Sports Morning Headlines-Friday, 03/18/11

News from around the Texas Sports Scene for Friday, March 17, 2011.

Project Spurs:  Gameday Preview: Spurs vs. Mavericks - The San Antonio Spurs (54-13) has the NBA's best record but looked vulnerable recently. The Spurs had three days off to make adjustments following Monday's 110-80 loss at Miami which is their worst loss in the regular season.  The Dallas Mavericks (48-20) will surely try their hardest to beat the Spurs with Dirk Nowitzki back in the lineup.  The Spurs have a 6 1/2-game lead over Dallas and the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference but have gone 3-2 over their last five outings.   READ MORE

Mavs, Spurs looking for critical turnarounds - In the two months since they last met the Spurs, the Dallas Mavericks have been busy revising their roster.  - On Jan. 24 they traded big man Alexis Ajinca to the Toronto Raptors for a future draft pick to create a roster spot.  - On the same day, they signed 12-year veteran forward Peja Stojakovic after the Raptors bought him out of his contract following a trade with New Orleans.  - On March 1 they signed swingman Corey Brewer to a free-agent deal after the Knicks bought him out of his contract — he had been sent to New York from Minnesota as part of the three-team trade that landed Carmelo Anthony in the Big Apple.  - On Feb. 16 they welcomed back guard Roddy Beaubois from the injured list, where he had resided through the first 55 games of the season.  That’s a lot of change for an elite team with championship aspirations, but what does it mean for the Spurs when they take on the Mavericks at American Airlines Center tonight?   READ MORE

Should the Spurs starters rest more? - With barely a month before the playoffs begins, and a few bumps along the road recently, the San Antonio Spurs still hold the league's best record at 54-13 and will likely lock up the number one seed by winning 10 of their last 15 games.  But a quick glance at their schedule shows they still play eight games against playoff-bound teams -- including Dallas, Boston and the Los Angeles Lakers -- four games versus teams fighting for a playoff spot and only three against below .500 teams.  This means securing homecourt advantage throughout the post-season will be no cake walk for the Spurs.   READ MORE

The Dallas Mavericks Potential First Round Opponents - The Dallas Mavericks are in the midst of a slump against playoff contenders within their conference. The loss against the Portland Trail Blazers marked their fourth consecutive defeat to a potential playoff opponent in the last 10 days (Memphis, New Orleans, Los Angeles and Portland). Looking back even farther, you have to go back to Jan. 4 to find the last game that the Mavericks won against an opponent who would make the playoffs in the Western Conference if the season ended today. Add it all together and the Mavericks have lost eight consecutive games to potential playoff participants.   READ MORE

Autograph session with Caron Butler - Here at ESPN Dallas, we're launching a new program to reward you -- our local sports fan -- with free gifts, free access to star athletes and our own writers.  The next stop in our "Free Ride" takes us to American Airlines Center in Dallas this Friday. We'll be on-site from 6 - 8 p.m., but if you have a ticket to the game against the Spurs, you'll have an opportunity to meet forward Caron Butler for an autograph session from 6 - 7 p.m. (one item per person).   READ MORE

Mavs-Lakers: Breaking down the final 14 - The Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers begin the final 14 games of the season Friday night tied for the Western Conference's No. 2 seed with 48-20 records. Which team has the upper hand to claim the seed, which grants homecourt advantage in a potential second-round playoff series?  The Mavs have the more enviable task to start playing at home Friday against the NBA-leading San Antonio Spurs, while the Lakers play host to the Minnesota Timberwolves.   READ MORE

Defensive intensity or bust - The Rockets score with the best of them. The key to their postseason hopes rests with stopping opponents.  The Rockets held another team below 100 points, and when they do that, they win. For that matter, they kept the Charlotte Bobcats from reaching 80.  But they were not impressed.  Coach Rick Adelman described Wednesday's defense as "decent." Kyle Lowry said the Rockets "played down" to the Bobcats' slow-as-mud tempo. Chuck Hayes practically gushed, saying, "It's getting better."  The Rockets have spent the season trying to overcome their shaky defense with only mixed results. But there have been signs of progress, if not all they will need to control the Boston Celtics tonight at Toyota Center.   READ MORE

