Another milestone for Dirk Nowitzki


Another milestone for Dirk Nowitzki

From Comcast SportsNet
DALLAS (AP) -- Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks are slowly starting to perform a little more like the defending NBA champs. Nowitzki scored 20 points in his 1,000th NBA game to lead the Mavericks to a 98-89 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night. Jason Terry contributed 18 points, including nine in the fourth quarter, to help the Mavs (3-4) string together consecutive wins for the first time this season. "We said at the beginning, we're going to be a piece of work and everybody is going to come along and I think this team is more set up to peak down the stretch and not now," Nowitzki said. "Everybody's got to work themselves back into shape, get the legs strong and play with each other more and I think we're going to be a good team down the stretch." Lamar Odom added 15 points and five rebounds in his best game since joining the Mavericks in a trade with the Los Angeles Lakers on Dec. 11. But Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said Odom can do better in just about every area. "He had good stats, but there are areas where he needs to improve." Carlisle said. Steve Nash had 15 points and 12 assists for the Suns (2-4), while Marcin Gortat had 22 points and 10 rebounds. The Mavericks lost their first three games while trying to introduce five new faces into the lineup after the departures of five key players from the team that won its first title last season. Now the Mavericks are playing with more cohesion and energy, winning three of four. "These are steps in the right direction," said Mavericks forward Shawn Marion, who had 13 points despite being listed as questionable before the game due to illness. "Things are starting to click on both ends of the floor." Nowitzki is the team's career leader in most categories, including points. He already had the record for games played and was appearing in his 975th game as a starter. "I'm still working to get back to where I was," said Nowitzki, MVP of the NBA Finals last season. "It's definitely good to get to 1,000 games, that's a lot of games and means I was healthy a lot and I was able to help my team and this franchise a lot. It's great and now we're looking for another 1,000, we'll see how far we can take it." The Mavs broke the game open with a 13-4 third-quarter run capped by five straight points from Nowitzki, including a three-point play for a 62-49 lead. Terry hit a 3-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer to make it 77-66. "It was a 3-point momentum play at the end of the quarter, a huge play," Carlisle said. Terry connected on three more from behind the arc early in the fourth, the final one pushing the Mavs' advantage to 92-71 with 7:46 remaining. The Suns kept hustling and trimmed the deficit to 96-87 on Nash's 3-pointer with 2:50 to play, but the Phoenix couldn't get any closer. The Mavericks were up at halftime, 49-41 behind Nowitzki's 13 points. For the game, the Suns were outrebounded 53-42, 19-11 on the offensive glass. "I think we gave up tons of offensive rebounds," Nash said. "We held them to 41 percent shooting which is more than acceptable, but we missed a lot of shots. We're OK offensively, but you can't give up so many offensive rebounds like we did tonight." Terry and Odom led Dallas to a 51-21 advantage in bench scoring. "That's where the separation came, with the second units," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. "That's where the lead came and it was hard for us to overcome." NOTES: Nowitzki is the 98th player in NBA history with at least 1,000 games. ... The teams met for the first time this season. Dallas swept all four games last season. ... Recently-signed Phoenix G Michael Redd has begun working back into basketball shape but Gentry said Redd won't be ready to be activated for 10-14 days. ... Football players from Arkansas and Kansas State were in attendance. The teams meet Friday in the Cotton Bowl at Cowboys Stadium. ... Dallas' Jason Kidd appeared in his 1,274th regular-season game, tying Terry Porter for 16th on the NBA's career list. Kidd is the league's active leader in games played.

Harbaugh on Dantonio: 'One of the best college football coaching jobs in the history of the game'


Harbaugh on Dantonio: 'One of the best college football coaching jobs in the history of the game'

It's been a tough season for Michigan State, a shockingly uncharacteristic campaign for Mark Dantonio's program that has seen five losses, all coming in the last five contests.

The Spartans were projected during the preseason to once again compete for a conference and national championship after winning the Big Ten title last season and reaching the College Football Playoff, but neither of those things will happen this time around, with Michigan State experiencing its worst season under Dantonio since 2009. In all likelihood, it will be the worst season, record-wise, during his tenure.

But there's at least one man who doesn't think anyone should lose sight of what Dantonio's done in East Lansing and what has made this season such an aberration: Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh.

Michigan and Michigan State get together Saturday in the annual battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy, a game that was supposed to be one of the key contests shaping this season's Playoff picture. Instead, the Wolverines enter as heavy favorites, undefeated through seven games while their in-state rivals sit at 2-5.

But Harbuagh praised Dantonio on Monday, telling reporters that what Dantonio has done in turning Michigan State into a perennial contender deserves recognition in the annals of college football history.

"He's done a great job," Harbaugh said. "One of the best college football coaching jobs in the history of the game. It's been at the highest level."

Certainly Harbaugh is right. Dantonio took over a program that between 1991 and 2006 had just one double-digit-win season, featured only four campaigns with seven or more wins and had eight seasons of five or fewer wins.

In his 10 seasons, Dantonio has turned in five double-digit-win seasons, all coming in the past seven years and featuring two wins in the Big Ten Championship Game, a win in the Rose Bowl, a win in the Cotton Bowl and a trip to the Playoff.

In true college football coach fashion, Harbaugh went on to say that despite the lack of success for the Spartans this season and the fact that the Wolverines have pounded pretty much every opponent into the ground, his team needs to be ready for a "championship" kind of game.

And while that cliche gets a little tired sometimes, Harbaugh made a good point considering the outcome last season, when Michigan State beat Michigan on that legendary fumbled punt returned for a touchdown as time expired in Ann Arbor.

"It doesn't matter what's happened before this week for us or for an opponent. It never does," he said. "It matters what happens on the gameday. We know the task in front of us, we know the challenge, and it's up to us to make sure we get prepared to play that game so we can go out there confident and execute and have a chance at being successful.

"They're a very good football team. We know we'll be tough to beat, we know they'll be tough to beat. In the meantime, we'll get prepared for the game."

Bears get Jay Cutler back as QB competition with Brian Hoyer fades to black

Bears get Jay Cutler back as QB competition with Brian Hoyer fades to black

If there was any quarterback “controversy” swirling about the Bears – and one likely will be after this season – this one is safely resolved with Jay Cutler cleared by team medical staff to return from his injured thumb and begin practicing this week, all of this about the time that Brian Hoyer was undergoing surgery for his broken right arm suffered in the loss to the Green Bay Packers.

Whether Cutler would have been re-installed as the starter had Hoyer remained healthy, and throwing for 300 yards per game, is a moot point now. Indications were that Hoyer would not lose the job if he was playing well.

But now, “obviously Jay’s our starter,” said coach John Fox. “He was injured, not permitted to play medically. And now that he’s healed he’s back to being our starter.

“That’s really the facts and kind of what happened and where we’re at now. So I don’t know that there was a ‘competition’ to speak of. Just like there wasn’t a competition when Matt Barkley went in [at Green Bay]; he was our only quarterback left. So it’s good to have Jay back. We’re excited to have him back and hopefully he can remain healthy.”

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Team chemisty is difficult if not impossible to gauge from the outside. And whether teammates prefer Cutler or Hoyer personally is only marginally relevant anyway.

But Cutler was voted an offensive co-captain (along with Alshon Jeffery) and the offense ostensibly is more dangerous with Cutler and his deep-threat capability. Still, the Bears scored just 21 points in the combined seven quarters behind Cutler, while reaching 17-17-23-16 in whole games under Hoyer.

Cutler’s return is expected to have a ripple effect on the rest of the team.“We don’t really play into that much,” said center Cody Whitehair. “[Whoever’s] back there, we’re going to try and do our best to protect them and do our thing on the run.

“But you know, it is nice to have him back. He’s been a leader on the sideline even while he wasn’t playing and it’ll be nice to have him back out there.”