1. Getting It Done The Mavericks Way
MIAMI --- Maybe there will be a next NBA season, and now that the Dallas Mavericks have defeated the Miami Heat in the 2011 NBA Finals maybe interest in that next season will be driven by something other than anger and fear.
Those are the two irrational emotions that accounted for all of the page views and Nielsen ratings this season. Anger at the Miami Heat for cornering more than their share of the sought-after free agents last summer, fear that it might actually work and from now on only franchises playing in a top destination city, such as Miami, would ever have a shot at championships.
Maybe the anger and fear of all the supposed neutral fans in this series should be directed at their hometown teams instead. Anger that their own teams don't get it the way the Mavericks do, fear that they never will.
Because maybe the Mavericks method -- sticking with a single superstar even when people say he's not good enough, adding players that others viewed as risks because of age, injury or attitude -- is even harder to make work than the instant-contender packet Miami used.
Rick Carlisle played on one of the greatest teams ever, the 1986 Boston Celtics. He coached the core Detroit Pistons players who went on to become one of the most unlikely champions ever in 2004. And Carlisle said this about the 2011 Dallas Mavericks:
"This is one of the unique teams in NBA history, because it wasn't about high-flying star power."
Then he finally provided the series it's first "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia" moment, a little blowback for the season-long coverage of all things LeBron until the saturation point was reached.
"Come on, how often do we have to hear about the LeBron James reality show and what he is or isn't doing?" Carlisle said. "When are people going to talk about the purity of our game and what these guys accomplished.? That's what's special."
Carlisle used terms such as grit, guts, mental toughness and resourcefulness to describe his team, saying it had more of those attributes than any other team he'd been around. How else to explain how tiny J.J. Barea could match the scoring output of LeBron and then come within two points of Dwyane Wade in the final two games? Or how the Mavericks could hold a 53-51 lead at halftime of Game 6 despite a John Starksian 1-for-12 shooting start by Nowitzki. Someone always found a way (on Sunday it was Jason Terry pouring in 19 first-half points).
"I learned chemistry matters, that it's a team game," said Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, breaking his media embargo. "That you have to have players that believe in each other and trust each other and trust your coach. And that it's a process. And that it doesn't happen overnight."
That was the real wisdom imparted from this season. It was the Way Things Work In The NBA reasserting itself. The Celtics beat the system by winning it all in the first year of the Garnett-Pierce-Allen troika and it's as though the way of the league exacted revenge by riddling the roster with injuries in subsequent years. This was about Jason Kidd winning after his 17th season in the NBA and third trip to the Finals, Tyson Chandler triumphing after a decade in the league, a dozen years for Shawn Marion and most of all the combined quarter century of NBA seasons and five-year waiting period after losing to the Heat in the 2006 Finals for Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry.
To paint this as a matter of team triumph over individuals is an overly simplistic storyline that ignores the very team-like qualities of Miami's Udonis Haslem relentlessly pursuing the ball despite a screw sitting at a 45-degree angle in his foot, or Mike Miller throwing his broken body all over the court or even James sharing the ball to the tune of 16 assists in the final two games, which only earned him more scorn for not shooting more.
And this isn't exactly a victory for the small spenders; Dallas' $90 million payroll was second only to the Los Angeles Lakers' this season, and some $24 million more than what the Heat spent on its players.
The best thing about the Mavericks winning the series is that it came with no unseen circumstances or external influences. If these teams meet again it won't prompt rehashes of officiating and free-throw counts, the way that the 2006 series does to this day.
We won't have to wonder how the Mavericks would have fared if they had Caron Butler, who suffered a season-ending injury on Jan. 1. We won't have to hear about the Mavericks losing a pivotal game when their star player was sick, not after Nowitzki fought his way through a tough shooting night while enduring a triple-digit body temperature tough to deliver at the end of Game 4. And not even the resumption of Cuban's media chats brought a peep about the free-throw discrepancy in Game 6, when the Heat went to the line almost twice as much as the Mavericks.
The Heat missed 13 of their 33 free-throws, however, one of the many self-inflicted wounds of this series.
Most glaring was LeBron's inability to deliver in the fourth quarter, the storyline that took over the series. All he needed to do was follow the example of dogged determination set by Nowitzki, who kept shooting and shooting and eventually made nine of his 15 second-half shots to get to 21 points and have less reason to feel sheepish about accepting the Finals MVP award.
At his best, James gave credit to the Dallas defense that "took me out of a lot of things that I'm capable of doing or used to doing."
At his worst, James implied that those reveling in his failure will eventually have to return to their miserable lives while he continues living like a King.
James and Wade looked more like schoolchildren dragged to the principal's office as they sat at the podium to face the media for the final time this season. They deserve credit for meeting as many media demands as they did this season, feeding the appetite for the most-scrutinized team in NBA history. They were very cognizant of the storylines swirling about them, particularly Wade, which is why it was a little surprising he didn't recognize the turning point of the series.
"It got away from us tonight when they won," Wade said.
In reality the Heat lost their grip in Game 2, when not only did they let a 15-point lead and the opportunity to take a 2-0 advantage in the Finals slip away, they lost whatever mental and tactical edge they enjoyed, even after they won Game 3.
"I think we just started to really see loopholes in their defense," Mavericks center Tyson Chandler said. "They're an aggressive team, they show out hard, they rotate early. It's pretty intimidating when you watch the athletes on the floor. When you start to break it down on film you see the mistakes they make."
