Monday, June 13, 2011

The Mavs are NBA Champions


Here are my scattered thoughts on the NBA Finals. I am going to attempt to go longer than any other writer before mentioning the losing team. Shouldn't be too hard...


Congratulations to the Dallas Mavericks for winning their first ever NBA title. The team has only been around since 1980, but they suffered through some really terrible years before acquiring Dirk Nowitzki in the 1998 draft (one pick ahead of Paul Pierce). Since then, they have won 50 games every year for 11 years, lost the 2006 NBA Finals and the following year became just the third number 1 seed to lose to a number 8 seed (Golden State). This is the culmination of a lot of roster tweaks around one of the best players of all time…

Speaking of the German, he has never been one of my favorites, probably because I have a hard time enjoying the way most European’s play the game. But he kicked some serious ass in this series and it is good to see him win one. Maybe I never watched enough of him, but seeing his arms extend 20 feet into the sky over the defender to shoot a rainbow jump shot is one of the finest things I’ve seen on an NBA court since Mariah Carey put on a Michael Jordan jersey dress for her half time performance at the 2003 NBA All Star Game. In the span of 2 months, Dirk has solidified himself as the best Euro player of all time, shed the “soft” label, distanced himself from Karl Malone and Charles Barkley, become the most relevant German-in-America since Kissinger and fueled the flames of a ridiculous argument that he is now Larry Bird’s equal…

I don’t want to bring the negativity while I’m trying to celebrate the Mavs’ win, but the Bird-Nowitzki comparisons need to stop. They are both tall, blonde, gangly and have beautiful jumpers, but Bird’s overall game is way more impressive than Dirk’s. And as Jason Segel reminds us in the trailer for Bad Teacher (which, even though it stars Cameron Diaz, looks kind of funny if you watch the Red Band trailer), the only argument here is 3 to 1…

Dirk may have won finals MVP, but he had a ton of help. Jason Terry was a tiny black Bill Walton in this series, providing a massive boost for the team off the bench. He is their second best scorer and single handedly kept the offense in the game in the first half while Dirk was shooting 1-12. He also knows how to say the word “strength” (not “strenf”) as Sexy Boston Sports Linguistics Expert Sadie Sloe Gin pointed out…

Sadie also noticed Tyson Chandler giving some woman (his mother? his wife?) a big hug during the post game celebration, saying the lady must be thinking “I’m gonna be rich!” Little did Sadie know that Chandler is a free agent this offseason, dominated the playoffs,  gave a new identity to Dallas’ defense and plays for an owner that has given out massive contracts to the likes of Raef LaFrentz, Erik Dampier and Brendan Haywood. Chandler and all of his women are going to be very rich indeed…

Speaking of the owner, as SportsGuy33 (Bill Simmons) pointed out on Twitter, it was very disappointing to see David Stern hand the Larry O’Brien trophy to the founder of the Mavericks instead of to Mark Cuban. I wonder if the two have some kind of verbal restraining order that prohibits either of them from communicating to the other in public…

The moment was not without unintentional comedy, thankfully. As David Stern handed the trophy to Mavs founder Don Carter, he congratulated “Don and his wife Linda Jo”, who was nowhere to be seen. Then, like Bruce Springsteen pulling Courtney Cox to stardom in his Dancing In the Dark video, Carter yanked Linda Jo through the sea of giants on the platform to join him for this historical moment. I’m also not entirely sure she didn’t think she WAS Courtney Cox at this moment…

It’s usually fun to see a great player win his first championship at 38 years old, but Jason Kidd is still a wife beater so I’m going to go out on a limb and say we shouldn’t celebrate him…

Brian Cardinal stepped up with some solid defensive plays and toughness last night that gave the Mavs a little emotional bump. Cardinal takes his rightful place alongside Brian Scalabrine, Mark Madsen, Jack Haley, Jud Buechler, Matt Bullard, Kurt Rambis and M.L. Carr (honorary member) as members of the With Hustle and Inspiration Teams Excel (W.H.I.T.E.) club…

Your last two Finals MVP (Dirk, Kobe Bryant) shot a combined 15-51 in the clinching game…

A big thanks to Mike Breen for really capturing the moment of one of the NBA’s greatest players winning his first championship and also the first championship for his franchise. Wait, what? He didn’t capture it at all? Instead of using his outside voice, he culminated the victory with all the excitement of Dwight Schrute’s birthday banner for Kelly Kapur (“It’s your birthday.”). And it’s not like using subdued calls for big moments is Breen’s thing. In this video at the 5 minute mark (WARNING: It’s last year’s Lakers’ win), you can hear Breen excitedly yelling about the pass ahead to Gasol and the Lakers winning back to back championships. The finish wasn’t as tense this year, but the moment was just as big. Shame on you Mike for not treating it as such… 

Of course the Miami Heat (13th paragraph before a mention! That’s definitely a record this year!) did everything they could to sap the excitement from the moment. After going the last two minutes of the game without fouling (more on this in a minute) despite an 8-11 point deficit, Chris Bosh fouled Jason Kidd, down 11, with 18 seconds left. After a Nowitzki layup 10 seconds prior, the Heat turned the ball over and Kidd grabbed it looking to dribble out the clock. With security scurrying around the court to secure the perimeter and the Dallas bench spilling onto the floor, this looked like it would be Kidd’s chance to do a victory lap in the heat of the moment of his first championship. Then the alien predator threw his tentacles around the point guard and the momentum faded. To add insult to injury, Coach Valderamma called a 20 second time out after the foul shots, again pouring sand on the flames of victory. What could he have possibly been discussing in that 20 seconds? Reminding LeBron and Bosh that they should hold off on crying until the locker room cameras can get a good focus on them so they look like they really cared? Saying his final farewell before Pat Riley fired him on the way back to the locker room? Maybe he was waiting for the last of the front runner Miami fans to finish their getaways that started with a full 2 minutes left. Either way, poor form on the Heat…

For the second year in a row, a LeBron James team gave up at the end of a game within reach. Just like in Game 6 of the Cleveland-Boston series last year, the LeBron team inexplicably failed to foul or play offense with a sense of urgency. Last year, LeBron’s “excuse” was that he had one foot out the door and was trying to grease the skids for his exit from Cleveland. This year? Who the f knows. This guy has lost all credibility despite his considerable talents. There is such a thing as shrinking from the moment, but LeBron in this series was like a penis in a bucket of ice water…

On a larger scale, this was a great Finals matchup that proved very popular with viewers. Hopefully it reminds the owners and players just how far the league has come and how strong a product the league presents every night the Timberwolves aren’t playing. As Simmons reminds us on his new site, Grantland.com, the league is staring down the barrel of a lockout. With more great talent than ever, strong teams in top markets (LA, Boston, NY, Miami, Chicago), a huge international presence and big personalities including legitimate villains, the league absolutely has to continue riding this wave of popularity. If we lose part of the season next year, there is a good chance that hockey, the sport that can’t even get its championship on network television, will surpass the NBA. Figure it out fellas and long live the NBA!

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