Champion Mavs All-Access: YES. WE. DID!
FOREWARD: In the 2011 NBA season, we were gifted to witness a king forced to realize he wore no clothes, the man who once questioned Dirk Nowitzki as a player, as a leader, could not escape his wrath, and your Dallas Mavericks earned their championship, burying the vendetta against a franchise that once denied them of it.
Take a swig, Dirk. Drink it in.
"Remember '06!'' Jason Terry cawed into the ear of Dirk Nowitzki during the fourth quarter of Sunday's title-clincher in Miami.
With a 105-95 victory in Game 6, Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion, Tyson Chandler, JJ Barea, DeShawn Stevenson, Brendan Haywood, Brian Cardinal, Ian Mahinmi, Caron Butler, Corey Brewer, Peja Stojakovic, Roddy Beaubois and Dominique Jones have earned their ring under the coaching of Rick Carlisle, Dwane Casey, Terry Stotts, Darrell Armstrong, Monte Mathis, Robert Hackett, Casey Smith and Dionne Calhoun.
And more names, too: Sports psychologist Don Kalkstein got a podium mention from Carlisle. So did special assistant Tim Grgurich, who shies from the spotlight but, according to our gal Nancy Lieberman, oversaw the re-writing of the defensive playbook to begin this season. Oh, and so many other human links in the championship chain ...
They are the 2011 NBA Champions.
This is their time. This is our time. This is your time. And Mark Cuban thanks you ... in that unique manner of his ...
THE TOP STORY: The Dallas Mavericks may now complete the parade planned with a two-and-seven-eigths-game lead in 2006. It took five years to complete the victory, but they may now welcome their very own Larry O'Brien Trophy (assuming taking it clubbing on South Beach into Monday morning allows for its survival), their very own Finals MVP (Dirk Nowitzki), and their very own claim to basketball immortality.
We pointed to this fact weeks ago, as the NBA community seemed to be in the process of realizing that The UberMan may indeed be a great player: a primary difference between this Mavs team and those of the recent past that lost three out of four years in the first round of the playoffs, was the fact that his teammates were coming through when turned to. Game 6 epitomized this fact.
Nowitzki struggled immensely in the first half, hitting only 1-of-12 shots for three points, but there to hold the line, to provide their star the leeway once missing, was Jason Terry and company.
"This is a win for team basketball," Dirk said.
And yes, if you want to interpret that as a slap to a juvenile opponent as much as a backpat to a group of unselfish teammates, feel free.
As Dirk struggled, Jason Terry decimated any lingering doubts, any lasting memories of playoff failures past, and proved to be the best player on the court for the biggest 33:56 of his basketball life. He finished with a game-high 27 points, hitting 11-of-16 shots, including 3-of-7 behind the arc.
Say what you will about his history, but the trophy comes to Dallas with Terry's fingerprints all over it. Dirk had the Jet's back in Game 2. Terry had his here, especially in the first half, where he was 8-of-10 for 19 points.
Joining Terry to carry the Mavs through the first half were DeShawn Stevenson (with three huge 3-pointers), JJ Barea (with constant penetration), Brian Cardinal (with physical defense and a 3-pointer), Ian Mahinmi (a handful of hustle plays and a jumper as time expired in the third quarter), Jason Kidd (five assists and no turnovers) and Shawn Marion and Tyson Chandler with their defense and disposition.
Rick Carlisle, Dirk said, "pushed all the right buttons.''
You may notice: We just mentioned every player to see the court. This was a team playing as a team. As it's been all season, there were no egos. There was no need to place the importance of one before the collective significance of all. Dallas surrendered their personal glory to find more than they had ever known.
DIRK RETURNS: Back in Miami, facing the franchise that handed him his deepest NBA bruise, the ghosts that continued to swim the darkness found their vocal chords severed. Before that, Jason Terry used halftime to remind Dirk of those ghosts one last time.
After going 1-of-12 from the floor for three in the first half, Nowitzki responded by hitting eight of his 15 attempts (53.3 percent) to contribute 18 points in the final two quarters of the 2011 season, including 5-of-8 and 10 points in the fourth … doing what he did all series, essentially matching the 11 points on 5-of-9 attempts in the period from LeBron James and Dwyane Wade combined.
Heading into the series, many marveled at the "closing" ability of James and Wade, stood in awe of their athleticism, and questioned if the persistent consistency of Dirk could withstand their brilliance. When the final buzzer sounded, those questions fell in favor of one man who treated that "closing" period as his personal playground.
Over the course of six games, The UberMan scored 62 points in fourth quarters. Miami needed two to match the production of one, as Wade and James combined to score exactly 62.
Dirk won't do it, so allow us to do it for him.
In 2007, Wade had the following to say: "(Dirk's) the reason they lost the championship, because he wasn't the leader he's supposed to be in the closing moments."
In 2011 we'll point out that despite having the best "second" option in the NBA (James), and likely the top third option as well (Bosh) … Wade wasn't the leader he's supposed to be. He found personal statistical success in a big way, but failed to make either of those players better, failed to get James to perform to the level of his abilities, failed to match Dirk in the "closing moments," and failed to end this season holding a championship trophy ...