Rockets notes: Hayes staying grounded - In the past two games, center Chuck Hayes has enjoyed a career high for scoring (21 points against the Suns) and season bests for rebounds (17 against the Bobcats) and assists (seven against Charlotte).  He does not believe, however, he will be the focus of any opponent's pregame defense any time soon.  "As long as I have Kevin (Martin) and Luis (Scola) out there, and Kyle (Lowry) playing great, I'm pretty sure I'm in the back of their minds," Hayes said.  "They really don't focus on me until after the first quarter."  The Rockets also will not call plays for Hayes. He does expect, however, to continue to produce.   READ MORE

Scola optimistic about return - Rockets want evaluation after today's workout.  For the first time since he left the floor in Sacramento on March 7, Luis Scola sounded confident he would return, despite his best efforts to control his optimism.  Scola, who missed the Rockets' last four games with a sore left knee, went through Thursday's light practice and will test it again at today's shootaround in hopes of playing tonight against the Boston Celtics at Toyota Center.  "We're definitely doing everything we can to try, but we didn't test it all the way to the end," the 6-9 forward said. "I am tempted to say I'm pretty close to coming back, but they are going to be angry with me if I say so. We need to do more tomorrow, see how it reacts. I'd like to be optimistic, but I have to be a little cautious with what I say. We're doing everything we can to be ready to play (tonight).   READ MORE

 

 

Kirkman doesn't have best stuff, or any help - Michael Kirkman was hoping to make a bold statement on Thursday about his desire to be in the Rangers rotation.  Instead he found himself a witness to the Rangers defensive car wreck at Peoria Sports Complex. Kirkman wasn't without some culpability, but seven errors and eight unearned runs pretty much told the story in a 15-5 loss to the Padres on St. Patrick's Day.  "Full moon," manager Ron Washington said. "It seems like we left our gloves, bats and brains at home. We just had a bad night."   READ MORE

Surprise Six: Thursday camp recap - The Rangers got St. Patrick’s Day all wrong. They didn’t have a sliver of green in their uniforms, which might have contributed to their error-riddled 15-5 loss to the Padres.  "It seemed like we left our gloves and our bats and our brains at home," said Ron Washington, summing up the performance pretty well.   READ MORE

Damage control thing of the past - Fulchino feels great following injury-marred '10.  Depending on how "bum" is "bum," pitching with a bum elbow can be like lighting a fire with a bum match. It's a fairly important part of the process.  Reliever Jeff Fulchino got a better lesson in that than any pitcher would like to last year.  After a breakout 2009 that won him the Astros' rookie of the year honor, there was enough drama with the one joint that you could call it "The Situation."  Fulchino would get an injection to take down the tendinitis. It would work. It would stop working. He'd get another.   READ MORE

Astros notes: Catchers hitting well - Catchers hitting well.  After the season-ending injury to Jason Castro opened the door to an extra position battle on the Astros' roster, the combatants have been up to the occasion.  Nobody is going to back in to the second catcher job, which actually might be the starting role depending on how much time the Astros want to give Humberto Quintero, who was set to be a backup until Castro tore his ACL.   READ MORE

 

 

Goodell e-mails all active NFL players - Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote NFL players Thursday, outlining the league's last proposal to the union and cautioning that "each passing day puts our game and our shared economics further at risk."  Goodell ended the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, by telling players: "I hope you will encourage your union to return to the bargaining table and conclude a new collective bargaining agreement."  Talks between the teams' owners and the NFL Players Association broke off last Friday, the 16th day of federal mediation in Washington. The union dissolved that afternoon, allowing players to file a class-action antitrust suit in federal court. Hours later, owners locked out the players, creating the NFL's first work stoppage since 1987.   READ MORE

