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Heat-Mavs

SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

June 6, 2006

NBA commissioner David Stern has to be thrilled with the final match-up of the Heat and Mavericks. He has to be on cloud nine because this pairing is so exciting. These teams are in their first finals appearance and that should be thrilling for the fans of those franchises.

Wow, think about the talent on the court. Dirk Nowitzki is sensational; he is outstanding on the perimeter, tough mentally, wants the ball in late-game situations, makes big shots. Think about the drive late against San Antonio when he made the shot and got fouled for the three-point play.

Shaquille O'Neal is well rested and he is not going to allow Miami to lose. He will carry the Heat on his back because Dallas doesn't have anyone to defend him on the post. He has that desire to get the championship without Kobe Bryant. Shaq will reach back and be the player you expect him to be; he was dominant in the last game against Detroit.

Dwyane Wade has been super, scintillating and sensational in the postseason. I saw what he was capable of at Marquette and now he can help his team win an NBA championship. Guys like Antoine Walker, Jason Williams, James Posey and Gary Payton also feel they have something to prove.

Don't get me wrong, I like what Dallas has done too. Off the bench, this is a deep team with Jerry Stackhouse really coming through. I also love Avery Johnson's personality and leadership too.

Pat Riley believes in the team concept, T for togetherness, E for effort, A for attitude and M for mental toughness. He put some pieces together and made sure they understood they would be complementary players for the two superstars. Walker has to step up and give them a third scorer.

By the way, I wonder how Stan Van Gundy feels at this moment. He could have been in the finals.

You know the Mavericks will put their share of points on the board. Look what happened against Phoenix! Walker becomes important here.

Mark Cuban has brought a lot of enthusiasm and interest in basketball to Dallas. He has also opened up the wallet and spent lots of cash on the franchise. Cuban has allowed Avery Johnson to coach his way, and he gives a damn. He has a love and passion for what he is doing and there is no question players love to compete for a guy like that. There is no doubt he will take care of you if you succeed.

What a great series for the fans to enjoy. In the end, I feel Shaq and the Heat will prevail in seven tough games.

Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.