Post-NBA Finals Thoughts

Darius Soriano —  June 13, 2011

With the NBA season ending last night, a few final thoughts on the Mavs and Heat (with some Lakers mixed in too…)

  • First off, congrats to the Mavericks for winning their first championship in franchise history. They played fantastic basketball, not only against the Heat but the entire playoffs. What I found most impressive about them as a team wasn’t the remarkable shooting expedition, the poise, or even the role players stepping up the way that they did. It’s how all those things combined to make every one of their post-season opponents look the same by the time the series ended: confused and defeated. No team could solve the riddle of how the Mavs pressured the paint through wonderful attacking schemes predicated off tremendous floor spacing. Kudos to them, they earned their place at the top of the mountain.
  • Obviously any congratulations of the Mavs must also include the singling out of Dirk for his fantastic playoffs and his well deserved Finals MVP. The once “soft” player that “couldn’t close” changed the perception of him (which really wasn’t fair anyway) with a fantastic playoff run that will now put him on the list of great players that actually broke through and won a title. No more Malone, Stockton, Miller, Ewing, Barkley comparisons for the big German and whether he realizes it or not right now, a burden has been lifted off his shoulders as that’s a tough stigma to carry. Special acknowledgement as well to the fact that Dirk won in a truly tough era where the league is as strong as it’s been in decades with many elite players and some fantastic teams.
  • Credit must also be given to Rick Carlisle. He pushed all the right buttons, made all the right substitutions and adjustments, called all the right timeouts. He got his team to defend on one end and play a steady, relentless style on the other that confounded the opposition. Just as some of his players, he’s elevated his status in this league and joined the ranks of Pop and Rivers as the active coaches that truly make a difference to their team in a way that led to the ultimate prize. He really was masterful.
  • However, we can’t reflect on these Finals without discussing the Heat and their failure to achieve what they set out to do. They fell short in many ways and proved that their elite talent base wasn’t enough this time. Be it coaching, the play of LeBron (no explanation needed) and Wade (he was simultaneously great and mistake prone), or the media missteps they made along the way, this team struggled to rise to the occasion while Dallas capitalized on every mistake.
  • That said, I don’t think anyone should be quick to dismiss the Heat as contenders for future championships. In several ways, they remind me of the 2008 Lakers. First off, there are the easy comparisons of Kobe/Wade (leader with experience that played excellent while still showing flaws), Pau/LeBron (the player with more talent than he showed), and Odom/Bosh (the front court player that had up and down performances but was outplayed by his direct counterpart). There’s also factors like the fact that they faced a team of hungry veterans that had fallen short so many times and looked at this series as (potentially) their last shot at a ring, the newness of their team and rapid ascension to elite status, and the need for some of the players who’d not yet seen this level of competition (Miller, Chalmers, Anthony) to get that needed seasoning. Obviously, this isn’t a perfectly parallel situation as I’m unsure who can be Miami’s Derek Fisher nor is it clear that there’s a player like Bynum or Ariza in the wings that can take a big step forward next year in helping this team win it all. Plus, and maybe most important, is that Coach Spoelstra is no Phil Jackson (who is?) and filling that void in coaching may be their biggest obstacle. Not to belittle what Spoelstra’s accomplished nor his coaching acumen, but it’s unclear if he’ll take that next step as a coach and this team needs a guy that certainly will. It’s interesting because Carlisle finally broke through as a head coach but that was after being fired in both Detroit and Indiana. Can Miami wait on Spoelstra?
  • Interesting enough, the Mavericks win only cements my thoughts further that the Lakers should not be discounted going into next season as one of the top 2 or 3 clear favorites for the title. The Lakers’ formula (at least what we know of it) of well put together top level talent is a combination of what the Mavs and the Heat brought to the table. With a renewed sense of hunger and purpose, some tweaks to the roster, and some slight improvement from some of their core players (none of which is a stretch) this team could certainly be hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy next season. Obviously coaching will be key and how the players buy in will be an issue. But, the Lakers’ window is still very much open. (Now, if only the player’s union and team owners can hammer out a CBA, I think we’d all be a lot happier.)

Darius Soriano

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23 responses to Post-NBA Finals Thoughts

  1. Agreed. Analysts always point out how old and slow the Lakers are, but the Mavs are actually older and slower; And LA has far, far more talent. The biggest differences between the two teams?

    a.) Raw passion.

    b.) Outside shooting.

    Sure, there are others, but those were the two biggest variables. Our Lakers had virtually none of either. So when it came time for the Finals, I cheered for Dallas out of respect (Dirk and Kidd are due) and context (LeBron losing is pure justice).

