All posts by John Skrhak

John Skrhak | Gadgets, Sports and Toys Fanatic | Read about them all here.

Mavs’ glory days seem so long ago

OKLAHOMA CITY — The 2011 Western Conference finals, when the savvy Dallas Mavericks schooled the young Oklahoma City Thunder in clutch basketball, seem so long ago.

Heck, even the 2012 first round, when the Thunder got revenge by sweeping the Mavs’ championship leftovers, seem like an eternity ago.

[+] Enlarge
Dirk NowitzkiAP Photo/Alonzo Adams“A good team usually responds to losses like that,” Dirk Nowitzki said after the Mavs lost at Oklahoma City. “I remember we used to be like that.”

Playoff basketball, period, seems ridiculously out of reach for these Mavs.

The Mavs made the short trip home with their tails between their legs after being on the wrong end of a 112-91 rout Monday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Never mind the embarrassment of being blown out by 20-plus points for an NBA-high ninth time this season. There are much more concerning numbers for the Mavs, such as being eight games under .500 at 20-28 and 5 games out of eighth place in the West.

At this point, it’s hard to picture the Mavs even competing for a playoff berth. Their postseason streak seems destined to end at a dozen years, although there weren’t any white flags waving in the visitors’ locker room after the Mavs got their butts kicked to wrap up a 1-3 road trip.

“Crazier things have happened in this league,” Dirk Nowitzki said, trying his best to muster some optimism by noting that the Mavs had a home-intensive stretch of schedule coming up.

The problem is these Mavs, who have a ton of dry powder but too little talent, simply aren’t good enough. That’s evident from their 5-21 against teams who are .500 or better.

Dallas definitely isn’t good enough to compete against an angry Oklahoma City squad, which has won 10 of 11 games against the Mavs since the ’11 West finals. The Thunder wasn’t happy with their loss Saturday to the Cleveland Cavaliers and vented that frustration by whipping the Mavs.

“A good team usually responds to losses like that,” said Nowitzki, who scored only 10 points on 3-of-11 shooting in his return after a two-game layoff due to a strained muscle in his right thigh. “I remember we used to be like that.”

It really wasn’t that long ago. It just feels that way as Dallas’ dismal season drags on.

The Mavs have lost a lot of heartbreakers this season. They’re 2-6 in games decided by three or fewer points, including losses to the Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors in the first half of this trip. They’re 1-8 in overtime games, including their previous two meetings with the Thunder.

“We’re not good enough to win those close games at home or on the road,” Nowitzki said. “It’s tough.”

Well, that wasn’t an issue in the massacre Monday night.

The details of this debacle in Bricktown are almost irrelevant. The Mavs melted down late in the first quarter and the game was over by halftime, when the Thunder held a 68-44 lead, scoring the most points in a half of any Mavs foe this season.

The Mavs’ turnovers fueled a 46-22 Oklahoma City run to close the half — if a stretch of 14:08 can be described as a run. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook put together a highlight reel during the second quarter, combining for 20 points, 7 assists and 3 steals as OKC outscored the Mavs by a 39-22 margin.

“When you put these guys in the open floor with catastrophic turnovers, they’re going to make it look bad,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I think that was it more than anything, but obviously when you get down 30 in a game, you aren’t competing well enough. There’s no question about that.”

It’s not like the Mavs have the firepower to fight back from that big of a deficit against an elite team, especially with Vince Carter ill in the locker room and Chris Kaman nursing a concussion at home.

“When you dig yourself that much of a hole on the road, you ain’t coming back,” said forward Shawn Marion, who joins Nowitzki as the only men remaining on the Mavs’ roster who played a minute during their 2011 title run. “It’s hard to come back. At times, I’ve been on teams that were able to come back from a hole that big. That ain’t us right now.”

It was only 20 months ago that the Mavs rallied from a 15-point deficit in the final five minutes of regulation in this building. That overtime win in Game 4 was a signature moment during the Mavs’ march to the franchise’s lone title.

But that ain’t these Mavs.

They don’t have what it takes to pull off a huge comeback against a contender. And it’s hard to see these Mavs digging out of a huge hole with less than half of their season remaining.

Article source:

PSA: Get your 128GB iPads starting today, $799 for WiFi and $929 for LTE

If you like the very best, you’ll be happy to hear that the biggest capacity, most expensive iPad yet has now landed at the Apple Store online. US customers can pick from ATT, Sprint or Verizon to power their 128GB LTE model ($929), although ATT has a reduced waiting time of 1-3 days, compared to 3-5 business days for the other two carriers. Expect the WiFi iteration ($799) to arrive within three days — that is, if you place your order at the source today.

Article source:

Safeway-size asteroid to get closer to Earth than satellites

The path of near-Earth asteroid 2012 DA14 is seen passing close to Earth on February 15, 2013.

NASA/JPL Near-Earth Object Program Office)

An asteroid big enough to level a major metropolitan area (probably several of them, actually) will definitely not be doing any such thing this month, but it will come pretty darn close.

