June 21, 2006

Bitter Sweet Finish To The Finals

There are a number of reasons why I was cheering for Dallas in Game 6. I love Dirk Nowitzki. He's such a fun player to watch and he seems like a good person. I love Devin Harris. I thought he was a great pick for them two years ago and that he would be a contributor for the Mavs in the future. The future is now I guess. I love Jason Terry. The transformation he's made since his arrival in Dallas has been fun to watch. He's become a much better player since his days in a Hawks jersey. I love Mark Cuban. Sure, he's outspoken, loud, and sometimes obnoxious, but the things he's trying to do for the game are great. Running onto the court and berating officials aside, he's great for the NBA. I love the Mavericks. Well, as much as a Timberwolves fan can anyways. They've been a fun team to watch for the past 7 years and I really feel they've got a ring coming to them.

But, my feelings for the Mavs aside, the reason I was rooting for them last night was simply because I wanted more. I wanted a game 7. I wanted to watch the Mavs and Heat just one more time. The series itself has been deemed controversial, which is probably true, but aren't they all? That's what makes them great. By the time the Finals come around, every NBA fan has picked a team they want to win - or NOT to win. Some say they don't care, but in the back of their mind, there's a little bit of emotion tied into one team more than that other. I'm clearly that way, but not because I dislike Miami. I just felt that it was Dallas' time, that it was meant to be. They knocked of their nemesis in San Antonio, then beat their old mate in Phoenix. It just felt as if it was going to happen. Of course, Miami fended of their nemesis and reached one step closer to the promise of their super-sized leader, made two years ago. So I guess they were both destined to win.

Of course that's not possible.

And so after 18 years, the championship trophy is in Florida. Which is okay. I guess.

Back to my feelings on the Heat

It's tough for me with the Heat. They're a great team - clearly - but they just don't make sense. They seem to be rebuilding every year - and it's working. Three years ago they signed Lamar Odom and drafted Dwayne Wade, and damn near made the Eastern Conference Finals. That wasn't good enough. So they send the nucleus, minus D-Wade, to L.A. for Shaquille O'neal. That gets them to the Conference Finals. Not good enough. They then nearly rebuild their bench, half their starting rotation, and their head coach and grab the trophy. It's very rare that you see a team damn near reabuild itself three years in a row and still find success - see Timberwolves last three seasons. So it's a surprise to see them having success with it.

But that's not what gets me.

What gets me is the personnel. The players they brought in are not guys you're supposed to get to win a championship. Antoine Walker, Jason Williams, James Posey. All these guys are "me first" guys. They haven't ever cared about winning or their teammates or any kind of sacrifice for the greater good. They were all cast offs, guys who alienated their former teams, but they were brought into Miami. And Pat Riley is the guy who orchestrated the whole thing. As Steve Simpson and I discussed over more than a few beers the other day, he has to be one of the greatest minds in the NBA. He knew exactly what he was doing when he brought those players in and he knew exactly what he was doing when he replaced Stan Van Gundy on the bench when those players weren't playing the way they were suposed to. He knew there would be a learning curve and a "getting to know you" period with those new players. He heard the criticism and took the bad press in stride. And now he's the one laughing all the way to the bank. I'm not a huge Riley fan, but I give the man all the credit for his ability to coach and run teams in the NBA.

Guys I'm happy/sad to see wearing rings

Antoine Walker - Of all the players on any roster in the league, this guy is the least deserving of a ring. Yes, he changed the way he plays to meld with his team - which I commend him for, but 40 games of "playing the right way" does not make up for 10 years of playing like a selfish asshole. Now, don't get me wrong, I liked watching Walker play in Boston, or as Dr. HotWings would say "I feel it, I'm open, HUCK IT UP!!" He's always been a good player, but a very selfish player. He, by himself, took more threes than some TEAMS took. It was rediculous, especially since he's a 30% shooter. I congratulate him, but grudgingly, because there are better players out there that deserve a ring more than he does.

Gary Payton - He, for many years, was one of my favorite players in the NBA. His ability to take over games on both ends of the floor and the swagger with which he carried himself were always my favorite things to watch. He'd pick a guys pocket in the back court, cross him back over, then toss a ball off the backboard to a leaping Shawn Kemp, who'd bring the whole basket to it's knees. When he was in Seattle he was an electrifying defender and a trash talk king. I'm happy that he won a championship. I only wish it had been with the Sonics. Ten years ago.

Shaquille O'neal - He's never made any gripes about who he is. He's always outspoken and seemingly honest with the media. His brash personality has rubbed many the wrong way and yet, he follow through on his promises and does what he says he's going to do. He no longer cares about his statistical domination of the game. He only wants rings. I'm glad he followed through on his promise, but not for him. I'm glad for the Heat franchise. They came into the league around the same time the Wolves did and have become the first of that bunch (Miami, Orlando, Minnesota, Charlotte(New Orleans now)) to win a championship. I glad he won it for Kobe too. I know Shaquille wasn't a saint when it came to the whole debacle in Los Angeles, but it was a shame that egos were too big to keep a dynasty together. This comes from a man who hated those Laker teams, hated every player, coach, or anything that even looked like something 'Lakers.' But it's always a shame to see a dynasty fall apart before it really gets going. I'm just happy he got his fourth ring not in Los Angeles.

Alonzo Mourning - I've hated this man for many, many years. Since his days in Charlotte as a matter of fact. He's a pompous asshole who doesn't give a damn about anything but himself. And probably never will. I've never, though, doubted his ability, his drive, and his heart. He was one of there last great centers. He was a physical banger who could score. I spent much of the late 90's watching him in playoff battles - enjoyed watching him - despite my utter hatred. It was like watching Patrick Ewing as well - don't get me started on that asshole. So seeing a ring on his finger is sort of bitter sweet. He's been a warrior in the NBA and has been a very good player, not to mention the second player to come back after having a kidney transplant. Does he deserve a ring? Yes, he does. But he's still an asshole. I'll just have to live with that.

Dwyane Wade - The kid is amazing, he really is. Anyone who doubted that after last season can be quiet. Anyone who doubted him after this season can be quiet. Anyone who doubted him after the Cleveland series can be quiet now. Anyone who doubted him after the Pistons series wasn't watching. And anyone who doubts him now is just in denile. He's the only player from that 2003 draft that is better than advertised. Way better. We're not going to talk about LeBron right now. He didn't win a ring. When Wade took over, the Heat won. Nobody could've guessed this kid would be this good this early. Shut up, no you didn't - do you even know where Marquette University is?

So congrats Heat, sorry Mavs, make way for the draft bitch-es!!!