by Justin Cherot
I have a friend who is not looking forward to the NBA Finals, not if it involves the newly-crowned Western Conference champion Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat, who have a stranglehold on the Eastern Conference finals against the Chicago Bulls.
The premise for why he is disenchanted? The whole notion that you can buy an NBA title these days.
I can understand why someone would feel that way about the Heat, given the whole “Decision” fiasco this summer and how they threw over $300 million LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh this off-season. Currently, they are five wins away from validating the working hypothesis that “the best players win”.
And, in a vacuum, maybe I can understand why people may feel the same way about the Mavericks and their owner Mark Cuban, a guy who would probably overpay for a dollar menu item if it meant it was his.
But let’s look at how these Mavs are built:
Their starting center, Tyson Chandler, was written off league-wide because he could never stay healthy and was meant to provide cap relief. Best case, he was supposed to be a minor upgrade over Erick Dampier.
Their starting small forward, Shawn Marion, was considered damaged goods because he had an inflated sense of self.
Their point guard, Jason Kidd, as recently as a year and a half ago, was considered a huge liability against teams with quick guards and an inconsistent three-point shooter.
Their shooting guard, DeShawn Stevenson, was a throw-in for a trade with Caron Butler (inactive but pretty much dismissed as well for his ball-stopping offense). Coming off of back surgery and a disastrous year shooting the ball, people thought he would have the best seat in the house for Mav games.
Some of the bench guys:
Peja Stojakovic‘s comet had come and gone and he couldn’t get off the bench in New Orleans. Mike D’Antoni apparently didn’t want Corey Brewer, an energetic guy in his mid 20’s who, unlike any New York Knick, plays defense. Oh, and 5’1″ (okay, 6’0″) J.J. Barea was seen as too short and not athletic enough to survive in the NBA. Brendan Haywood… okay, I’ll concede that Cuban threw an unneccesary amount of money at Haywood, but he’s STILL a huge reason why the Mavs are in the finals.
I’ve mentioned everybody important except for the two holdovers from that 2006 Finals’ team: Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki.
I’ll start with Terry, who the Atlanta Hawks gave up on after several years because, well, when you can trade for a game-changer like Antoine Walker you gotta do it. There were even skeptics calling the trade a bust a couple months into the 2005 season because he wasn’t a true point guard and got beat out by rookie Devin Harris.
Then there’s Nowitzki, who played so inconsistently his rookie year that he thought about going back to Germany. Even though he turned into a star, he had to deal with the “not tough enough/clutch enough” to win a championship. When he finally became both, he was seen as too old to win in a younger league.
Do you see a prevailing theme with this team? Yes, the owner throws money around, but buying a championship?
What I see on this team is a bunch of guys who, at one point or another were told they were too ______ to succeed in the NBA, creating a group of hungry vets desperate for a title.
Will they win one? Just tell them they can’t.