The Mavericks realized they could beat the Heat with better ball movement and they had the Heat completely figured out by the time they scored 217 points in the final two games.
Miami coach Erik Spoelstra and the Heat never made the necessary counters either offensively or defensively. Nowitzki, the franchise player who quietly returned to the Dallas team and market that always showed belief in him -- even when Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant were being shopped for trades -- amid the free agent frenzy last summer had a better series than Wade or LeBron. Jason Terry wound up in third.
And what of Bosh, the Heat's third star who garnered a disproportionate amount of criticism this season? He fared well enough so that you can't pin this loss on him. He also uttered the words the rest of the league should follow, now that the Mavericks have created the new template.
"I think we can take a page out of their book and really just pay attention to people's work ethic and how much time they put into the game," Bosh said.
It sounds so simple. At the end of this fantastic series, and following a memorable playoffs and intriguing regular season, you hope the negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement will follow similar logic and reach an agreement to enable the 2011-12 season to be played.
Imagine how great the league could be if only more teams did it the way the Mavericks did.
2. Carlisle Pushed All Of The Right Buttons
MIAMI -- Score one for the geeks.
The Dallas Mavericks won their first-ever championship for a lot of different reasons, most of which rhyme with the word "Birk." But in a playoffs in which the difference between winning and losing was razor-thin, at the margin a key difference was that their brain trust was consistently a step ahead of the competition.
Dallas coach Rick Carlisle's shift to J.J. Barea as a starter for Game 4 is the most obvious example. The Mavs won the final three games with the diminutive speedster in the lineup, an achievement that hardly seemed preordained given that he was shooting 5-for-23 at the time. But on countless other subtle moves -- from rest to zones to his use of role players -- Carlisle was pitch perfect.
This was not an isolated incident either. The Mavs, as flawed as they looked on paper, had a unique way of optimizing the resources they had while camouflaging their weaknesses.
• For the full story, click here »
3. Daily Dime Live
Zach Harper, TrueHoop Network bloggers and fans gave their in-game opinions on all topics throughout Sunday's slate of NBA playoff talk in Daily Dime Live.
4. Extreme Behavior
Jason Terry, Mavs: Dirk Nowitzki walked away with the MVP hardware, but the Mavericks wouldn't have won their first NBA title without the outstanding all-around play of JET, who scored 27 points in Game 6.
LeBron James, Heat: LeBron may be the most talented player in the NBA, but the Heat were better in Game 6 when the superstar was out of the game. Miami had a +/- of -24 with James on the floor.
Congrats to Mark C.&entire Mavs org. Mavs NEVER stopped & now entire franchise gets rings. Old Lesson for all:There are NO SHORTCUTS. NONE.
11:02 p.m. ET via Blackberry Favorite Retweet ReplyDan Gilbert
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
"It was a failure in '07 when we lost to the Spurs when I was in Cleveland. It's a failure now."
-- Heat forward LeBron James, who dropped to 0-2 at the NBA Finals
5. NBA Video Channel
6. David Thorpe On Finals
On TrueHoop, the era of the "SuperFriends" in Miami began with a conversation with David Thorpe even before "The Decision." At that time, he said all kinds of things that look smart now; go back and read it. What I remember most of that conversation is that he insisted the Miami Heat's mission was to surround LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh with athletes and young players who'd improve with time. The Heat did nothing of the sort, and it hurt them.
Now that the NBA Finals are over and the Dallas Mavericks have been crowned champions, it only seems appropriate to revisit Thorpe to praise the Mavericks and extract forward-looking lessons for the Heat. We spoke by phone shortly after the Mavericks hoisted the Larry O'Brien trophy.
• To read the full story, click here »
7. Counting By Threes
8. Tears Of A Crown
MIAMI -- On the night he finally found vengeance, eternal validation and the highest measure of victory to wag in the face of anyone who had ever called him soft or mocked his cough, Dirk Nowitzki wasn't going to let the world see his tears.
So he left the scene of his greatest triumph before a single teammate or coach could grab him for a hug, faster than he's ever hurdled a scorer's table to bolt off the floor, to sneak back to the visitors' locker room.
To cry alone.
"I could already feel the tears coming," Nowitzki said in an AmericanAirlines Arena hallway, beaming now as he explained the mad dash at the final buzzer that superceded any desire he felt to dance on the court inside this house of old horrors ... or to find out how it feels to get a congratulatory man-hug from Dwyane Wade.
"I had to recover, bro."
• To read the full story, click here »
9. LeBron's Decline
LeBron James and Dwayne Wade were the 55th and 56th players in NBA history to play in the NBA Finals following a regular season in which they averaged at least 25 points per game. Although Wade scored in the Finals (26.5 points per game) at a slightly higher rate that he had during the regular season (25.5), James's scoring average fell from 26.7 points per game during the season to 17.8 during the Finals.
James, however, was not merely the 27th of those 56 players (who had averaged at least 25 points during the regular season) whose scoring average in the Finals fell short of his regular-season average, but LeBron's scoring decline, by 8.9 points, was the largest such decline by any 25-point scorer in NBA history. The largest previous decline by any of those 56 players was by Wilt Chamberlain with the San Francisco Warriors. After averaging 36.9 points per game in the 1963-1964 regular season, he averaged 29.2 points in the 1964 Finals against Bill Russell and the Celtics. No other player had a decline as large as six points per game.