We are in the perfect time of the year where all four major sports have news circulating at all times of the day. That is true for the Dallas area as all four teams have had quite eventful weeks.
The Cowboys are in the thick of an intense – yet stressful – playoff hunt, the Rangers just got back from the winter meetings with both good and bad news, the Mavericks have lost the NBA’s newest star, and the Stars unexpectedly fired their coach.
It was a defining week for all four teams in the DFW area. Decisions were made that could change the franchise forever, while a few decisions still need to be made. It was one of the busiest and craziest weeks of the year in the city. Going team by team, here is a deeper dive into what good things and what bad things happened this week.
How about the win Sunday afternoon against the Los Angeles Rams? Where has this team been all season? Honestly, who knows. What is known is that Sunday was the best performance this Cowboys team has put on all season. It was a great day running the ball for the Cowboys, as both Ezekiel Elliot and Tony Pollard were both over 100 yards. Dak Prescott had an amazing day, going 15/23 with 212 yards, two touchdowns, and no turnovers. Both tight ends in Jason Witten and Blake Jarwin made impacts and secondary receivers like Tavon Austin made huge plays for this offense.
On the defensive side of the ball, we flashback a few years as Sean Lee is once again making huge plays for this defense. For the first time in his career, he had an interception and a sack in the same game. The Rams were held to 22 rushing yards after last year’s playoff game the Cowboys let up 273 in last year’s NFC Divisional playoff game. Tight ends continue to kill the Cowboys as Tyler Higbee had 111 yards, but the defense played outstanding.
Overall, this is the kind of win the Cowboys needed to get the momentum swinging in their direction. (Almost) everyone on this team played well. If this kind of performance happens again next week against Philadelphia, the Cowboys could possibly be one of the hottest teams in the NFC with a home playoff game. Who wants to go on the road against a red hot Cowboys team? Nobody.
The “(Almost)” from the paragraph above is about Amari Cooper. After having seven touchdowns in his first nine games, Cooper has only caught one score and it was a garbage-time touchdown down 17 to the Chicago Bears. The last four games have come up against some elite defenses in New England, Buffalo, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Cooper had no catches against the Patriots and only one Sunday against the Rams. He has not been the star receiver we are used to seeing.
When he is getting receptions against the Bills and Bears, he is not putting up the flashy numbers we are used to seeing. The wideout from Alabama has not broken the 100 receiving yard mark since Week 10 against the Minnesota Vikings. Yes, there is a real chance that he is injured, but Cooper is what makes this Cowboy passing attack dangerous.
Luckily, Cooper has already had success against the Eagles this season. Being targeted five times, he caught all five balls for 106 yards. While he failed to get into the end zone, he had the most receiving yards between either team. The bottom line is, when Amari Cooper plays well for the Dallas Cowboys, the offense is flowing. If he can go back to the form he was in at the beginning of the season, Sunday should end up being a victory for the Cowboys.
As pretty as yesterday’s win was, it really hurts to think ‘Where was this team all season?’ What changed this week that was different about the previous three weeks? How could this team fail to perform like this in games against lesser opponents like the Jets or Bears?
It hurts to think of what this team would look like if they could keep their consistency at a high level. One thing we know is that their record would not be 7-7. Sunday would more than likely be another late-season NFC East game that does mean much to either team as Dallas would have the division on wrap and Philadelphia would be thinking about the NFL Draft. It is painful to think about the opportunities this team had.
The road ahead
Win in Philadelphia. That is the only thing that matters at this point. If you want a playoff bid, unless you want to rely on the New York Giants winning a Week 17 matchup against the Eagles, then you need to win Sunday afternoon. Otherwise, some coaching changes will more than likely be made as quickly as possible. Win on Sunday and we are able to look forward to more positive things down the road.
Before facing the gauntlet that was the five best teams in the entire Eastern Conference, the Mavericks traveled down to Mexico City for the annual Mexico City Games. They faced off against the Pistons for the second time this season. Losing the first game 124-117, Dallas got their revenge in Mexico, winning 122-111. The Mavericks outscored the Pistons in each of the four quarters, shooting an excellent 51% of the field.
The main star of the game (as usual) was Luka Doncic, recording another triple-double in his already historic sophomore season in the NBA. His final stat line was 41 points, 11 assists, and 12 rebounds, leading the team in all three categories. His +/- of +29 was the highest of any player on the court as well. Two other players stepped up for the Mavs, with one being Kristaps Porzingis. He had 20 points, eight rebounds, and one assist, but was not the second-best player for the Mavs that night.
