Congratulations to the Dallas Mavericks. After the game ended and Dirk Nowitzki, unlike every other player ever, walked off quietly to the locker-room, I felt this weird urge to buy his jersey. A great individual, player, and now, champion. It’s rare that I ever feel this sentiment, but I was genuinely happy for another human being.
Looking between the lines in this series you’ll find that Dallas’ defense was impeccably architected around stopping two Hall-of-Famers who nobody in the league can guard one-on-one. The 2-3 zone that converted Miami’s vaunted rim-attackers into jump shooters, the double teams that made LeBron James and Dwayne Wade blind to making others better, and a committed “protect the paint” strategy that frustrated Miami to making that pass they didn’t want to make, all added up to an NBA title. I don’t know how much Dwane Casey had a hand in those but I imagine he had a lot to do with it, which will do him well in his Raptors interview.
From Miami’s perspective, they can view their summer strategy in two lights. First, it’s the simple one that they were two games short of a title and another year of experience and a summer of tweaking the role players will make the difference. There’s a naivety in that line of thinking because it disregards the improvements other teams will make, and it counts on the Heat duo of James and Wade to be ultra-motivated after this defeat. It is based on the idea that the Heat need only to slightly improve to get to the next level.
With $60.5 million tied up in Wade, James, Bosh, Miller, Haslem and Anthony, the room to maneuver is small. Miller, Haslem and Anthony make a combined $12.8 million and you can argue that all three are excellent rotation players. Will shuffling these three role players around make the difference? Unlikely, their departure has an associated basketball cost, and relatively speaking all three combine to give Miami a great bargain. I’ll argue that, barring injury, they are valuable role players on a championship team. They also have to account for Mario Chalmers, a great contributor this post-season, who they could potentially extend using Bird rights.
This leads Pat Riley to option two: re-tool. James and Wade are mainstays, and if he values the services Haslem, Anthony and Miller provide, by the process of elimination it would imply that Chris Bosh and his $16 million could be the likeliest candidate to be moved. I know it’s all speculation the day after the season ended, but this is my first reaction.
Jose Barea is a free-agent who just tripled his value, he made $1.8 million this year and is going to attract suitors on the market. He’s a perfect example of how the NBA game is all about matchups and having the proper role players. He was too quick for Chalmers all series long, and it was very smart of Carlisle to move Jason Kidd, one of the great point guards ever, to the off-guard and let Barea use his quickness against Miami’s slower wings. The Heat even had LeBron James guarding Barea at one point, a testament to Barea’s impact on the game. I know the success isn’t even close, but Barea is a perfect backup, just like Calderon was in the 2006-07 season. The difference is that you won’t hear Mavericks fans creating a point guard controversy with calls of Barea to start.
Finally, when James was asked whether he was bothered by people rooting for him to fail, he said that it doesn’t matter to him because he’ll continue to live his life, exact words being: “All the people that were rooting for me to fail, they have to wake up and have the same life that had before they woke up, the same personal problems they have.” Here’s a typical reaction.
I saw the presser live and it did feel like he was being rather egotistical, but I can forgive him. In my opinion, he made one big mistake and it was The Decision. His effort has been good all season, and I didn’t even have much issue with his play/effort in the Finals. A lot of the blame has to fall on Erik Spoelstra for not countering Dallas’ defensive tactics, and simply waiting on Wade or James to find their individual brilliance to push them through.
A touch of class by Mark Cuban to give Donald Carter, the founder of the Mavericks, the chance to lift the trophy. Great for Cuban and I’m glad that his methods have been validated by a title.
There was a moment of revelation at the end of Cuban’s press conference where he mentioned how the hiring of Rick Carlisle had a lot to do with analytics. Basically, he’s got metrics about how coaches impact their new teams, and the affect their departure has had on their previous team. Wonder if Colangelo has any of that going?
That’s really all I have to say about the NBA finals, which have been the best in years.