    That said, like you wrote, there’s no reason why our Laker team can’t win another ring or two with this core. Bynum needs a bigger role, chemistry needs an new injection of life, and we need shooters to spread defenses.

    I hope our boys – and new coach – were watching this series.

  2. c.) One guy who can run.

    Have even the best Lakers teams of the last 12 years ever been able to shake the rep of “They can’t guard a slasher”? From AI and young Bibby to CP3 and Deron, the Lakers have never been able to consistently contain a small agressive guard…they usually have to eat that guy’s performance and hope that the rest of the team doesn’t get hot.

    At the very least, the Mavs had J.J., and after years of smoke, mirrors, and having the other 4 spots pick up the slack, D-Fish finally ran out of miracle shots to excuse his spot in the starting lineup. Steve Blake is not a replacement. He’s a lighter-skinned, less clutch Fisher.

  3. Interesting bit from a TrueHoop interview with David Thorpe. When asked what the Heat would do if they opted to let Spoelstra go, he said that Mike Brown would have been the best possible choice had the Lakers not taken him.

    The whole piece was good, but that part caught my eye for some reason.

    http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop/post/_/id/30224/second-guessing-david-thorpe-on-the-finals

  4. I’m just so glad that the Mavs won the championship, not because I particularly like Dallas (or because I picked them pre-season to be the #2 team in the West behind the Lakers), but because their winning the championship finally silences all the fools who claim that talent always wins over teamwork and chemistry in the NBA.

  5. I’m definitely a little relieved that the Lakers lost to the eventual champs. So the question moving forward is what do the Lakers need to beat Dallas?

    The strange part is, I can’t really put my finger on what the Lakers need to beat Dallas besides Gasol playing much, much better. Dirk established himself as one of the best to ever play but the Gasol we know shouldn’t have got thrashed by Dirk like that. The Gasol we know would have put a lot of pressure on Dirk defensively, maybe even gotten him into foul trouble.

    If that Gasol is gone and not coming back then were not beating Dallas, but then again we won’t be beating a lot of teams.

  6. I’m still shocked at this Finals outcome. I’ve gone over and over this series and I’m still shocked. Sure there are little coaching mistakes but that happens. Nobody on the Mavs could guard Bosh yet he only for instance took seven shots last night and made seven. This is the only Finals where I think the best team didn’t win in the modern NBA.

  7. Aaron, I’m not sure why you think Miami was the better team. At PG, the combination of Kidd and Barea is vastly better than any combo Miami cobbled together. At the 2 guard, Wade is phenomenal, but offensively was matched in this series by Terry. At small forward, the only position Miami could truly dominate, Lebron was played evenly by the combo of Stevenson and Marion. At PF, Dirk was clearly better than Bosh, and at center, there is no comparison between Chandler and Joel Anthony.

    By my count, that’s three spots where Dallas was far better, and two where Miami should have had the advantage but did not, when factoring in the bench.

    As for the Heat, I agree with Darius and would not sleep on them. They learned what finals basketball was all about. It will be very easy for that team to improve, particularly since they have one of the worst point guards and centers of all the playoff teams. The MLE plus maybe a veteran who gets dumped (if the CBA allows this, as is currently being speculated) and it’s easy to see Miami improving its roster enough to get 2 more wins.

    I despise Lebron, and personally feel that Miami should trade him to Orlando for Dwight Howard, but if they stand pat with LBJ and Wade, they are going to have two very talented wing players for many years, and that alone will keep them in the hunt.

  8. Aaron, Miami didn’t field a TEAM. They had pieces of a great team, but never quite a team.

    I’m sure we’ll get to psycho-pseudo-analyze LeBrain for the entire summer and through the better part of the lockout, but the things I’ve gathered from Miami are these:

    1. It was Wade’s team, but with LeBron shouldering all the blame. That caught up to LeBron I’m sure.

    2. As predicted, it was the big two plus Bosh, except that the big two were really redundant while Bosh was always needed. Unfortunately, Bosh forfeited his right to the spotlight and the ball, and they suffered for it.

    3. Erik can’t coach that particular team. I saw a bit of Lawrence Frank in him, but he’s not even up to that level yet. I still remember LeBron bumping shoulders with him during a timeout earlier in the season and I think that never really healed to build trust.

    4. LeBron and Wade should make a pact and decide to work hard over the summer to reduce their redundancy. For example, Wade should work on his 3, LeBron on his post moves or his mid range jumper. Or they could learn how to seriously screen the way Mavs did.

    5. It did take a PERFECT Mavs team to beat a dysfunctional Heat with LeBron playing about as badly as can be imagined and Wade bothered by a hip, not to mention playing the corpse of Bibby.

    6. Of course that had to do with Mavs playing incredible defense. If the Lakers don’t find an answer to the zone, we’ll suffer a similar fate.

    7. Not to mention an answer to the pick and roll. But I’ve given up on this, mostly.

  9. That’s OK, Aaron. The Heat will probably win one at some point. It took three years until your prediction that the Lakers couldn’t win a title with Fisher at PG came true.

    To add to the above comments about the redundancy of Wade and James – which, btw, is not a sudden discovery – it has been pointed out since ‘The Decision” – it’s very hard for both of them to have a strong offensive game unless they get a lot of fast break/transition baskets. Dallas limited their turnovers, and did a great job of getting back on defense. That left the Heat running their half-court offense, which has never been especially good.

  10. In a seven game series, in the NBA, the best team always wins.

  11. Lebron is like a talented top chef who produces master-level food. However, his customer skills are horrendous and he is rude to everyone. Yet, people marvel at the food he produces, but are unwilling to patronize the restaurant until the chef and crew master customer skills.

    Lebron the global icon needs to start figuring out ways to bring back the casual NBA fan. There is already a segment of the NBA fanbase that will never cheer for him (Cavs fans). However, there is a sizeable cache of fans that he can reach out to. Last night’s “I’ll count my money and make love to South Beach babes and you will still be eking out your pathetic existence in life” is not a good start to that process. For better or worse, he insulted both haters and fans, because they are the same people.

    Lebron needs to work on his customer skills, and stop driving away people who should be enjoying his exquisite handiwork. He has to stop using Twitter, pause 3 seconds before each statement to the media, maybe even subject himself to a Manchurian-candidate style subliminal training (ok, forget that one).

    Remember, at one point, Kobe was the same. Colorado drove a substantial group of NBA fans away from him. But he has rehabilitated his image and he is once again, beloved. Kobe didn’t go out there and tell NBA fans that they were stupid idiots, etc. He gave them a reason to appreciate the aesthetics of his game. Lebron should take note.

  12. Back to the Lakers, mostly I think it was fatique and it is just too difficult to go deep 4 years in a row (which in the age of a soft cap means your best players are worn out). And remember both Kobe and Pau played non-stop for 2 years after they got to the Finals the first time, having to play in the Olympics and deal with all that traveling.

    I see our core players coming back with a vengeance next year. Even with Bynum’s annual injury issues I see us as the favorite.

  13. Mavs. were not even the favorites at the beginning of the playoffs. They sidestepped Blazers, creamed the Lakers and gave lessons to Thunder. At the start of the Finals, they were laughing stock and yet proved everyone wrong. Now that they’re the Champs, I don’t see any kind extreme manifestation of passion by burning the city, exhibition of fanaticism from its players in dissing their opponents but saw Dirk crying in the locker by himself with tears of joy, Jason Terry telling ewveryone that it was designed by the Good Lord, Cuban giving credit to his coach and former Mavs. founder and JKidd just smiling and responding that it’s about he earns a title in NBA at the end of his career.

    So to all Laker fans and other NBA fans out there, I think we learned something new from Dallas’ humility and grace in this well earned victory.

  14. I apologize to anyone offended by crude language… actually I don’t. :p But you should not be clicking the link below if F-bombs and vulgar euphemisms for unmentionable acts bother you.

    Behind the crude words and bitter ranting though, lies a very valid point: Lebron still doesn’t get it, and until something around him allows for a drastic change in him, he never will.

    Deadspin Rant: Lebron is STILL a **********

  15. Buzz Lightyear June 13, 2011 at 11:29 pm

    I think the Dallas Mavericks maybe the first Fooled By Randomness champions in the modern (post-1980) era.

    Your 2011 NBA Champions are the same team that the old slow tired ‘trust issues’ Lakers absolutely ***dismantled*** on March 31.

    There was a reason that Dallas was a popular pick to be upset in the first round even before the playoff seeding was set. They just didn’t look that dominant during the regular season.

    Those same Mavericks played extremely well throughout the playoffs and they deserve to be champions.

    But I wonder how much of it was circumstance and randomness.

    They won in a year where there were no truly dominant teams. The Mavs conquered the injured center-less Trailblazers, the self-destructing Lakers, the not-quite-ready Thunder and the haven’t-figure-it-out-yet Heat. That’s not their fault, they play whom they’re scheduled to play.

