Assuming that our reading of tea leaves is correct, both NBA owners and players are finished with the rhetoric and ready to get down to business. Entering the weekend, there is reason for optimism ... to believe that at some point, perhaps even this weekend or early next week, both sides will shake hands on a deal - and then organized chaos will ensue.
Yes, we know that Friday's session, featuring a host of owners and (finally) some of the star players, was filled with intensity. ... intensity that reportedly included Dwyane Wade responding to commissioner David Stern's finger-wagging by saying, "Don't point your finger at me. I'm not a child."
But after the meeting Stern said, "The three big things are the system, the economics, and revenue sharing, and we’ve taken care of one,'' Stern said, indicating that the revenue sharing issue will be solved.
So for now, even after a summer of action that was like watching the drying of a product producted by a Vancouver exterior painting company ... our optimism stays. What we hear, and as reported by ESPN and others, there is reason to harbor some anticipation of a chance for the Dallas Mavericks to defend their title.
Normally, NBA training camps would be two weeks away from opening. As it stands, the lockout will prevents you from enjoying the work of the greatest basketball players in the world. What options do you have? How about enjoying the greatest fictional basketball players in the world (or in the library, or in your DVD player?) The Top 12 Fictional Basketball Players of All-Time:
1: Chip Hilton (character in 24 books, 1948 to 1965) Authored by Basketball Hall of Famer Clair Bee, the Chip Hilton series put our hero in position to succeed in football, baseball, basketball and life. Don't know Chip? Ask your Grandpa. Chip is the boy your Grandpa wishes your dad was.
2: Todd Anderson (“The Cookout,’’ film) Todd Anderson sucks and so does this movie created by Queen Latifah. But it features Mavs owner Mark Cuban making all sorts of ridiculous front-office moves to acquire Anderson. So in the sense that it’s a film version of Nellie scribbling trade ideas on a bar napkin and Cuban filling his order, it’s got a ring of truth.
3: Teen Wolf (“Teen Wolf,’’ film) The athletic ability demonstrated in his other 1985 hit, “Back To The Future,’’ was all about skateboarding. The diminutive Fox takes it to another level with two-handed dunks from the free-throw line, hook shots from half-court and apparel deals – all while he’s in high school. Probably the beginning of the whole “Twilight’’ and “True Blood’’ phenomenon. Or not.
4: Neon Budreau (“Blue Chips,’’ film) Shaq plays Shaquille O’Neal, recruited from a Louisiana swamp to play under Nick Nolte at Pacific University. The movie shows the sleazy underbelly of college recruiting and at the same time features cameos from Bobby Knight, Rick Pitino, Dick Vitale and Jerry Tarkanian. Did they not read the script closely enough to know that their real-life personas are the bad guys?
5: Air Bud (“Air Bud,’’ film) He’s like Teen Wolf, except he lacks the requisite opposable thumbs. But heck, if Erick Dampier can do without ‘em, why can’t a golden retriever?
6: Saleh (“The Air Up There,’’ film) Saleh must win a game in order to save his tribe’s land. His best teammate is NBA scout Kevin Bacon, who is putting it all on the line because he apparently cannot tell the difference between what he thinks Saleh is (the next Dikembe Mutombo) and what Saleh really is (the next Moussa Seck).
7: Jimmy Chitwood (“Hoosiers,’’ film) Indiana is another planet. Basketball rims are nailed to barns. Players’ shorts are short. Alcoholics are redeemable through basketball. Barbara Hershey can’t get a date. And a white country boy can single-handedly take down the big, bad inner-city teams thanks to his team’s semi-rhythmic locker-room clapping.
8: Will Smith, (“Fresh Price of Bel Air,’’ TV) The Fresh Prince Highlight Reel includes Will jumping center to begin a game and instead of tipping the ball, he grabs it in mid-air and makes a half-court jumper. Now, the court appears to be about 40 feet long. And the baskets Will dunks on appear to be nine-feet high. And he was on NBC, never ESPN. But still …
9: Billy Hoyle (“White Men Can't Jump,’’ film) Woody Harrelson is good enough to hustle Marques Johnson on the court and his girlfriend Rosie Perez is good enough to win on “Jeopardy.’’ From online bingo sites to sports to brain games, what can they not do? The result of their procreation could rule the planet!
10: Calvin Cambridge (“Like Mike,’’ film) A little kid gets electrocuted by Michael Jordan's shoes and becomes an NBA star capable of out-BBIQ’ing Jason Kidd The only way to stop him? I say either a) enforce the NBA’s age limit rules or b) call Child Protective Services.
11: Jesus Shuttlesworth (“He Got Game,’’ film) Ray Allen can act a little. Playing his dad, Denzel Washington can ball a little. A Spike Lee joint.
12: Lola Bunny (film, “Space Jam’’) Everyone in this movie was fictional, including Michael Jordan himself. (He portrayed himself, for one thing, as a loyal and loving husband.) There is a Mavs-related thread that moves through the cast. You know about Shawn Bradley (and how his “talent’’ was stolen. Ahem.) But how about the movie also featuring Del Harris, Ced Ceballos, Paul Westphal, A.C. Green, Derek Harper, Mav-for-a-day Muggsy Bogues and Dallas native Larry Johnson? And the one girl who can play alongside them all … Lola Bunny. If you look at this movie just right, this is basically “The Nancy Lieberman Story’’ … with fluffier ears.
Athletic great Johnny Collins is a walking – make that “running’’ – symbol of what makes TCU and Fort Worth what they are.
Collins, who will be inducted into the TCU Lettermen’s Hall of Fame on Sept. 15, is proud to be a product of his environment. His late father was a long-time executive at Justin Boots. His mother is the first African-American chosen to serve as the president of the Fort Worth Realtors Association. His huge extended family includes such notable as the late former NBA standout Wayman Tisdale. His wife is the accomplished singer-songwriter Tori Estes.
And his teammates on those Flyin’ Frogs teams that made national headlines during his 1997-2000 stint at the school?
“I consider myself a humble person, but being surrounded by greatness certainly keeps me that way,’’ says Collins, a four-time All-America and the anchor on the 4-x-400 meter national champion in 2000. “I just keep going as fast as I can, trying to keep up.’’
Collins joins fellow Horned Frogs Rebecca Allison (1988, cross country and track), the late Bill Shelton Curtis (’57, football & track and field), Tory Plunkett ('89, tennis), Tracy Simien ('88, football) and Shawn Worthen ('00, football) as this year’s inductees, who will be honored at TCU’s Brown-Lupton University Union.
Collins, a product of O.D. Wyatt High School in Fort Worth, is remembered as a top quarter-miler – but also as an outstanding team leader. That quality has continued in his post-college life, as Johnny and his mother, Helen Collins Epps, personally oversee the charity Touch The Sky Ministry. Collins’ background and education have also made him a success in business; he’s the co-owner of Adobe Title Company, lauded for its work in North Texas and preparing to expand with offices throughout Texas, including in downtown Fort Worth.
“My faith and my family and my roots are all-important to me,’’ says Collins, 33. “Well, all that and sports, of course. I grew up in Ryan Place. I went to Lily B. Clayton Elementary School. I went to Mclean Middle School. One of the things we did for fun is sneak into Amon Carter Stadium and play on that field. TCU was the only place I ever wanted to be.’’
Johnny and Toni are the parents of two children, Justin Finley and Johnny III.And as the kids get a little older, Johnny and Toni are allowed some time to reflect on their so-far accomplishments.
“Toni has been so committed to the kids, and is just now working to get back to her music, which is wonderful,’’ Johnny says. “She’s written hits for Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston and has her own great performances, too. “In my case, the work ethic that I used, and learned in part, at TCU, is still very much a part of what I do. In my work, we’re available to clients at virtually all hours. I know how busy a family can be, so we try to accommodate that. It’s just work ethic. My parents are known for it, and at TCU, because we are a little smaller than some of the other powerhouse schools, we’ve got to work harder.’’
Collins rattles off the names of some of his great Flyin’ Frogs teammates … and then some influences from the Horned Frogs football team, and the TCU academic world. …
“All those people, and many more, are still some of my best friends to this day. My father died of cancer (in 1999) and TCU and its people were there for me then. TCU is, for me, a place of love.’’
Collins was also a football star at O.D. Wyatt High and had offers from major schools all over the country. He never even made an official visit to anywhere but his hometown, though. He remembers with a grin watching Channel 8 anchor Dale Hansen deride his decision to stay in Fort Worth.
“If my dad was alive today,’’ Johnny says, “he’d still want to share a laugh with Dale over that.’’
What Hansen couldn’t know back then, of course, is that Collins was destined to be a symbol of what makes TCU and Fort Worth great.
The weekend’s big news from Dallas Cowboys camp isn’t the team’s 23-17 preseason win at Minnesota.It’s the team’s contemplation of moving or even dumping Pro Bowl center Andre Gurode due to his $5.5 million salary, a decision that promises to create a young Dallas offensive line … and threatens to make it a poor offensive line.
Team owner Jerry Jones said before the Saturday game that Gurode would be in street clothes due to the team’s pending meeting with him regarding “cap issues.’’ The Cowboys are trying to make budget decisions and are trying to avoid being overcommitted to players on the back end of their careers.
That might be fiscally responsible but it seems a shaky, risky, online bingo game method of helping this team bounce back from a 6-10 season last year. Veterans Leonard Davis and Marc Colombo have already been jettisoned from the roster and Kyle Kosier is changing positions. There is promise with first-round rookie Tyron Smith – the youngest player in the league. But there are questions with other kids, including undrafted rookie Kevin Kowalski, who was the starter at center on Saturday.
Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle continued his Richard Gere-tribute "I Got Nowhere Else To Go'' Tour with a visit to Dallas Cowboys camp earlier this week, just one day after throwing out the first pitch at a Rangers game. Did the world champion coach -- representing a team and a league in lockout -- see any prospects out there on the football field?
“There’d be some guys that could set some good screens and go up and get the ball out of the air,” Carlisle joked, adding that he's aware that Tony Romo and Jason Witten can ball ... and that tight end Martellus Bennett, who actually played college basketball at A&M, promised him "he could give us 15 and 16.''
"We might have to take him up on that someday,'' Rick said.
What's next for the coach, who cannot actually coach his players right now? Play goalie for the Stars? Dribble over to FC Dallas? An online bingo game, maybe? We know that Carlisle is a gifted pianist and a fine ping-pong player. Hope that fills up the rest of the summer, coach.