Seth Curry went off on Thursday night, scoring a season-high 30 points. Before then, the most he had dropped in one night was 16 against the Grizzlies. He was most impressive from three, making six out of his nine attempts from downtown. His six threes were the most he had made since April of 2016. A career night for Curry and another triple-double from Doncic led the Mavs to their 11th win in their last 13 games.
Dallas was playing catch up to the Miami Heat all night, being down by as much as 23 in the first half. While the entire game was played without Luka Doncic (see below), the Mavericks struggled early to get into the game. In the second half, the Mavericks were the better team, winning the third quarter 31-18 and the fourth quarter 31-21.
Tim Hardaway junior stepped up in a big way, scoring 20 of his 28 points in the second half. He caught fire from behind the arc, making 4 out of his seven shots. Maxi Kleber also played a role in the comeback, scoring 11 points on four of five shooting. The Mavericks locked down on defense, responding with only 39 second-half points after giving up 73 in the first half.
The game went into overtime and the Mavericks lost 122-118. While the comeback in the second half was positive, the first half was one to forget. The Heat were red hot, shooting 40% from the three-point line. Kelly Olynk and Tyler Herro came off the bench and gave the Mavericks trouble, scoring a combined 29 points. It was the second home loss the Mavericks had suffered in as many games. Even though the Heat are a really good team, losing at home is never a positive experience.
Shortly before the game had been going on for two minutes on Saturday night, Luka Donic went down and he went down hard. He immediately grabbed for his ankle, looking to be in a lot of pain.
It was announced that X-rays on the ankle were negative and nothing was broken. It is sprained however and he is more than likely expected to miss a few weeks.
Luka's injury is a right ankle sprain and nothing's broken, Mavs PR confirms.
best case scenario, he's day-to-day and mostly dealing with swelling. but more severe ankle sprains (especially high ankle sprains) often take 4-6 weeks to recover from.
— tim cato (@tim_cato) December 15, 2019
Doncic is not only the best player on this team but one of the best players in the NBA. No matter what team you are, if you lose your best player, it is bad news. It is especially bad news for the Mavericks because of how much he does for them. It hurts them off the court too with how much Doncic is loved by the fans. With him sitting on the bench for a couple weeks, morale around the team will be lower than usual.
The road ahead
The Doncic injury was worst-case news for the Mavericks. They have a brutal next four games, facing the Bucks, Celtics, 76ers, and Raptors in their next four games. Already facing the Heat, those are the five best teams in the Eastern Conference. It would have been fun to see what Doncic was able to do against top competition, but Dallas will be without him for a while. It is time for Porzingis to step up and turn back into the star he was with the New York Knicks. Role players like Seth Curry, Tim Hardaway, and even J.J. Barrea will be critical for the Mavericks until Doncic returns.
Coming out of nowhere, Texas was able to trade for Corey Kluber. The three-time All-Star and two time Cy Young winner arrive in Arlington with the potential to lead the greatest rotation this franchise has ever seen. While he can be seen as an ace, so can Mike Minor and Lance Lynn. Only throwing in seven games last season, he is fresh off a season in which he fractured his forearm.
What is even more shocking is how little the Rangers had to give up in order to acquire Kluber. Giving up relief pitcher Emanuel Clase and Delino DeShields for someone who has the potential to win a Cy Young is an incredible return for the Rangers. While DeShields was a fan favorite here in Texas, he had struggled at the plate the past two years, hitting under .250 and getting on base less than 33% of the time. He reached 20 stolen bases the fourth time in his career in 2019, but he struck out 100 times. When there was already a jam in the outfield and a player like Danny Santana can replace him, it was time for DeShields to move on. As for Clase, parting ways with him may end up being a mistake, but the return was just too good to pass up.
Getting Corey Kluber? Good. Getting Corey Kluber while trading away a below-average hitter and a relief pitcher that can be fairly easily replaced? Even better. This is the kind of move that should install hope into Ranger fan’s hearts. Jon Daniels takes plenty of criticism when things go wrong, but when things go right – like this trade did – he needs to be credited. Many other teams could have pulled this kind of trade off, but Daniels found a way to get it done for the Rangers. Now, a rotation of Mike Minor, Lance Lynn, Corey Kluber, Jordan Lyles, and Kyle Gibson will be opening Globe Life Field (maybe).
