back to the Mavs in June. (Photo by Andrew Jackson, Jr.)

HAPPY RETURN — During the Dallas Mavericks’ Media Day session Monday at American Airlines Center, veteran center Tyson Chandler said he’s happy to have reunited with the team he helped capture its first NBA championship three years ago. A 13-year pro, Chandler was traded back to the Mavs in June. (Photo by Andrew Jackson, Jr.)

It was, in fact, a memorable campaign for Chandler, considering the 13-year-veteran helped propel Dallas to its first world championship in franchise history when the Mavericks upset the heavy-favorite Miami Heat in six games in the NBA Finals.

So it was no surprise that within days upon his return to the Mavericks, the city of Dallas showed their appreciation to the All-Star center by posting a picture of Chandler wearing a Mavs jersey on an electronic billboard near American Airlines Center that reads: WELCOME BACK, TYSON!

A career that includes stints with Chicago, New Orleans, Charlottle, and New York, Chandler said returning to Dallas has brought about a feeling he describes as “surreal.”

“It feels great to be back,” Chandler said during Monday’s Media Day session at American Airlines Center. “At first, it was surreal. I was a visitor for the last three years. But it’s great to be back and see familiar guys.”

While addressing reporters, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said virtually everywhere he’s gone of late, Chandler emerged as the center of conversation.

“He’s the most popular one-year player of any franchise in the history of professional sports,” Carlisle jokingly said of Chandler. “In fact, at a couple of speaking engagements I’ve had over the past couple of weeks, I said, ‘Tyson Chandler’s back.’ And folks go crazy. He’s the kind of guy that you can’t help but love to watch because of his approach and enthusiasm. You know, he’s winner.”

Not to mention a fan favorite, given the courtesies he’s acquired since his unexpected return to Big D.

POSTSEASON FORM --- Having started in each of the Mavs’ 21 postseason games in 2011, Chandler averaged 32.4 minutes, his best game coming in Game 4 of the NBA Finals when he registered 13 points and 16 rebounds to help Dallas even the series. (Photo courtesy of Reuters)

POSTSEASON FORM — Having started in each of the Mavs’ 21 postseason games in 2011, Chandler averaged 32.4 minutes, his best game coming in Game 4 of the NBA Finals when he registered 13 points and 16 rebounds to help Dallas even the series. (Photo courtesy of Reuters)

Because of the favorable impression Chandler left with the team three years ago, it’s safe to assume both sides were grateful to rekindle after Chandler announced six months after the Mavs’ title run that he had agreed to a four-year deal with the New York Knicks worth a reported $58 million.

Acquired by Dallas on July 13, 2010 in exchange for Matt Carroll, Erick Dampier, and Eduardo Najera, Chandler started 74 regular season games for the Mavs, averaging 10.1 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 27.8 minutes per game.

He was especially efficient during the team’s title run, particularly as the centerpiece on the defensive end, where he was forced to occupy more minutes because of the injury to backup center Brendan Haywood.

Having started in each of the Mavs’ 21 postseason games, Chandler averaged 32.4 minutes, his best outing coming in Game 4 of the NBA Finals when he registered 13 points and 16 rebounds to help Dallas even the series.

While Chandler admittedly didn’t know what to expect during his first run with the Mavs, he doesn’t shy away from the notion that much is expected of him this time around.

Chandler was especially efficient during the Mavs’ title run, particularly as the centerpiece on the defensive end, considering he was forced to occupy more minutes because of the injury to backup center Brendan Haywood. (Photo by Tony Gutierrez/AP)

Chandler was especially efficient during the Mavs’ title run, particularly as the centerpiece on the defensive end, considering he was forced to occupy more minutes because of the injury to backup center Brendan Haywood. (Photo by Tony Gutierrez/AP)

“Obviously, having been here and winning a championship, the expectations are a little different,” Chandler said. “There are a bunch of new faces. But the motivation is still the same. And the expectations within me are still the same if not more.”

Among those who appears mostly intrigued by Chandler’s return is Mavs franchise player Dirk Nowitzki. In July, Nowitzki restructured his contract, thus allowing the team to acquire a number of key players, most notably Chandler, Chandler Parsons (from Houston), and Jameer Nelson (from Orlando).

“I’m looking forward to playing with him,” Nowitzki said of Chandler. “Obviously, the chemistry was there a few years ago, so I’m not worried about.”

As the Mavs open training camp Tuesday morning, among the key challenges for Carlisle is to devise ways to distribute minutes for a roster that boasts immense depth. Conversely, Carlisle acknowledges because of the key offseason acquisitions, much of the pressure won’t fall solely on Nowitzki to generate the bulk of the offense and on Chandler to steer the Mavs defensively.

Dallas opens preseason play October 7 when it hosts Houston. The Mavs’ season-opener is October 28 at defending NBA champion San Antonio.

“We’ll make sure (Chandler’s) minutes are reasonable, because we don’t want to overtax anybody too soon,” Carlisle said.

Regardless of how the Mavs choose to utilize Chandler this season, one thing is seemingly for certain: The smile he exhibited Monday while addressing the assembled media was indicative of just how delightful he is to have landed back at his old stomping ground.

“It’s so funny because I only spent one year here and everybody thinks I’ve spent my entire career here,” Chandler said. “You know, everybody thinks I was here four or five or six years. But it was just one, long, really incredible year.”

A year Mavs fans will never forget.

DrePicAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send an email to [email protected] Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.