OK, OK … maybe we have long memories. But you think The UberMan doesn't have one, too?
ARROGANCE VS HUMILITY: While some of the comments from Terry and Stevenson sought to derail this theme, it's hard to deny it as a lasting trait of this series.
Even as they (Terry and Stevenson) tossed barbs towards James and the Heat, it came from an inner confidence rather than a lack of respect for their opponent. Perhaps we're viewing it in this light due to our closeness to the Mavs, from viewing their approach from the preseason through the championship, but they did not overlook the danger of their foes.
Said Carlisle: "It's a team that when you view it from afar, it doesn't look like a physically bruising-type team. So a lot of people don't think we have the grit and the guts and the mental toughness. This is as mentally tough team I've been around. I was fortunate to play in the '80s with Boston teams. They were mentally tough. Those were four Hall-of-Famers on those teams. What these guys were able to do collectively ... I am just really proud to be around this group.''
They believed in themselves, even when the basketball world refused to. They maintained a confidence that quietly screamed in their heads that together they could overcome any obstacle placed before them … wearing the lumps delivered along the way, from Caron Butler's season-ending injury, to Dirk's knee own knee injury, to Roddy Beaubios' season-derailing injury with the French national team, to giving up a 23-point lead in close to 15 minutes to Portland, to losing Game 1 of the Finals, to losing Brendan Haywood to injury in the Finals … carrying all of this with them, they prevailed by remaining shoulder to shoulder.
In contrast, Miami celebrated their championship before ever playing a game. Celebrated it again after knocking the Boston Celtics from the Conference Semi-Finals, and once more after Game 1, when LeBron spoke like a team already wearing the crown.
Miami didn't earn their title. Instead, they acted like they deserved it.
In defeat, Chris Bosh spoke with a sincerity that was evident as he praised the Mavs. Wade said the right things, even if we'll question his sincerity in light of his Dirk-mocking antics, but LeBron … LeBron once again couldn't hide his defiant arrogance.
"At the end of the day," LeBron said, "all of the people that were rooting for me to fail, tomorrow they'll have to wake up and have the same life that (they had) before they woke up today. They got the same personal problems they had today, and I'm going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want to do."
Our take on that quote: "You still won't be me. You won't be rich. You won't shoot commercials. You'll be stuck in your little lives, while I will be all of those things. Oh … but you'll also have the same number of championships as I do."
LeBron likely doesn't deserve the level of insult he is receiving for his play on the court, where those seeking to define his legacy by this moment are as shortsighted as those that chose to do the same with Dirk in 2006. That said, it's hard to deny the "childish" and "ignorant" course his off-court actions have taken.
He's not alone, sadly.
Coach Erik Spoelstra (will he be their coach next year?) actually said, "Neither team deserved this championship more than the other."
Somebody had to be the voice of reason for the losers. Um ... Chris Bosh?!
"Hands down they deserve it,'' said the Dallas native of the Mavs. "They were the better team in this series. ... There's no hiding in the NBA. Play a series, best-of-seven games, usually the better team is going to win. They had that whole collective effort. Timely shots, timely rebounds. They kept their composure and kept coming in waves."
And with that concession speech -- as close as Miami is going to get to classy -- enough about the 2011 runner-ups.
YOUR NBATV HIGHLIGHTS PACKAGE: Here's how it looked, highlights-wise:
THE SERIES WAS WON: For all of the tangent storylines, the fact is this: the Dallas Mavericks leaned on their defense and won this series, along with the three leading up to it. When the offense wasn't firing, they kept to their defensive principles and refused to allow games to get away from them, granting Dirk and Terry the opportunity to shoulder the late offensive load and deliver wins from the mouth of defeat … where they did so with elegant beauty.
"We have the definition of the word "resourceful" in our locker room,'' Rick said. "It means, 'Able to devise ways and means to accomplish a difficult task in a challenging situation.' That's what they did. Look, I can't tell you exactly how that's possible, but that's the kind of guys that Donnie Nelson and Mark Cuban have gotten on our roster. And it's one of the reasons that coaching this team has been so special.''
Dallas was not the anonymous bystander fortunate enough to find a championship the Miami Heat fumbled away. Instead, they are a team that came together at the perfect time, trusted in each other, and overcame a slew of injuries and one illness to fight for every inch climbed on their way to the peak of their ultimate goals.
Every step came tied to the back of hard work, insistent hope, and belief in the unit. Crowning all of the heartbreak the past has handed them, each player with their own stories, is what they continued to chase, to sacrifice for.
History will not take it away. Record books will have it tattooed to their pages as surely as Jet has it tattooed on his right biceps. The 2011 NBA Champions are the Dallas Mavericks.
QUOTEBOARD: We'll have a full Quoteboard in a bit. A sample:
*"we got vindication." - Jet.
*"Just going through the journey ... made us a better team. ... And we didn't skip a beat. We just kept playing. That just shows the character of this team. No matter how old you are, we understood how to play the game." Kidd.