Phillips Likes DT Mitchell More as a Nose Tackle - The Houston Chronicle talks about 2nd year DT Earl Mitchell, and how defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is liking the idea more and more of him as a nose tackle in the Texans defensive system.  The more Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips sees of second-year defensive tackle Earl Mitchell, the more he likes the idea of Mitchell’s becoming an effective nose tackle. At 6-3 and 300 pounds, Mitchell isn’t the traditional 330-pound nose tackle whose job is to tie up two blockers and allow the inside linebackers to make tackles. Phillips wants his nose tackle to be quick off the ball and penetrate. “I like him a lot,” Phillips said.   READ MORE

NFL Rule Changes Could Hurt Cowboys Kicker - With the NFL contemplating rules changes in the kickoff procedure, Dallas may be especially interested. The committee wants to move up the spot for kickoffs by five yards to the 35-yard line, it also wants to have the ball spotted at the 25 rather than the 20 after kickoffs. The intent, competition commitee chairman Rich McKay said, is to limit the number of injuries on kickoffs.   READ MORE

2011 NFL Draft: Will the Cowboys Draft Greg McElroy in the 2nd Round? - Former Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy may be on Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett’s draft hit list after scoring a 43 out of 50 on the Wonderlic test.  The Cowboys may be on the look out for a quarterback to back-up Tony Romo as current relief quarterback; Jon Kitna is 38 and Stephen McGee is still a work in progress. While Garrett isn’t the chief who chose to sign Romo, he is the man’s offensive play caller. Not to mention, Tony scored a 37 on his Wonderlic which is fifth best amongst active quarterbacks.   READ MORE

 

 


Friday playoff race update - When you look at what happened around the rest of the West Thursday night, the Stars’ victory over Chicago was big. The Stars really needed those points. Calgary and Nashville both won, so those teams below the Stars are still pushing. Phoenix won, so the Stars stay within three points of them. Los Angeles lost and now the Stars are within a point of the Kings.  The Stars tied the Blackhawks in points and moved ahead of them in the standings, taking over the sxith spot. The Stars and Blackhawks have the exact same record and are tied in the first tiebreaker – regulation and overtime wins – at 33. So the next tiebreaker is season series and the have six points (3-1-0) to three points (1-2-1) for Chicago. That’s why the Stars get the nod in the standings over the Blackhawks at this time.  If two teams were tied in points, regulation/OT wins and points in the season series, then it goes to goal differential for the entire season.   READ MORE

Observations from a 5-0 win - It's kind of difficult to measure how important that game was.  With wins for Nashville (4-3 in OT vs. Boston ), Calgary (5-2 over Colorado ) and Phoenix (3-1 over Edmonton), Dallas needed these points. In addition to handing points directly to Chicago had the Stars lost, they would have been pushed down by other teams who are winning.  Ask LA how it feels about its home loss at the hands of the Blues.  It would not have been pretty for Dallas had the other option popped up. Combine the possible lost points with the panic that had already gripped the masses in Starsville from the two-game losing streak, and you might have had a full-fledged fan meltdown.   READ MORE

Stars impressive in key victory - Needing two points in a tight Western Conference playoff race, the Dallas Stars rolled out a gem of a performance Thursday night, defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 5-0 at American Airlines Center.  The victory snapped a two-game losing streak and moved the Stars into sixth place in the Western Conference, one spot ahead of Chicago.  The Blackhawks came into the game on a 9-1-2 run and as the league’s top-scoring team, but the Stars gave them little in the way of scoring opportunities. Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, one of the hottest scorers in the league lately, had no shots on goal. His linemate Patrick Kane had just one shot.   READ MORE

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MVPTEXAS RT @SportsCenter: Steelers score 24 points in final 3:08 of 1st half to come back vs Texans, 30-23. Le'Veon Bell: 145 total yds, Rec TD htt…
MVPTEXAS RT @mavsmoneyball: Mavs vs. Grizzlies final score: Dallas wins 108-103 http://t.co/zSFjGlnGpV
MVPTEXAS RT @nflnetwork: .@HoustonTexans HC Bill O'Brien's postgame presser airing NOW on NFL Network. #HOUvsPIT
 

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