| Sports |

‘Tis The Season For … Basketball?

Seriously, have you checked out the Mavs' official Dirk Nowitzki Web site? Because for a second, it looks like he's about to give you the finger.

With the Cowboys 11-1, Terrell Owens turning 34 and Tony Romo sluttin’ around show business, the rest of our local sports almost become irrelevant. I said almost. In case you missed it, basketball started. And tonight features one of those games -- Mavs at Spurs, 7:30 p.m., Channel 21 -- that shouldn’t go unnoticed.

Since you’ve been distracted, let me catch you up. The Mavs are off to a 12-6 start, which is perfect. Last year they shot their wad with a bunch of double-digit win streaks in the regular season, only to leave us with a severe set of blue balls come playoff time. As for their play, Dirk Nowitzki is still a tad too deferential, Brandon Bass is a free-agent steal, Devean George is still hurt, Trenton Hassell is no better than Greg Buckner, and the defense is developing the horrible habit of leaving three-point shooters wide open at crunch time.

In a wife-swap that is, at best, uncomfortable, TV analyst Bob Ortegal is now on the radio with Chuck Cooperstein, and radio color man Brad Davis is now on TV with Mark Followill. Oh, and somehow Michael Finley ($17 million) and Shawn Bradley ($5 million) are still on the payroll. Go figure.

Tonight’s game would be juicier if Spurs center Tim Duncan wasn’t out and sixth man Manu Ginobli wasn’t a game-time decision. The defending champs are 15-3, including 10-0 in their barn. One of their losses was two weeks ago in Dallas, and it’s always intriguing when the Western Conference heavyweights knock heads. Make time for it. Or, at least catch the details on the new-and-improved Mavs.com. Because owner Mark Cuban says so. And because you can now get more of beat writer Art Garcia’s work earlier.

Light years from the old Mavericks Press magazine, Mavs content is now abundant. There are sites for Dirk and Josh Howard, a couple of social networking homes, and a mega-informational site that documents every single game in franchise history.

But mostly, following the lead of the Cowboys and Rangers, the Mavs have hired the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Garcia to be their exclusive beat writer. Garcia travels with the team, covering every shootaround, practice and game. Just like T.R. Sullivan, who flew the FWS-T coop a couple years ago for a similar job with the Rangers. (Me? I just left the rag because I tired of its antiquated, small-town, narrow-minded leadership. But to each his own.)

“Everyone knows the bleak situation newspapers are facing. The Internet isn’t going anywhere. It’s only going to get bigger and better,” Garcia says of his transition. “Our site gives you the Mavs news faster, with no space restraints. Besides, if I’m going to venture into a career in cyberspace, who better to do it with than Mark Cuban?” Touche. --Richie Whitt

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