Traveling around the NBA every year, there are several “musts” in certain cities:
• You don’t leave your seat when the Miami Heat dancers perform.
• You love any press seat within shouting distance of Jerry Sloan and the Utah bench.
• You don’t bypass an Isiah Thomas press conference, pregame or postgame.
• You don’t miss the opening lineup announcements in Detroit or Chicago.
• And you take a trip through the huge Dallas Mavericks/Stars team shop at cavernous American Airlines Center.
Why? While every arena has the same shirts/hats/posters/pennants and other fans baubles, the Mavericks always take the extra step. There are Mavericks football jerseys to the left.
There are old-school and hip-hop pieces to the right.
And then there is that one gotta-have piece every year.
This year’s winner was tough. But the “Dancin’ Dirk” Nowitzki doll comes in as the runner-up to my personal favorite — the Mark Cuban doll, which includes nine different phrases directed at his favorite foils, the NBA officials, with Dick Bavetta, Joey Crawford and Jess Kersey all getting special attention. You’ll hear, among others:
“C’mon Dick, that’s a horse#%&$ call!”
“(Dwyane) Wade would get that call, and you know it!”
“What? No foul? You gotta be kidding me!”
“Foul? Are you #$^&*#@% me?”
“You’re freaking killing us, Jess, just killing us!”
“Now that’s a technical, Joey!”
Not a bad selection, but here are a few of my personal favorites that should have been included:
“Give Steve Nash $65 million? Are you kidding? That old $#&$*$% is finished.”
“Yeah, sure, like we’re going to lose to #$@$#%$ Golden State? Don Nelson doesn’t know his #%& from his elbow!”
“We’re up 2-0 over Miami baby, this #$%@#& is over! It’s championship time!”
With a head start like that, maybe the refs can get going with Cuban Doll II.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Icing Road Dogs
To the Coyotes for a 4-1 road trip (it goes down as a 5-1, but they were home for almost a week after the first win) through New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia and San Jose — where they not only scored, but won! Their 12-8 road record and commitment to a simple game screams “playoffs.” They have the one thing the Suns lack — consistency. But with 11 of the next 16 in Glendale, the Dogs must find a way to bring that work ethic home.
Nuts Just the ‘other’ L.A. school
Does UCLA really think it is enough of an upgrade over Oregon for coach Mike Bellotti to jump ship within the conference? Do the Bruins have a donor like Phil Knight ready to scratch a check for every whim the program has? UCLA plays in the rickety Rose Bowl way off campus, while the Ducks have state-of-the-art facilities in every direction and can recruit nationally from Eugene. Face it Westwood, you’re a basketball school.
Crumbs Harry will roll over in his grave
Wrigley Field at (Your Name Here) Park? That’s the rumor blowing around the Windy City. Now that Sam Zell has completed his purchase of the Tribune Co. (and the Chicago Cubs) for $8.2 billion, he can’t wait to get the Cubs off the books and is willing to offer up naming rights to the Friendly Confines to help sweeten the deal. Holy Cow and Ernie Banks, is nothing sacred? Next to Zell, Steve Bartman will be a hero in Cubdom.
• Even if the Cardinals scramble back to 8-8 with a pair of meaningless wins, coach Ken Whisenhunt’s first season has to be looked at as a disappointment — not because the team didn’t make the playoffs, but because of the reasons why they didn’t.
Too many problems that figured to be washed away with Dennis Green remain — from discipline on the field to clock management on the sidelines.
• I wonder how many times next summer Diamondbacks fans will say to themselves, “Wow, this is a great spot for Tony Clark.”
• There are three bowl games in the Superdome in a three-week period (New Orleans Bowl, Sugar Bowl, BCS title game). Not that there are too many bowl games or anything.
• Isn’t it about time the Suns give Marcus Banks his next last chance (and we’re serious this time!) to play some minutes in the backcourt?
• Every player on the Arizona State and Texas football teams will receive a Nintendo Wii game system with two remote controls ($345 value), courtesy of the Holiday Bowl. ESPN also reports that the Fiesta Bowl will give each Oklahoma and West Virginia player a 20-inch LCD TV.
But when Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel rewarded his two senior academic All-Americans by taking them to the Final Four to see the Buckeyes play in the national championship game — after their eligibility had already expired, mind you — the school was slapped with a secondary violation by the NCAA.
THE HIGH FIVE
Bill Parcells is the new man in Miami (unless he’s backed out of this deal too by now). Forget the weather and the location; here are the five real reasons why the Tuna now swims with the Dolphins:
FIVE No quarterback in Miami allows him to bring in old pal Vinny Testaverde.
FOUR Two shots a year at old pal Bill Belichick? Bring it on baby.
THREE He dyed his hair blond in Dallas. Now he’ll have a chance to dress like the “Miami Vice” guys.
TWO Buddy Mike Ditka told him so many good things about his time with Ricky Williams.
ONE Free Blockbuster videos for life? How do you turn it down?