Stay with us. Because you'll be pissed in a second, but...trading Steve Nash was a good thing. Yes, we remember Nash dropping 39 on the Mavericks in Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals. We remember the three he hit with 5.9 seconds left, which sent the game to overtime, which sent the Mavericks home for the summer. But to paraphrase Senator John McCain (another Arizonan, and only a coincidence that he's included here), sometimes you must think of a cause greater than your own. Nash changed the NBA in 2005. Scoring across the league was up because of that little Canadian. Suddenly, Indiana, Boston--every team with a fast point guard, and even some without (that's you, Jamal Tinsley, you chubby)--wanted in on the Suns secret, which was no secret at all: Fast break points still win games. True, in San Antonio, defense still wins championships. But soon, an NBA team will run like the Suns and defend like the Spurs and pro basketball will be, from season's start to season's end, watchable again. And we'll have Steve Nash to thank for it.

Readers' Pick
University of Texas wins the Rose Bowl
Sincere apologies to those--you whack-jobs know who you are--who read the header and revved up your testosterone in anticipation of some freaky trifecta featuring Jessica Simpson/Amber Campisi/Laura Miller. (Lonely, lustful and longing for lost admiration, they met eyes at a shiny new homeless shelter...) Trust us, when that happens we'll be on top of it. Sorta. This award instead goes to the legendary Cowboys "triplets" of the '90s. Since they're responsible for 63,201 combined yards, 414 touchdowns and almost every big play that led the Cowboys to three Super Bowls in four years, it would have been criminal to induct them into the Ring of Honor separately. Did Aikman's pinpoint passing soften defenses and open holes for Emmitt? Or was it Emmitt's consistency on the ground that allowed Irvin the luxury of man-to-man coverage? Now that they have their proper place in Cowboys' lore, the debates can go to NFL's highest court: the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Jay Novacek, RIP. Finally. In the eight looong years since the authentic cowboy Cowboy retired to his ranch in Nebraska, fans faithfully invoked his name while grousing about the lack of a legit tight end. After all, who could forget the laughable lineage of Eric Bjornson, Tyji Armstrong, David LaFleur, Hayward Clay, Jackie Harris, Mike Lucky, Tony McGee and Dan Campbell? Enter Jason Witten. Exit the search. In his second season, Witten was Dallas' best and most reliable player, compiling the greatest year ever for a Cowboys tight end with 87 catches, 980 yards, six touchdowns and the team's first Pro Bowl representative at the position since you-know-who. Imagine if Witten would have had a decent quarterback. Speaking of, can we now get around to finding the next Troy Aikman?

Readers' Pick
Julius Jones
You could be Brad Pitt's plastic surgeon. Pavarotti's voice coach. Mark Cuban's financial advisor. Or, in the name of stealing fortune and fame for doing a job that does itself, you could become swing coach of the greatest golfer on God's green earth. In a category usually reserved for Avery Johnson (smirk), Bill Parcells (giggle), Buck Showalter (guffaw) or Dave Tippett (who?), no coach had a greater impact on a greater player than McKinney's Hank Haney. Mired in the worst and only slump of his career, Tiger Woods hired Haney into his entourage last March to help rebuild his swing. The result? Tiger won The Masters and British Open, finished second at the U.S. Open, third at the PGA and is the no-brainer Player of the Year. Maybe there's hope yet for Halle Berry's dermatologist.