First spotted by a Spanish observatory last year, small asteroid 2012 DA14 (in this case “small” means about 150 feet in diameter, or roughly the size of a supermarket) will pass within 3.5 Earth radii of the surface of our planet on February 15.

That means that this big, menacing, but ultimately harmless space rock will actually be closer to us than our many satellites in geosynchronous orbit about 22,000 miles above the equator.

NASA’s near-earth object (NEO) program at its Jet Propulsion laboratory swears there is no chance the asteroid will strike the Earth, but let’s be morbid for just a second and pretend it did. An object that size striking the Earth would be similar to the asteroid that created that really huge crater in Arizona, creating a massive explosion many times more powerful than the atomic bomb blast that destroyed Hiroshima, Japan.

Hey J.J. Abrams, looks like you have a new script to write. You’re welcome.

Again, this nuclear winter storyline is pure fiction. But NASA says that asteroid 2012 DA14 will provide a unique opportunity for NEO observation and study on February 15:

On this date, the asteroid will travel rapidly from the southern evening sky into the northern morning sky with its closest Earth approach occurring about 19:26 UTC when it will achieve a magnitude of less than seven, which is somewhat fainter than naked eye visibility. About 4 minutes after its Earth close approach, there is a good chance it will pass into the Earth’s shadow for about 18 minutes or so before reappearing from the eclipse. When traveling rapidly into the northern morning sky, 2012 DA14 will quickly fade in brightness.

So get out and enjoy the view and wave as the potential, but thankfully off-target destroyer of our society cruises by. And don’t forget to pour one out for our long-gone dinosaur homies.

Article source:

CNET on Cars: The Cadillac ATS shines


iTunes (HD)iTunes (SD)iTunes (HQ)


So glad Cadillac got the ATS to market largely as expected. This company has been trying to do a small
car that doesn’t strike a false note for decades. The ATS may be my favorite Cadillac because, thanks to its market segment, it has the least amount of all that Caddy gilding that has always spelled Tommy Bahama to me — which is not a compliment.

We’ve been getting some great ideas from you for Car Tech 101 segments, and in this episode we have a user-suggested topic: code readers, what they are and how to use one. It’s a topic that may seem sort of esoteric or of interest to the shade tree mechanic, but I can make the case that almost every owner of a modern car should have one. Watch the piece; you’ll be fascinated if you don’t already know code readers.

By the way, the code reader I am using in the video is my own, an Actron 9580 I got on Amazon, not a unit that was supplied for promotional consideration. I also own an Innova 3120, which is great for older cars that use proprietary data buses.

I get a lot of e-mail from many of you about buying used cars, which are the only kind of car I would get with my own money. The key to researching one is to do VIN-based history checks, but those can get pricey fast. In our Smarter Driver segment, we’ll show you reliable, cheap alternatives — even a free database that the folks at State Farm turned me onto which is a great place to start.

Fun Top 5 this time around: technologies that are rapidly going obsolete in your car! I’m looking at you, CD player. And coming up in an episode or two will be a head-to-head test of the Lexus LS460 against the BMW 750, so if you (or your well-heeled friend) are in the market for a high-tech flagship sedan, stand by for that. We also have the new Accord teed up and on the way.

Article source:

Buzz: Vince Carter (sick) out vs. Thunder

OKLAHOMA CITY – An illness will prevent Mavericks sixth man Vince Carter from playing in Monday night’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

That eliminates one of the Mavs’ most effective offensive weapons over the last month. Carter averaged 14.7 points on 45.2 percent shooting in January, including a season-high 29-point performance in an overtime loss to the Thunder.

“We lose a lot of our play-call opportunities without Vince, but we’ve just got to have other guys step up and play their butts off,” coach Rick Carlisle said.

The Mavs hope that Carter will be out only one game.

Starting shooting guard O.J. Mayo and small forward Shawn Marion will likely have their workload increase due to Carter’s absence, although Carlisle wants to be cautious with their minutes.

“I’d like to stay away from heaping heavy, crazy minutes on those guys,” Carlisle said. “We’ve got other guys who can play, so they’re going to have to be ready.”

Article source:

Bloomberg: Facebook once more building a friend-tracking mobile app

Facebook Find Friends Nearby

Facebook briefly dallied last year with the idea of letting us track our friends while on the road, only to be spooked off for reasons unknown. It might have developed enough nerve for another shot, according to Bloomberg. The social network is purportedly building a smartphone app that would locate nearby contacts and, unlike last year’s Find Friends Nearby, would run in the background where it’s supported — making it more useful, if not very comforting to privacy advocates. Not much else is mentioned besides features that would “help [Facebook] profit” from its growing mobile base. The company itself certainly isn’t saying anything official at this stage. If the app arrives in mid-March as claimed, however, Apple’s Find My Friends and Google’s Latitude won’t have our attention (and location) to themselves.

Article source: