A great NBA playoffs concluded last night with the Miami Heat winning their first championship. Shaq gets his fourth, Riley his fifth, and a bunch of former-stars-now-role-players their first. Dwyane Wade earned the right to be compared to Jordan, at least until his next playoff series loss.
Here are some more Finals thoughts:
~ I had the Heat and Mavs in the Finals. Plus Heat in 6. I am waiting for someone to show up with my grand prize. Maybe I get to replace Shandon Anderson on the roster (you know the 9th man in the 8-man Miami rotation, who didn't need to have NBA level skills, just energy)
~ The Mavs are the more talented all around team. Great team. But no one beats Jordan in the Finals. It is tempting to say this team, with the Avery Johnson, Dirk, Jet, Josh Howard core will definitely get one. And I think they will also. But the Suns with Amare? Whoah. San Antonio is always there. And who’s going to be most inspired by this playoff? Phil Jackson and Kobe. Those two must be tossing and turning, consoling each other over their less pristine legacies. Who’s the greatest player in the NBA now? Who’s the greatest coach in the NBA now? The West is once again a beast.
~ Speaking of coach. I always thought the NFL was the league where your head coach mattered the most. No figures were as imposing as Bill Parcells or a Bill Belichick, or a Bill Cowher. (If you're an NFL Coach, you should change your name to Bill.) But maybe it's the NBA. Riley, Popovic, Larry Brown, Phil Jackson have won all the recent Championships. Pistons better fire Flip right now if they want to get back. And it's all the more reason to consider murder-suicide if Dolan and Thomas pay Larry Brown to leave the Knicks. If you need a great coach, despite the current roster conditions, the Knicks are closer to a championship than a lot of other teams.
~ The NBA also has the most entrenched apprenticeship formula for a ring. All the great teams have paid their dues via playoff losses with escalating stakes. You play in the semis, and lose. Then you play in the conference finals, and lose. Then you go to the Finals. Miami just finished the cycle. Dallas is on the doorstep. Phoenix is now primed also. San Antonio is the biggest team that hasn't really followed the formula.
~ Talk about a master motivator. Did you see Riley's reveal about the secret championship bowl that was shrouded in, um, secrecy and speculated on by everyone in the media. Maybe it's precious valuables? Maybe it's a book on how to hit free throws?? Maybe it's Pat Riley's hair pommade??? What did it end up being? A BOWL OF LITTLE PAPER CARDS. AWESOME!!! You're a master motivator when you get 15 millionaires to do what you want via a bunch little paper trading cards.
~ Zo, Antoine, Payton. Does anyone remember when they used to question Alonzo Mourning's heart in Georgetown? When he was the big underachiever? That's comical now. He was the fourth most important player on the Heat after Wade, Posey, and Haslem. Considering the minutes, it might be a bit of a stretch to put him ahead of Shaq, but his impact per minute easily dwarfed Shaq's. Toine had a nice Game 6, though he's still yet to hit a shot from the perimeter. And I still don't know how they survived with him guarding anyone. Payton was a mess except for those two HUGE baskets he hit. How about that play when he's jawing with the ref as they're trying to swing the ball back around through him and it hits him in the back? I hope he's retiring on top.
~ Riley constructed the team. Made specific mention of getting wounded guys. Guys who had been there but didn't get over the hump. Guys who had been humbled. It's an interesting idea, but I wouldn't advise it for everyone, 9 times out of 10 you'll end up with a team of losers. I wonder if Riley could reconstruct the old Sonics team led by Payton and Kemp and get a Championship out of them. Presuming Wade played the 2 of course.
~ Dallas seemed immature these final two games. A lot of jawing with refs. Avery let loose after game 5. They were a great team in part because of their dignified professional approach. They expected to be doubted agaisnt the Spurs. But once they had everyone on their side, they expected too much. The refs were out of hand in game 5, but you're supposed to just take the lumps, keep your head down, and persevere. When I saw Dirk's tantrum, and even Avery spouting off, I knew it was over. The mental game was won.
~ Shaq and Zo were the #1 and #2 picks in the ’92 draft
~ No Dirk. Wade's the big breakout star, but Udonis Haslem has made a name for himself I think. He killed himself with fouls all series, but he was incredible in terms of his defense on Dirk. And he finally got to relax and show his jumper in Game 6. He's the prototype 4 guy, Tough inside, tough on the glass, solid 15-foot jump shot. Only thing he's lacking is shot-block ability. He might be second to Wade in terms of value to the team.
~ If i’s not Haslem, it’s definitely James Posey who is second to Wade. Posey was the man. D'ing up on Dirk and Josh Howard. And hitting 3's. And taking about ten million charges. And hitting some big 3's. James Posey beat the Mavs goddammit.
~ If Miami had a nice defensive point guard. They’d actually be good. They need to freshen up the bench, get a good player in the draft. Perimeter defense.
~ What’s been great about this Finals is you now look forward to next year. So many great stories. Lebron. Are the Pistons done? New Jersey. And out West it's even crazier. NBA season is too long though. They still need to cut a month off the season.
~ What’s remarkable about seeing Shaq become mortal is realizing how ridiculous he used to be. He still commanded a double team in this series (probably the last time he commands an automatic double), but all those in close moves he missed used to be dunks. And his rebounding has fallen off the charts.
~ There wasn't a good pure point guard in this series. Mavs will be good when Devin Harris becomes a good point guard, instead of just a speed freak.
And that's about it folks. So begins the slow time in sports. Until the NFL starts up, it's all sex all the time.