Mavericks get championship rings
DALLAS -- The ring is the thing and, finally, the Dallas Mavericks have theirs.
It took a full month into this lockout-delayed season and more than seven months after they hoisted the Larry O'Brien Trophy on the Miami Heat's home floor, but during a moving ceremony prior to Wednesday night's game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, coach Rick Carlisle introduced the nine remaining members of the title team, plus former Mavs J.J. Barea and Peja Stojakovic, and owner Mark Cuban handed them their personalized, diamond-encrusted hardware.
The sellout crowd at American Airlines Center didn't sit down from the moment a video montage of hair-raising playoff highlights was shown on the jumbo screens hanging above mid-court until Dirk Nowitzki slid his ring on his long finger and then introduced Cuban to give the owner his spoils.
Carlisle introduced each player by recalling a stirring playoff memory. He introduced Jason Kidd as the greatest point guard in Mavericks history before getting to the final player left without a ring.
"Ten-time All-Star, 2007 league MVP, 2011 Finals MVP; one day soon we'll have a statue outside the AAC, without question, the greatest player in Mavericks history -- Dirk Nowitzki."
The crowd roared with excitement as Nowitzki, wearing a three-piece suit as he sits out a third game with a sore right knee, accepted his ring, held it high and then slipped it on. Nowitzki then took the mic and greeted his fans in typical Nowitzki style.
"Wow. How's it look?" said Nowitzki as he flashed his ring to the crowd. "Thank you much for coming out. This is a special, special night. It looks like there's only one ring left. Without this man nothing would be possible. He's the greatest owner in sports, he's our man, here's Mark Cuban."
The Mavs celebrated the franchise's first championship prior to the season opener on Christmas Day with the raising of the championship banner. But the rings weren't ready because Cuban waited until after the lockout so he could consult with Nowitzki and Kidd on the design.
The rings feature the Mavs' logo on top in diamonds with "WORLD" and "CHAMPIONS" engraved above and below the logo. The player's name and jersey number is engraved on one side and engraved on the other is the team's postseason motto, "The Time Is Now."
Cuban purposely planned this ceremony to coincide with the Wolves' visit so that Barea, who played with the club for five seasons and was integral to capturing the title, could attend. Barea received a rousing ovation and still admits that he never wanted to leave Dallas, but like all six of the Mavs' free agents after last season, was offered only a one-year deal.
"Things happen," Barea, who is nursing a hamstring injury and did not play Wednesday night, said at Minnesota's morning shootaround. "I'm a little disappointed it went that way. But to get to come here and get the ring with everybody and the fans, it will be nice."
Carlisle thanked the other four title-team members who were not present -- Tyson Chandler, DeShawn Stevenson, Caron Butler and Corey Brewer -- and said he looks forward to presenting them with their rings when their respective teams play in Dallas.
Also, the franchise awarded former Mavs Rolando Blackman, Brad Davis and Derek Harper, stars of Dallas' first decade of existence, with rings. Blackman works for the organization within the community, Davis is the radio color broadcaster and Harper works on the television broadcast.
Cuban said he paid a total of $1.4 million for the rings for the 15 players and the entire coaching staff. Each diamond-encrusted beauty is estimated to cost $40,000.
Cuban, who flirted with going nontraditional and with something other than championship rings -- only to be strongly rebuffed by his players and coaches -- said his excitement comes from finally having the rings in the building.
Carlisle is part of an exclusive group of people who have won a championship as a player and as a coach. The championship ring from the 1985-86 Boston Celtics team that he keeps locked away in his home will be joined by this one, won in his ninth year as a head coach and with his third team.
"This has been a wonderful trilogy of experiences -- the banner, the White House and then the ring ceremony will be great," Carlisle said earlier in the week.
But while the Mavs were able to appreciate the ceremony, they also are ready to move forward.
"The moment's already gone," Kidd said. "We accomplished that in June and we had our banner raised against Miami. All this is past. This is just icing on the cake in the sense of being able to get the hardware, finally, but this is a new season, so we're fighting for another ring."
Jeff Caplan covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.
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