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I Miss Rick Reilly

Because he’s the 11-time National Sportswriter of the Year. Because he can make you laugh and cry within a column ostensibly about sports but really about comedy and heartache and life. But mostly, I miss Rick Reilly because his Sports Illustrated fill-ins suck ass.

Take this week. In the midst of Roger Clemens v. Brian McNamee, the NFL playoffs, LSU’s National Championship or even the Boston Celtics’ (mostly) torrid start, writer Chris Ballard attempts to fill Reilly’s shoes and space with a ditty about how cool it’d be if Mark Cuban bought the Chicago Cubs. Topical, no?

Taking his turn in what has deteriorated from sports journalism’s must-read missive into a revolving door of irrelevant “Point After” mush, Ballard recycles all the Cuban clichés. Addicted to e-mail. Anti-establishment. Jeans 'n' T-shirts. Loaded. Yadda. Yadda. And more yadda. But a certain paragraph furrowed my brow.

Ballard writes: “Cuban doesn’t patronize fans but instead -- and here’s a kooky idea -- listens to them. Those novel three-sided shot clocks at AA Center? The idea came from a fan’s e-mail.”

Ballard probably had a week to work on his masterpiece, which apparently wasn’t long enough to realize that Cuban’s “novel three-sided shot clocks” are so 2000. When I asked the Mavs owner this morning about the tri-clock's life span, Cuban shrugged via email, "I don't even remember."

Three-sided shot clocks went out alongside Michael Jordan and illegal defense violations. Bottom line: SI’s lead column this week is written by a dude who isn't paying attention. Insulting.

In what I like to call "the present," the American Airline Center's shot clocks are those two-sided, transparent numbers straight out of The Jetsons. And there are two of ‘em on each basket, one atop the backboard and one on the support stanchion. With just a smidgen of quality time with my NBA TV last night, I saw shot clocks that were six-sided (New Orleans), four-sided (Toronto) and freaky translucent (Boston). None sat on the floor in the corner. And none were novel three-sided models.

I know, it seems nit-picky, but I grew up with Reilly and SI telling me things I didn’t know about the Mavs. Not uncovering things I’ve already purposefully forgotten. By the way, the Mavericks whipped the Detroit Pistons last night in their best game of the season. Keep it up and maybe by June Reilly can write about Dallas’ first NBA title in ESPN The Magazine. And Ballard can inform us that Cuban has his own local TV show and one day hopes to appear on The Benefactor and Dancing With The Stars. --Richie Whitt

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