Monday, June 13, 2011

Thoughts on 2011 NBA Finals

It took six games and a couple comebacks but the Dallas Mavericks reigned in their first NBA Championship in franchise history. This championship is a big deal for many of the players on the Mavs because they have played many years in the NBA awaiting their chance to get a ring. The average age of their starting lineup in Game 6 is 31.4 years of age. Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion, Tyson Chandler, Jason Terry, DeShawn Stevenson, Peja Stojakovic, and Brendan Haywood have all been in the league for atleast 9 years so this year was their shot at getting a title. All of those guys were First Round draft picks who have had very productive careers and half of the players on the Mavs roster have been NBA All Star selections at some point in their careers.

In contrast, the Miami Heat's starting lineup for Game 6 had an average age of 27 years old and only three players got any serious playing time had been in the league atleast 10 seasons. As the series came to a close the Heat as a team played with no urgency or passion. It was as if in the back of their minds they believed that they would get more chances at winning a title so they backed off against the Mavs. LeBron James passed up numerous shots, Dwayne Wade had an off shooting night, while Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem looked lost at times.

One of the difficult answers to figure out is whether the Heat's poor fourth quarter play in this series is a reflection of their Head Coach Erik Spoelstra or a reflection of team leadership. Spoelstra has said all the right things in this series until Game 6 when he used the term "mental stability" in describing his team. I remember back when Spoelstra said during the regular season that players were "crying" in the locker room after a loss and then the team caught fire heading into the Postseason. But to question professional athletes "mental stability" when talking to the media is not a shrewed move by a man who has been around NBA players for decade.

On the flip side, the players after the game seemed disapointed yet fine with the fact that they lost the series. For all the whitty comments and professional experience in the NBA and international competition, both Wade and LeBron had nothing productive or insightful to say after the game. While Wade came across as if he felt like it was all a weird dream, LeBron has grown spiteful towards the public and media. When he said at the post-game press conference that he is going to "enjoy" his life while everyone complaining about him have to wake up to "their lives" he was basically giving the middle finger to the world. For a guy who came from almost poverty, has wanted people to like him, and has had a tumultuous personal life, he has taken the position of him against the world.

LeBron and Dirk are polar opposites in how they have handled criticism over the last few years. While the criticism and negativity has fueled the drive in Dirk to become great, LeBron has reacted as to say "So winning back to back MVP awards and taking a mediocre team to the NBA Finals is not good enough for everyone?!?" LeBron is still 26 year old super talent and he has the opportunity to be considered as one of the greatest of all time in NBA history, if he wants it bad enough.

Yet Dirk, Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion, Jason Terry and the Mavericks wanted to defy the odds and reach for what they have worked their entire careers for: a championship. With age comes wisdom and the Mavs are a roster full of clutch, veteran saavy guys who were willing to sacrifice ego for the ring. When the Mavs acquired Tyson Chandler in the off season he filled a major void of a defensive leader. Dallas has been known for over a decade as a team with many offensive weapons but their defense had been lousy for years so Chandler helped change their play as a team.

Much credit should be given to Dallas Head Coaach Rick Carlisle. Carlisle had been prematurely fired twice in his career when had done a good job with both the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers. He was never given the chance by those franchises to finish the job he started. Mavs owner Mark Cuban understood this and was willing to give Carlisle the time needed to not just change the culture in Dallas but also fail. People forget that the best coaches and players are not the one's who are immediate successful but those who learn through experience how to be great. Carlisle deserves a lot of credit for how he coached this team, how he managed player's minutes and how he allowed veterans such as Kidd, Chandler, and Dirk to lead this team through their playoff run.

In the end, the team that wanted it more and was deeper talent wise won the 2011 NBA Finals. Sure Miami has the Big Three of LeBron, D-Wade and Bosh but the rest of their roster is full of guys who are past their primes or are just solid role players. Meanwhile the Mavericks have five players who have been multiple time All Star selections and are a roster of true professionals. Maybe instead of being indifferent the Miami Heat should take the time to learn something for the 2011 NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks.

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