On this first day of April, who is the real fool: the NBA as a whole or Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, sharp handicappers or the square who refuses to learn from their mistakes?
How can any April Fool’s joke top what the NBA delivers on a daily basis? How can anyone in this post-Plimpton age top the folks at FireAvery.com, who are calling for the Dallas Mavericks to give head coach Avery Johnson the heave-ho?
When Mavs owner Mark Cuban announced he’d grant dressing-room access to bloggers, FireAvery applied for media credentials. Sadly for us, their request was turned down.
So who is the fool in this scenario? The website, of course – and I mean ‘fool’ in the good way, as in the person who gets to make fun of the king. That guy in the crown would be Cuban. And Cuban, being a king with a sense of humor, doesn’t have the fool drawn and quartered. It’s a win-win situation. If only commish David Stern felt the same way when Cuban changes roles and puts on the jingle-cap.
Betting on the NBA is a little different. Sharp handicappers, like fools, are quick to poke holes in bad reasoning. But the king is supposed to learn something from the fool. Does the square bettor learn anything, even while his money is flying out of his pocket – and into yours, if you’re sharp? If he doesn’t learn, he’s the real fool.
As for the Mavericks, they are clinging to their playoff spot by the skin of their teeth. Dallas held off the Los Angeles Clippers Monday night, winning 93-86 and just barely covering the 6½-point spread to improve to 31-39-4 ATS. The victory gives the Mavs sole possession of seventh place in the Western Conference.
These are not good times for the Mavericks. They’re 2-5 SU and 1-6 ATS in their last seven games, including the last five without Dirk Nowitzki. Both wins were against the awful Clippers. But Nowitzki’s left knee and ankle injuries are reportedly healing quickly; the Mavs hope to have him back on Wednesday against the No. 8 Golden State Warriors, who beat Dallas 114-104 on Sunday.
Without their best player (26 points, 9.7 rebounds per 40 minutes), the Mavs look a lot like the sorry New Jersey Nets team that Jason Kidd left at the trade deadline. Kidd is still a triple-double threat every time he hits the floor, but his numbers in March are the lowest in what is already one of his worst seasons: 8.9 points, 9.4 rebounds and 6.1 points in 33.9 minutes per game.
Phoenix at Denver (-5, 236)
Tuesday, April 1, 9:00 pm (ET)
This is the second leg of a home-and-home series; Phoenix (-5½) took the opener 132-117 on Monday. That giant swing in pointspread may reflect the expectation for the Nuggets to bounce back in front of their home fans. And it could happen. Both these clubs were rolling into this series on a high, combining to go 17-5 SU and 16-5-1 ATS since Mar. 9.
Denver has done well to hold the playoff fort through crisis after medical crisis. Now there are no more Nuggets on the injury list. Nene is back in action just two months after surgery for testicular cancer, albeit in limited minutes thus far. He and Chucky Atkins might not get a lot of burn the rest of the season, but their added depth only improves Denver’s postseason chances.
Phoenix has very little depth to speak of, and Grant Hill is out until Friday with a strained groin. Running the floor in mile-high Denver will be a challenge.
Toronto at Atlanta
Wednesday, April 2, 7:00 pm (ET)
Over in the East, the Atlanta Hawks have tightened their grip on the No. 8 seed with an 8-2 SU (6-4 ATS) run, built mostly against their weak sisters in the East. With health at a premium across the league, Atlanta is only missing point guard Speedy Claxton (knee), but the Hawks are in good hands with Mike Bibby and Acie Law. Al Horford, meanwhile, is quietly posting a Rookie of the Year season with 12.6 points and 12.4 rebounds per 40 minutes.
The Raptors are about as close to health as ever with both Chris Bosh and T.J. Ford in the starting lineup. In seven games since Bosh’s return, Toronto is 4-3 SU and 3-4 ATS. The previous 10 contests: 2-8 SU and ATS to fall back to the Eastern pack. The Raptors should be motivated to win this one in hopes of avoiding a first-round playoff date with either projected No. 2 seed Detroit or No. 3 Orlando.