Monday, June 13, 2011

and so it ends.

The NBA season is over. The worst thing about that is the break might be longer than people anticipate.

The best thing about it, in some people's minds, is that the Miami Heat lost the title. The better way to put that, though, is that the Dallas Mavericks won the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy.

There's a lot to be said about the Heat and the way they joined forces and the incredible team that they've become and the team they'll inevitably continue to be. But as Rick Carlisle, head coach of the Mavericks, said, "Their time is later. Our time is now."

After Gregg Doyel of CBS asked LeBron James if he was 'shrinking from the moment' there were columns galore (including mine!) about how ridiculous that notion was. James was and is the best basketball player of his generation. He's (almost) undoubtedly the best basketball player on any court at any time. But as the disappearing act continued to hit new highs (or lows, as it was) almost everyone wanted to get in on the act.

As much as this criticism is (now-) warranted - James scored 107 points over the six games in the series, but only 18 of those in the six collective fourth quarters - James and the Heat are not and should not be the story here.

Dirk Nowitzki is finally an NBA champion, and Mark Cuban is so happy that he cursed on live television. More importantly, the magical post-season run that the Mavs and Nowitzki have gone on is now complete. No more having to live with the nightmare collapse of the 2006 Finals against the Heat. Although Jason Terry and Nowitzki are the only players from that team still with the Mavs, there's been a subconscious sort of collective scar hanging over the Dallas team for the last five years. No one will have to deal with that ever again.

And the Mavs won not only Game 6, but the series as a whole. James' disappearing act notwithstanding, Dallas played phenomenal defense. Head coach Carlisle showed a willingness to go to a zone to throw off the Heat, as well as to alter his starting lineup when he sensed things weren't working. Nowitzki played his tail off the whole series, even when feeling under the weather. When the Mavs lost Game 2 and Nowitzki complained in the post-game press conference that he needed help, Terry, Jason Kidd, Deshawn Stevenson and Tyson Chandler all took turns standing up in the next few games.

Now, the narrative shifts once again. First, the fear of the lockout. The two sides are far apart right now, but should get a deal done to have a season. Secondly, though, we'll get to continue our obsessive tracing of the journey of the Miami Heat. Will Dallas be able to retool and get enough rest to fit a returning Caron Butler back into a system that wants to defend a title? Will Chicago or Atlanta or Boston give the Heat a more serious challenge for supremacy in the East? Regardless of what happens, it's a long wait until next season. Sunday ended a long, beautiful season in a way that everyone, regardless of which team they were cheering for, could cheer about.

No comments: