Occasionally I allow people to write on this site. It’s not the same as a reblog because they’re writing for this site, not making a funny picture in photoshop and getting it reblogged, which happens from time to time. I can’t help it when they make me laugh out loud (you’re damn right acronyms annoy me) Well, here is another installment from William Wallace talking about the NBA Finals match-up I’m already a little sick of. He makes the comparison with 2006 a little better though. Also, he’s got a PhD, and does experiments over in France, so questioning his intellect in the comments should probably be avoided. Feel free to disagree with him or me though because it’s your god given right as a casual reader of this blog. Just don’t make fun of the font—its feelings are easily hurt.
Same song, different tune. In the NBA, parity is paramount. Lakers-Celtics were the Finals match-up 2 of the last 3 years. In the 80’s, 90’s, and 00’s, repeat champions were the norm. There was a cool kids club, and it was the NBA Finals. If you didn’t know the right guy (or have the right guy), you didn’t even come close to getting in. This year’s NBA Finals is a repeat of the 2006 series, pitting Miami against Dallas. However, if you compare the match-up from 5 years ago to now, it is incredible to see how these two teams took completely opposite paths to get where they are today.
The most obviously glaring difference is the comparison of coaches from then and now. In ’06, the Heat had a veteran coach in Pat Riley, who already had his hands chock full of rings from his Laker days. He had been patrolling the sidelines for decades, and was the epitome of oozing machismo (Razor Ramon was from Miami, so we’ll allow it) [ed.-if you don’t laugh at that joke I feel very sorry for you]. The Mavs had an upstart second year head coach, Avery Johnson, who was always perceived as being in way over his head, and that he was all kinds of lucky to inherit a team so good so quickly. Fast forward to 2011, and the coaching roles are 180 degrees different. The Mavs now have a seasoned veteran coach in Rick Carlisle, who has a ring from being a bench warmer on the ’86 Celtics and has been a stalwart on the NBA sidelines for the past 15 years. On the other hand, the Heat have a second year coach who inherited a very good team very quickly, and most people think he is in over his head. Sound familiar?
The players these men are in charge of coaching also have incredible differences between each other, and between themselves from 5 years ago. In ’06, the core of the Heat was a young guard named Dwyane Wade, and the Diesel, in probably his last truly productive year in the NBA. Add in a solid enforcer PF (Udonis Haslem, who is still with the team), a respectable (White Chocolate) Jason Williams, and the ever-incredible Antoine Walker, and they had a nice deep roster. How about aging once-stars trying to grasp a last chance at a ring? ’06 Heat had the glove, Gary Payton, and ‘Zo Mourning. The ’11 Heat have Juwan Howard, the last of the Fab Five still in the Association. Now the Heat obviously have the big three. Wade, Bosh, and Lebron are no doubt the beginning and end of this team. If they want to win a championship, it goes through the big three, plain and simple. Miami 5 years ago had the best 1-2 punch in the NBA with Wade and Shaq, and a solid next 6 or 7. Now, they have the best 1-2-3 punch in the NBA, and not much after that. Is 3 big stars enough to outweigh a short bench, or did the ’06 team have the right balance?
Dallas on the other hand looks remarkably similar to the team from 5 years ago. Top players in ’06: Dirk and Terry. Top players in ’11: Dirk and Terry. So what has changed? How about experience? When talking about the Mavericks any time during the past 5 years, people ubiquitously bring up the fact that they were up 2-0 in the Finals in ’06, and blew it. That has clearly been a point of contention for Dirk McGirk and the Jet and you can tell they have been working every day since then until now to get back into the Finals and prove they can finish. And boy can they finish (see Dirkapalooza in the first 3 rounds of this years playoffs). Who have they lost since then? Well, there’s no more Devin Harris, Josh Howard, Jerry Stackhouse, and the irreplaceable Keith Van Horn. However, while those guys now play elsewhere (or have retired), they never really did anything in the past few years that would make them valuable to make another championship run. So who does Dallas have now to take them over the top (best Stallone movie ever?)? How about HoF PG Jason Kidd in the twilight of his career? Not a bad guy to handle the rock with the finishers Dallas has. In the middle Tyson Chandler has found new life, and is their version of Haslem, a defense-first tough guy who is out there to rebound and protect their assets. (Interesting note: in ’06 Dallas had Erik Dampier at center playing this role, who is now on Miami’s bench for this series). The difference between Dallas now and 5 years ago, is that behind Dirk and Terry they used to have really good players with no experience. Now they have the support of seasoned veterans who know their roles, and can play on the big stage. Although Miami has a big three instead of a big two from 5 years ago, Dallas’ depth has improved immensely. So what will be enough to win a title, 3 superstars and a weak bench, or 2 superstars and a strong/deep bench?
This series is going to be fun to watch, no matter who wins. Miami has been the villain of the NBA since the decision (I refuse to capitalize those words, or even put them in quotes), so the overwhelming fan support will be on Dallas’ side. But don’t count out the talented kids on South Beach, because it seems they have been able to take all the negativity surrounding them and turn it into one of the most entertaining teams in a very long time. Not only do they fly down the court with the best of them, but their lock down defense is enough to make Bruce Bowen drool. I won’t say I want one team or another to win, but there’s going to be some incredible stories at the end. Did the big three make good on their promise to win a championship? Is the monkey off Lebron’s back, and now can he be considered one of the best ever? Will Dirk finally win a well deserved championship towards the end of his stellar HoF career? Will Mark Cuban produce insane amounts of PR surrounding the victory, and in a drunken stupor buy an MLB team? There’s some good basketball coming our way in the next two weeks, and the way things are looking, this may not be the last time these two teams meet in June. After all, Miami and Dallas have their tickets punched to the NBA VIP party, how is anyone else going to get past the bouncers?
(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)