Mavs: Everyone is a first-time champ
June, 13, 2011
By Art Garcia | ESPNDallas.com
MIAMI -- Dirk Nowitzki wasn't the only member of the Dallas Mavericks achieving career redemption Sunday night. Not by a long shot.
Nowitzki's well-chronicled journey of NBA heartache came to an end after 13 years of misfires with the title-clinching 105-95 victory over the favored Miami Heat. But every one of Nowitzki's teammates also shared in the career-redefining win.
Jason Terry is Nowitzki's only remaining teammate from the 2006 Mavericks team that squandered a 2-0 Finals lead over the Heat. Jason Kidd went to the Finals twice with New Jersey, only to lose both times.
Veteran forwards Shawn Marion and Peja Stojakovic made deep playoff runs with Phoenix and Sacramento, respectively, but never reached the Finals. Tyson Chandler, DeShawn Stevenson, Brendan Haywood and Caron Butler had never really known much postseason success.
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesEvery player on the Mavs roster, as well as owner Mark Cuban, celebrated an NBA title for the first time in his career.
J.J. Barea made the team five years ago as an undrafted, undersized free agent. Corey Brewer, Roddy Beaubois, Ian Mahinmi and Dominique Jones are still early in their careers but could be key parts for the franchise going forward.
"We had no champions on this team," Chandler said. "We walk away with a team full of champions. We've had guys come to this mountaintop and weren't able to close the deal. That makes it that much sweeter."
That the Mavericks did it for the first time together wasn't lost on anyone in the champagne-soaked locker room.
"It's even more special," Terry said. "What Mark Cuban has done with this organization trying to build a winner at all costs. Dirk, what he and I have been through the last seven years, our failures. You never know if you're ever going to get to this point, but we kept grinding and kept our faith and we made it back. We said if we ever made it back, we would get it done."
Barea added: "We fought for this all year. We had the talent to do this. We just had to put the pieces together and we did a great job. Everything clicked at the right time."
Carlisle also had his share of near misses as a coach, reaching the Eastern Conference finals with Detroit and Indiana before finally winning it with Dallas.
"He's an experienced coach, and he pushed all the right buttons," Nowitzki said, "and it took us a while to find a good mix."
Carlisle worked around January's loss of Butler and never really having Beaubois, and he helped change the tide in the Finals by putting Barea in the starting lineup.
"Just going through the journey of those injuries made us a better team, because we had to do a lineup change, and then we did the lineup change during the Finals," Kidd said. "And we didn't skip a beat. We just kept playing. That just shows the character of this team. No matter how old you are, we understood how to play the game."