Thursday, October 2, 2008

X-Factors and Other Intangibles

Put aside the potential problems in backcourt and perimeter depth (Hollinger, ESPN). Focus instead on those two little words everyone likes to throw around when competetive drive is aroused -- killer instinct.

The greats have it. Larry Bird eats baby kittens as snacks. Raw. Michael Jordan could've caused miscarriages with sheer force of mean. Michael Irvin (former Cowboy turned local sports blowhard), when his son points at his kid's league opponets saying "Dad they're my friends," barks "NO THEY'RE NOT!!!" Bill Russell writes, "No pussycats, please."

Killer instinct is about knowing where the other guys're weak and taking outrageous advantage of that knowledge. If that means making Shaq run his butt off when he's out of condition -- thereby making him look stupid -- you do that. If it means traipsing just this side of foul trouble manhandling Pau Gasol, okay. If it means making Dirk play on his toes when he's rolling on a bad ankle . . . if you're the bad guy (and may you burn in a Special Hell), that's a plan.

It's about fear. None for you, all of you. And it's something the Mavs have lacked.

Respect for this team is grudging at best, and nobody's really scared of us. Coach Carlisle is making a special note of that yesterday. "I’m looking for a few assholes here," said the coach. "Hating the opponent. Hating the opponent is a good start . . . Bird hated everybody."

Is that what we really need? A bred-in-bone son of a bitch? Or two? Or three?

Eagerness for the season just ticked up another notch. It'll be interesting to see what the players will do with permission to turn loose their inner bastards. I'm operating on the assumption that, in order to thrive in pro sports, every player's got one.

Meantime, I'd love to be a cat outside the gym there at SMU. Gauge the 'tudes of the players after practise. See if it's hit the "Somebody make the bad man stop" stage.

I'm evil that way.

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