Friday, June 24, 2011

The 2011 NBA Champions: The Dallas Mavericks

In the end, it is indeed a team that wins a game. This is a tough but very important lesson taught to us by the Dallas Mavericks. When everyone in the team is united towards a specific goal, that team succeeds. As for the Mavs, their eagerness (is an understatement) and longingness for an NBA Championship just simply took them to it.

Each and every Mav had this goal. That one ring to rule them all. Most, if not all of the players in the team reach as far to the playoffs, but failed until this year. Dirk and Jason Terry witnessed how Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat snatched their supposedly dominating regime in the 2006 season. Wade and the Heat came back from a 0-2 slump in the finals to win the championship in 6 games. Dirk and Terry lost almost all their comrades, including their coaching staff. What happened next for them was a series of first-round exits from 2007 to 2010, including a shameful first-round defeat to the 8th seeded Golden State Warriors a year after their championship experience. If there were two players most eager to win the ring, it was these two original Mavs.

Jason Kidd was also an epic fail to win championships. In New Jersey, he won season MVP and a slot in the Finals, but not the championship ring. He was always in a very successful, high-seeding team, but they always come short of entering the finals. He waited for 17 years. He almost joined the ranks of those called “greatest players who never won a championship.” He trusted his comrades, and they trusted his leadership and coolness. At 38, he won the championship.

The supporting cast are no stranger to failures as well. Shawn Marion witnessed how they fell many times to the domination of Kobe and the Lakers. Peja Stojakovic is also a Lakers casualty. Both West-based superstars in their prime, Marion and Peja are victims of championship dynasties. This time, it was their turn to rejoice.

The Mavericks proved that winning a championship takes not just talent, but also heart and determination. They relied on their lone-superstar and leader, Dirk Nowitzki, and when he’s slumping, the other guys stepped up and gave them the needed boost. Players knew their role when they stepped in the Mavericks team, and that role was kept and maintained, keeping the camaraderie and unity amongst comrades.

They had two star centers in Brendan Haywood and Tyson Chandler, and each respected one another so much, they looked so comfortable when subbing each other. They knew their role, they played it, and succeeded.

Jose Juan Barea proved to be a strong replacement to ageing Jason Kidd. When it is needed for him to step up, he never fails his teammates. He had his share of game-winning plays and baskets.

Despite the strength they showed in the season and the playoffs, the Miami Heat, lacked that sense of magical touch. Indeed, the camaraderie and rapport of their version of the Big three: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh was awesome and fun to watch, what they lacked was a supporting cast that could fit in their “clique.” This, coupled with lack of having a go-to-guy among the three, seemed to have contributed to their loss. In late-game situations, it seems that all three shy away from being the main man or the go-to-guy, and the result is a loss by a few points. One should have taken over, but too shy to shoot so he passes to another guy who is too shy to shoot so he hesitates, until time runs out and they lose a game by five points or less. That is one problem of having three Superstars in one team.

They had sensational players in their roster, like the streak shooting Mike Miller and dynamic point-guard Mike Bibby, however, they found it difficult to swallow the fact that they demoted themselves from star-players to role-players. It seemed like they failed to adjust their respective statuses, missing a myriad of shots, losing a few possessions, losing concentration.

Udonis Haslem was their most reliable defender and rebounder, but he can’t be the only supporting cast. Yes, Mario Chalmers had his share of good games and when he does good, they often win the game. However, Chalmers sometimes lets his great game get into his head, forgetting that he is not one of the “Big Three.” The result? Lost possessions, loss in games. And who are the other notable supporting cast? I was too busy watching the big three to recall the other John Does in the team. Oh yes, Juwan Howard is in that team as he wants to wear a Championship ring so he could brag that he’s the only member of the Michigan Fab Five to win a championship. But of course, his pep talk didn’t do much to win a championship.

The Mavericks showed that focus, teamwork and depth are all important components in winning the crown. The 2010-2011 season showed that fusion of stars is not a perfect formula, as shown by Chicago, Memphis and Oklahoma City. NBA teams should rethink their strategy.

As for LeBron, he still has plenty of years under his sleeve. He can learn from his mistakes and focus in the future. Jason Kidd patiently waited for 17 years for a championship. He could probably do the same.

For now, Dirk, Kidd, Terry, Chandler, Marion, Stevenson, Peja, Haywood, Barea and the rest of the Dallas Mavericks deserved the championship ring.

Now, Mark Cuban should stop bashing the NBA.

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