Before I get into the meat of this column, let me say that I have been bombarded with e-mails from gloating Miami Heat fans all across the country reminding me of my column that described how the Dallas Mavericks would win this series going away after game 2, was waaaaay off target.
Most were pretty mild, but at least one, got right to the point of calling me an idiot for my selection of the Dallas Mavericks as this year’s NBA champs.
However, being the stand-up guy that I am, I now realize how irrational I was in picking Dallas to win this series – and want to add that when I am wrong, I say I’m wrong – and that in this case, I was totally clueless.
Well, not actually, but Dallas certainly made me look that way.
Idiot or not, let me review why the Heat won this series so handily after initially appearing to be totally overmatched following games 1 and 2 in Dallas.
First of all, let me say that, although the Mavericks are a deeper, more talented and certainly more gifted team athletically than the Heat, their lack of experience – and lack of a genuine go-to player for that matter – left them on the outside looking in – literally.
Miami’s experience, execution, and overall desire to win this title was exponentially greater than the Mavericks’ who, at times, seemed to be playing this series as if they were in the middle of the regular season.
It also didn’t hurt the Heat that they have a certain fellow by the name of Dwayne Wade on their roster. Simply put, Wade was the best player in this series – by far – and one who couldn’t be stopped when several games were clearly hanging in the balance. To be blunt about it, Wade – and not Nowitzki – played like the more experienced player – and is now, the unquestioned leader of the Miami Heat – not to mention, one of the top three players in the entire league now.
Whether Nowitzki is the leader of the Mavericks or not, remains in doubt. Is he the team’s best player? Even that’s not certain for me anymore. He is unquestionably Dallas’ most gifted player, but when the s – t hit the fan in this series, it was Jason Terry – and not Nowitzki – that Dallas turned to.
No he didn’t play bad at all in the final game and Terry had a major stinker, but for the most part, I would have to say that Nowitzki was a major disappointment – and a player not worthy of being compared to the great Larry Bird.
My personal feelings on Nowitzki aside, I firmly believe that this is a series that the Mavericks could have – and should have – won. I don’t want to sound like the Miami Heat did nothing to actually earn this title, because they certainly did, but I think this championship came down to a battle of wills – and Dwayne Wade’s was stronger than anyone else’s for either team.
Even though Shaquille O’Neal made a slip of the tongue when he called Wade, “the best player ever,” I have to admit that Wade was absolutely spectacular. I won’t get into the fact that I predicted this kind of success for Wade when he was drafted, but I did see that he was going to be a special player (oooh that was observant).
Whatever the case, the man called “Flash” dropped 36 points and 10 rebounds on the Mavericks – at home no less – to cap a magnificent four-game run that ultimately led the Miami Heat to victory.
You know, as the old saying goes, hindsight is always 20-20. Looking back, I guess I shouldn’t have doubted Miami’s resiliency and fortitude and should have remembered the Mavericks’ weaknesses.
Looking forward, I have to say that both teams appear to be in really decent shape to be serious title contenders for the next few seasons at the very least. I know Dallas fans all over the country are feeling low today, but let me reassure you, the Mavericks are in better shape than almost every team in the league – including Miami – and should have ample opportunities to win a championship in the next few seasons.
“We made a lot of progress this year,” said Dallas’ Avery Johnson, the NBA’s coach of the year. “We aimed high this year, and I told them that a lot of teams have to go through this. This will really hurt this summer. I hope they work out hard, make me a better coach. I’m ready to try it again.”
And so should the Heat – let’s not forget, Wade isn’t going anywhere anytime soon and neither is O’Neal for that matter.
“I came to Miami because of this young fella right here,” O’Neal said, indicating Wade. “I knew I wanted to make him better.”
And better he is. So good now, that he is among the elite players on the entire planet – and now – he is a champion too.