Readers' Pick
Avery Johnson
The University of North Texas should change its nickname (Mean Green sounds like one of The Wiggles), its conference (Sun Belt sounds like a south Florida fashion accessory) and perhaps its city (Denton sounds like, well, Denton). No reason, however, to tamper with its football coach. The aforementioned SBC has been around four seasons and all four times Darrell Dickey has been named its Coach of the Year. UNT has won four straight league titles, 25 consecutive conference games and, yet, little or no respect. Dickey can whip Middle Tennessee State all he wants and even boast back-to-back NCAA rushing champions, but until UNT wins its bowl game or at least stays competitive with the likes of Texas and OU, he'll have to settle for the humbling claim of "We're better than Southlake Carroll!" Maybe.
Only two Rangers with more than five at-bats hit over .300 in 2005. One was Chan Ho Park. Vomit. The other--ta-da!--is our winner. Of course we'd have given this honor to Zonk or Roger Moret or Ted Williams' chilly cranium before Ho. But we digress. We do that a lot, huh? When you don't have a lot of good things to say, the ol' "digress" seems to always present itself as a viable option. See there, we did it again. Speaking of Michael Young, the All-Star shortstop had a club-record 44 hits in June, was among the league's top five in batting average all season and committed only half as many errors as bumbling Keystone partner Alfonso Soriano. Best of all, on a team embarrassed by chair-throwing, camera-hatin' assholes Frank Francisco and Kenny Rogers the last two seasons, Young reminded us that it is still possible to be good on and off the field. And to do so without steroids.

Readers' Pick
Mark Teixeira
He's paid dearly--emotionally and financially--through the years, but Dallas' sporting patriarch finally has his living legacy. Lamar Hunt, who slapped the defibrillator on soccer in the area more than a couple times, looked predictably like a proud papa when FC Dallas opened its brand spanking new Pizza Hut Park in Frisco. While Jerry Jones moved the Cowboys to the 817 for more money, Mark Cuban cut his captain to save money and Tom Hicks penny-pinched two teams into mediocrity, the 73-year-old Hunt spent $25 million of his own to make sure he left Dallas with a soccer-friendly venue. The father of the old AFL has grown into the grandfather of Dallas soccer. (And no, my dear immature friends, he doesn't have a son named Mike. Now back to your cubicles and your fluorescent lighting and your making appointments for "non-therapeutic" massages on your fancy BlackBerrys.)
We were prepared to again anoint him "Best Dallas Star," but we don't give no stinkin' trophies to oxymorons. Even good-looking, filthy rich ones. Last time we checked, ol' Mo was having the worst year of his hockey career. His skating was a step slow. (It's OK, we got a headache from that confusing imagery, too.) His reputation was dwindling. Shoot, even his finances were a mess. Fast-forward through a lost year of labor lockout and, presto! Guess who is still the "face of the franchise"? Other players can chirp all they want about how "it's not about the money." But when Modano disses Boston and Chicago and accepts $4 million less to play in Dallas, it makes him refreshing. And the fact that he finished his decision while watching The Family Guy makes him cool. Right, Stewie?

Readers' Pick
Mike Modano
First Steve Nash. Now Michael Finley. If Dirk Nowitzki wins this award next year we're trading our Mavs season tickets for something exciting and likely illegal, like a night on the town with Roy Tarpley. While Nash kinda left on his own, the franchise's best player through its worst years was unceremoniously dumped via the NBA's new "amnesty" rule. Don't fret, he took with him the most golden of parachutes--$51 million. And like Nash did as a Sun, Finley will certainly return to American Airlines Center this season looking to bury the team he helped for years to keep alive. No, Finley wasn't a good passer. He couldn't dribble with his left hand. And you always had the feeling he only used about 10 percent of his enormous athletic ability with a game frustratingly founded on the fallaway jumper. But in the history of the Mavericks, there are few that played harder for longer.
And the winner is...Frank Luksa? Retired. John Gonzalez? Relocated. Gerry Fraley? Really big yawn. But yes. In a local sports writing landscape that has become as pedestrian as it is predictable, The Dallas Morning News' Fraley wins by default for the mere fact that he usually has an opinion. While the rest of our soiled scribes routinely roll out painfully obvious "Life: Good; Death: Bad" columns, Fraley's "Just Venting" offerings aren't afraid to take a contrarian approach. Most of the time he even has stats to back them up. By no stretch is Fraley a creative writer, but every once in a while the crotchety cuss in the goofy shirts can even deliver a zinger. Explaining the Rangers' latest demise Fraley offered the "Curse of the Crotch Grab," a cruel karma brought on by closer Francisco Cordero's crude gesture toward an opposing dugout. Fraley's suggested exorcism: "Have Cordero pitch with his athletic supporter full of atomic balm."

Readers' Pick
Tim Cowlishaw The Dallas Morning News

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