Let’s start with a few notes from the NBA. Dirk Nowitzki scored seven of his season-high 39 points in overtime to give the Dallas Mavericks a 124-114 win at the New York Knicks. Nowitzki clearly said it was time to take over and put behind the team an embarrassing five-game losing streak.
Nowitzki also grabbed 15 rebounds – well above his season high – while dishing out four assists and not committing a single turnover in 44 minutes. The German star said the losing streak, which had the Mavericks off to their worst start in a decade, felt like “more or three months”. Dallas last had won on November 4 at San Antonio.
Taking a look elsewhere in the NBA, the Toronto Raptors have instituted former No. 1 overall draft pick Andrea Bargnani into the starting line-up – at small forward over Jamario Moon and Joey Graham. It was the Italian’s first start of the season. And it was also interesting that Will Solomon replaced an injured Jose Calderon as starting point guard. Solomon made his first NBA start since April 2002 after playing the past few years in Europe.
The NFL has a couple worthy notes.
The Tennessee Titans remained the league’s only undefeated team by coming back from an 11-point half-time deficit for a 24-14 win at Jacksonville. The defending champions New York Giants ran over the Baltimore Ravens, 30-10 while rushing for more than 200 yards for the third straight game.
The Philadelphia Eagles and Cincinnati Bengals played to a 13-13 tie – the first even game in six years. And don’t need to say anything about a 37-3 thrashing of the Chicago Bears by rivals Green Bay Packers.
Over to baseball, the Chicago Cubs will go down regretting the Kevin Gregg for Jose Ceda trade of relief pitchers. Ceda was given the status of “untouchable” just last off-season as a nasty young, hard-throwing arm. Now, Jim Hendry gives up the 21-year-old for probably one season of a 30-year-old who averages more than four walks per nine innings.
With less than a week left in the Arizona Fall League baseball season, just wanted to point out some of the top performers who could very well be considered in the race for the 2009 Rookie of the Year races.
Atlanta Braves pitching prospect Tommy Hanson has been dominating the AFL with the Mesa Solar Sox. The 6-foot-6 righty is 4-0 in six starts and has given up just two earned runs in 23.2 innings for a 0.76 ERA. The 22-year-old, who was the Braves’ main dealing piece in talks for San Diego Padres ace Jake Peavy, has allowed just nine hits and five walks while striking out 39 batters. The opposition is hitting just .114 against him this fall. Look for him to emerge early next season in Atlanta.
What a battery Atlanta fans can look forward to. Catcher Tyler Flowers is in the AFL despite playing only at High-A ball this season, but the 22-year-old is absolutely crushing the ball. The Roswell, Georgia native has slugged an AFL-best 11 home runs to go along with 19 RBIs and a .373 average in 18 games for the same Mesa Solar Sox. During the minor league season, Flowers – a 33rd round draft pick in 2005 – hit 17 home runs and 32 doubles for High-A Myrtle Beach of the Carolina League. Just too bad Brian McCann is at the big club.
Philadelphia Phillies fans have an infielder coming up who could make a big splash soon. Shortstop Jason Donald is hitting .422 with four home runs and 16 RBIs while trying to learn a bit of third base. Obviously with Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley, Philly is set up the middle.
And one more guy – Kyle Blanks, first baseman for the San Diego Padres. At 6-foot-6, 270 pounds, it’s no wonder people compare Blanks with former White Sox slugger Frank Thomas. Blanks has hit just one home run in the AFL but shown a good eye with 20 walks to 26 strike outs. And he proved in Double-A that he can hit the long ball, which 20 home runs as just a 21 year old.
Back to basketball really quick, Team USA basketball fans can be happy about USA Basketball bringing back Jerry Colangelo to the mix, this time as as chairman of the association’s board of directors for the 2009-2012 period. Colangelo, the Phoenix Suns chairman, had served as managing director from 2005-2008 in helping the United States to the bronze medal at the 2006 World Championship and gold at the 2008 Olympics in China.
Colangelo is a visionary who understands the international game and developed a USA Senior National Team program, which also received long-term commitments from the United States’ best players. And with Colangelo at the helm for another four years, the U.S. must be considered the top title contenders for the 2010 World Championship in Turkey and the 2012 Olympics in London.