*I kept having people come up to me the last three or four days, "Hey, there's billions of people rooting for you guys. There's billions of people rooting for you guys." And we could feel it. We could feel it. We knew it was very important that we won this series for those reasons. Because of what the game is about, and what the game should stand for.'' - Carlisle.
THE SLUMPINGEST SHOULDERS EVER: Seconds ticking away at the end of the third. Jet is trying to get Ian Mahinmi to set him a screen. The Ianimal shuffles without confidence to the spot, then rolls off to nowhere. Jet is stuck, and airborne, so he hands off to Ian.
Second are ticking away!
A 15-footer. Swish. Dallas up 81-72, and it's comical to some because Ian isn't supposed to make that shot.
We could argue to the contrary; we see him working on such shots every day in practice. But that's not the story of the play. the story of the play is the reaction of the Miami guys, who trudged to the bench, down nine but burdened as if they were down 90.
DeShawn Stevenson said after the game that he thought Miami quit prematurely, with a few minutes left. We thought they went down when Ian went up.
MAVSELLANEOUS: We're really going to attempt to ignore the media dopes who try to outsmart the smartest guys in the business, like Carlisle, but gosh: Numerous commentators questioned the managing of Dirk's minutes in the second half and the presence of Ian, too. Do they not understand that gas in the tank is one of the reasons the Mavs are all-time-great closers? ... Dallas is the fifth team with a single All-Star to defeat a team with three and claim a championship. The last to do so was another Texas team when the Houston Rockets and Hakeem Olajuwon won the 1994 Title … Rick Carlisle is the 11th person to win a Title as both a player and a coach … Dirk Nowitzki is the 11th players to own an NBA MVP, Finals MVP and at least 10 All-Star selections …There was the NBA All-Star Game, the Super Bowl, then the Rangers brought the World Series to Texas … and now, the Mavericks cap it off with an NBA Finals victory, including two of the wins right here in Dallas … there was a small skirmish between Stevenson and Udonis Haslem and Mario Chalmers (all three of those players received technicals), we're happy to no longer care if suspensions are handed out. We will say, though, that D-Steve -- who surely triggered the pushing match when he refused to let Udonis Haslem cross his path -- created a significant advantage for the Mavs. First, because he took no guff from anybody. And second, because the Heat was getting on a run and on a roll, gaining momentum and then -- it all stopped. D-Steve essentially "called a timeout'' and ceased Miami's mini-comeback. During that fight, by the way, we noticed ABC announcer Jeff Van Gundy in desperate search of a leg to hold onto.
FIGHT NIGHT: Carlisle noted that as a series lengthens, things "get personal'' between opponents. So it seems ...
NUMBERS-CRUNCHING: It's math!
*While Dirk was 1-of-12 in the first half for three points, the rest of the Mavs were 20-of-31 (64.5 percent) for 50 points.
*Dirk finished with 21 points on 9-of-27 shooting (not to mention a game-high 11 rebounds) … the rest of Dallas went 32-of-55 (58.2 percent).
*Jason Terry alone outscored the Miami bench: 27-20. As a unit, the Dallas bench outscored their Miami counterpart 43-20.
*Miami grabbed the first three offensive rebounds of the game; yet Dallas would go on to take the battle of the boards. Dallas finished with 40 rebounds, 10 on the offensive glass. Miami's totals were 39 and nine.
*Did LeBron shrink again? Our tally tells us that when James didn't start the fourth quarter, it was his first rest in the second half of the whole series. Maybe Spoelstra finally recognized "shrinkage''?
*The Mavs shot 50 percent. We told you Game 5 wasn't an "outlier.''
THE FINAL WORD: For one season, one offseason, for one summer, the Dallas Mavericks need not wonder what could have been. They need not bear the burden, the haunts, of "what if."
Today will not join the chorus of yesterday. Rather, it will crush those voices with a resounding thud. No doubts remain, and no one can take this from them. Today, the Larry O'Brien Trophy surrendered to the hands of your Mavs. Today, a parade is coming (the week of the 20th, we're told),and the time is not five years ago … it is right now.
We're not stopping our coverage here, of course. Shortly we'll do Monday Donuts ... and then we'll be back to ponder what is to come of a list of free agents to be that includes Tyson Chandler and JJ Barea … and there's the NBA Draft ... but right now? You've got a team to embrace, Mark Cuban's got a parade to pay for, and we've all got a championship to celebrate.
Right now, you can pocket any frustrations over a national media that seems bent on overlooking you're beloved Mavs. Who cares about that anymore? You can brush the lack of respect tossed Dirk's way by Wade and LeBron prior to Game 5. How insignificant they now are! You can cast aside those that claimed a lanky white guy from Germany was incapable of leading a team to a title. how foolish they were! You can roll your eyes at the fans of other teams who may try to count off the accomplishments of their own.
You can do these things because right now … in this exact moment … the Dallas Mavericks are the best team in the world. They are the NBA Champions.
"We had no champions on this team," Tyson Chandler said, acknowledging a roster full of ring-free talent. "And we walked away with a team full of champions."