    But they didn’t win by much. So many of their games were won by small margins, or after overcoming large leads, or because their 3-point shooting was unusually good. Over a 20-game sample, those things may just randomly break your way more than they would over a larger set of games. That doesn’t mean they can count on that again.

    Maybe they would have beaten the 2008-2010 Lakers, or the 2008-2010 Celtics, or the 2009 Magic. But I don’t think so.

    I’m a little reluctant to take too much from the Mavs triumph. Again, they played well throughout the playoffs and they deserve to be champions.

    I just don’t know if it has any deeper significance than “If you have a team of dedicated egoless veterans, and an underrated coach, and there are no other dominant teams, and your outside shooters get hot, and you catch a few breaks, you can win an NBA championship.”

    That’s true. But that’s not how most NBA seasons go.

    I could easily see Miami with a couple of new pieces (say, Aaron Brooks and Samuel Dalembert), Wade with a summer working on his 3-pointer and LeBron with a summer developing a basic post-up game giving the Mavs more than they could handle.

    Similarly, I can see improved and/or revitalized teams like the Thunder, Grizzlies, Spurs and, yes, the Lakers putting up quite a fight in the West.

    We shall see….

  16. Wonder if LeBron’s legacy will be like Shaq’s minus the four rings?

    Unprecedented potential, only tapped not maxed.

    I guess I really have no right to bash him for that since I myself am not maximizing my potential (thus I know now what my parents feel like when I was coasting) but it is really grating coupled with his behavior.

    To some extent, I guess I feel the same way about the guys on our roster too. Kobe for not realizing that deferring is a means to take his game to another level, Pau for not being black swan enough, so on and so forth.

    But still, thank god that none of them annoy me like LeBron or Shaq with their ‘too cool to sweat’ attitude.

  17. thisisweaksauce June 14, 2011 at 2:57 am

    Aaron,

    If you don’t realize it, Zephid (#4) is referring to you. You often berate people who have views that are different than yours or counter in an extremely arrogant tone. Fine – you have your views, many of which I disagree with (I feel that they are unsupported by evidence and are over-simplistic). But I respect your view, and am open-minded about different perspectives and opinions. Why? That’s because they add to the discussion, and they make me think about my stances, and how I can refine them.

  18. so you really think lebron is like pau and bosh is like odom? because in my eye this is nothing like the lakers in 2008 because in 2008, while we did have a team of kobe, gasol, and odom the heats’ wade, lebron, and bosh are a lot better and more talented. while i think lebron is nothing but a overhyped player, lebron is supposed to be this generations IT player and wade in the similar category.

  19. This just goes to show the total bs it is the “Lebron just wants to win. Its the only thing that matters to him”. Here are the things that matter to him, per his own postgame comments.
    First; living in South Beach and nailing Babes.
    Second; counting all his millions of dollars.
    Third; being worshipped and adored as “King James”.
    Forth; lording it over the rest of us “little people” that he has these things and we don’t.
    Fifth; winning basketball games.

    BTW; he also loves celebrating championships that haven’t been won yet (and may never be won), and poking fun at an opponent’s illness (even though said opponent played through the illness and beat him ANYWAY!)

  20. I just want to contribute my 2 cents on Lebron. I find him still immature with his reactions to situations. He has been spoiled by coaches, media, owners and fans at a tender age in life. One factor missing, Lebron did not attend college and he went straight to professional life from high school. Going to college may not be a guarantee to affect the behavior of a person but at least it helps his maturation just by getting basic subjects alone in philosophy, history, human behavior and interpersonal relationship with other college students at that age level. A guy who undergone 4 year college may have a different point of view in handling stardom, success and defeats compared to a high school kid. It may not apply to all persons but I’m speaking from my own experience, therefore, this is just my opinion on Lebron. Will he attain success in the future? I’m sure he will though it’ll take sometime because he’s learning life from current experiences coupled by failures, not from the experience in a classroom setting where a mentor (professor) suggests some corrections.

  21. Funny thing about college, a lot of athletes never take core college courses. They take easy subjects that do not teach a thing. Even good schools like Stanford have been caught guiding their student-athletes to faculty that are…partial to sports in order to get a passing grade.

  22. We can only hope Pau feels a little slighted as a new ‘Top European Player’ is crowned. Next season should be fun.

    This is how rivalries are born.

  23. Also congrats to Dallas’s coach. He ruled out Stojakovic since he was not able to maintain strong against Heat’s atheletes