Missing out on Anthony Rendon when the team has a glaringly obvious hole at third base is bad enough. Missing out on Anthony Rendon to a division rival is even worse. It felt like a dagger in the heart when the news about Rendon starting flowing across the Twittersphere. Seven years, $245 million to the Los Angeles Angels.
Anthony Rendon got seven years and $245 million from the Angels, source tells ESPN.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 12, 2019
What made things even worse is that there were reports that the Rangers, in fact, made an offer for Rendon, but it was WELL below what he ended up signing for.
Sources: Rangers offered Rendon six years, fell just shy of $200 million
— Evan Grant (@Evan_P_Grant) December 12, 2019
Occurring before the Kluber trade, it looked like it was going to be an ugly offseason for the Rangers. Missing out on what was supposed to be their biggest target and losing out on him to an AL West rival. There is still a major need for this base in this ball club. Yes, getting Kluber is nice, but when Ranger fans are used to watching Adrian Beltre play every day, the hole at third base needs to be sewn shut quickly.
Ironically happening the same day the Los Angeles Angels held their press conference to announce the signing of Anthony Rendon, Globe Life Field caught on fire, sending smoke throughout the entire city of Arlington, and even Dallas.
This is coming from the new Rangers ballpark right now. pic.twitter.com/iKxDlCitQa
— Anthony Andro (@aandro) December 14, 2019
Luckily, Arlington Fire Department was on the scene to put out the fire, with nobody coming out of the incident injured. Here was the official statement from AFD:
AFD is on-scene at a 2-alarm fire at new Ranger Stadium. The fire was located and contained in the upper sections of the stadium. No injuries reported. Fire cause under investigation.
— Arlington Fire Dept. (@ArlingtonTxFire) December 14, 2019
The fire broke out just under the roof of the new stadium, about 100 feet from the ground. The cause of the fire has not yet been determined and will continue to be investigated. Once learning that nobody was harmed, the biggest question became ‘Will it cause a delay in the March 31 opening of the stadium?’ Thankfully, the answer to that question is no. Everything is expected to be ready for the opening of the ballpark. ‘The Ugly” could have been a lot worse for the Rangers if they had to play a few games in Globe Life Park after advertising the shiny new Globe Life Field.
The road ahead
Daniels has done a great job after missing out on Rendon. Even before then, trading away Nomar Mazara was a win-win for both the Rangers and White Sox. The next move is most likely the most important one Texas will make in this offseason. One thing is for certain: A right-handed bat is needed in this lineup. Either of the corner infield positions will do, even a catcher. The big names are Nolan Arenado of the Colorado Rockies or Kris Bryant/Wilson Contreras of the Chicago Cubs. If the Rangers can land any of those three, it will be a hugely successful offseason.
The Stars currently have a five-point advantage in the wild card standings. While getting the wild card is obviously not the goal, having some room to breathe is nice. Currently sitting at 42 points, they are tied with Winnepeg for third in the Central and are only four points behind St. Louis for the top of the division.
Success has been there recently for Dallas, getting points in their last five games. Four wins and an overtime loss has gotten nine out of their last 10 possible points. In those five games, they have only allowed more than two goals once, in the 3-2 OT loss to Las Vegas on Friday. This past week has seen two wins, including one in the road against Nashville.
Nothing ‘bad’ has really happened to the Stars. The product on the ice has been excellent. As for off the ice? Well…
The Stars announced Tuesday that they had fired Head Coach Jim Montgomery for “unprofessional conduct inconsistent with the core values and beliefs of the Dallas Stars and the National Hockey League.” According to General Manager Jim Nill, the Stars had been informed of something that Montgomery had been doing and decided it was in the best interest of the organization to fire him.
Nothing has been released as to why Montgomery has been fired besides he committed an unprofessional incident. Nobody is quite sure what he did, nor will they know for a while. The Stars have said they will keep everything quiet out of respect to the whistleblower of the incident and Montgomery’s family. Will it eventually come out? Some can hope, but until now, we have nothing.
Montgomery was in his second season as coach of the Stars and was doing a great job. Making the playoffs last season and losing in the second round to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions is not a terrible start to your tenure as a head coach and year two was developing nicely.
The road from here
What could have been a dumpster fire with the firing of the coach, the Stars have been playing fairly well. As mentioned above, they are on a point streak and sit well within the NHL standings. They need to keep their focus and keep doing what they are doing to sustain their success. Montgomery’s firing will surely cause a distraction, but winning can take away all distractions.