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Mavs Complete The Journey

The Dallas Mavericks are one of those fun anomaly teams that work despite failing to fit any of the popular trends or assumed truths of the NBA as it currently exists. Today, they also happen to be champions.

In a point guard-driven league, Dallas trots out 38-year old Jason Kidd, whose 1994 NBA debut coincided with Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook entering grade school.

The team’s regular starting swingman duo in the Finals – J.J. Barea and Shawn Marion – combined for 22 points per game in the regular season and 20.8 per game during the playoffs, compared to 52.2 and 48.2, respectively, from their Finals counterparts, the Heat’s LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

Up front, the Mavs spent the championship series leaning on Dirk Nowitzki and hoping that an injury or foul trouble for Tyson Chandler didn’t give way to extended minutes for Ian Mahinmi or Brian Cardinal.

But it all somehow worked.

An aging, un-explosive unit with key contributors (Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood) lost to injury grinded out a playoff run for the ages in the face of superstar talent (James, Wade, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant) and impossible deficits (15 points down with 5:00 to go in Game 4 of the Thunder series) while being overshadowed at every turn.

The Mavs’ postseason journey saw them targeted by many prognosticators (myself included) as potential round one upset victims against Portland.

Then, they hardly played their expected role as supporting players as they swept a stunned Lakers’ fan base that was in ‘title or bust’ mode after two consecutive championships.

In the Conference Finals, they interrupted a coronation of Durant, Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder as a new Western power.

Finally, it was James, Wade and the Heat that took center stage as Dallas simply did what they had been doing all playoffs long: win.

Yes, the Mavericks are about as surprising a champion as any 57-win team could be. And you have to wonder if they even surprised themselves a bit, given the emotional response of the MVP Nowitzki on Sunday night, as he quickly retreated to the locker room with his face covered after the final buzzer sounded for what was clearly a much-needed moment to privately absorb what he had just achieved.

Emotions were on a high for just about every member of the Mavs – and with good reason. Despite featuring nine players with 10 or more seasons of NBA experience, not a single member of the organization – right up to head coach Rick Carlisle and outspoken owner Mark Cuban – boasted a championship ring prior to Sunday’s win. Now, a title solidifies Kidd’s Hall of Fame career, places Nowitzki firmly in the discussion of the all-time greats, establishes Carlisle among the active coaching elite and adds a new franchise to the ever-so-short list of clubs with NBA championships. While this may not have marked the most exciting, well-played Finals in recent memory, the coronation of Dallas puts it among the most important.

How about those other guys? While Nowitzki was presumably getting choked up back in the Mavericks’ locker room, Miami’s Chris Bosh was shedding tears of a decidedly different nature out on the court.

However, even in light of the Heat’s crushing loss and another high-profile disappointment for (or, more accurately, from) James, there is reason for optimism in South Beach.

Given their regular season slumps and continued struggle with how to play together, Miami’s Finals appearance was an accomplishment in itself. Now, they have a full season (and then some) of experience playing with one another and, thanks to the back-ended nature of the contracts for the Big Three, some salary cap flexibility to add some complementary pieces. Assuming there is a 2011-12 NBA season, the Heat could be in prime position for not just a title run, but also a shot at the Bulls’ 72-win mark.

But that all can wait. For now, the spotlight finally belongs to Dallas.

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  • Deron

    Dirk earned his ring and he was the real closer last night. He has had to wait on long time for his ring, longer than other superstars. Congrats Dirk, J-Kidd and Co.

  • Cody Cantrell

    It’s nice to see JKidd finally get his ring, as well as it’s nice to see Tyson Chandler re-light the fire of his career. I did not find it joyful to watch the Mavericks go the distance, but they did a great job and Mark Cuban is more deserving than any other NBA team owner by far to have the priviledge of being a part of an NBA championship. Kudos guys, but enjoy….. Yal wont see another chip for a very long time.

  • Ben F

    Thanks for the comments, guys!

    Deron – Well put. I particularly liked Dirk’s low-key celebration and private moment away from the cameras, as well as ABC picking up a shot of his long-time shooting coach getting emotional after the game.

    Cody – Looks like J-Kidd may still be waiting for that ring yet if Cuban gets his way! I get the support for Kidd and all, but I still have to step back and question all the hate on LeBron for what amounted to exercising his rights as a free agent and then making a few well meaning mis-steps when you’ve got a guy on the other side of the court (Kidd) who once plead guilty to assaulting his wife. Shouldn’t we be booing him?

  • Cody Cantrell

    Ben – There is no reason that anyone should bash LeBron for making a choice that he felt was best for himself, his family, and his career. As for criticizing the players, look at it like this guys, I absolutely hate Kobe Bryant for his off the court rape allegations, multiple other accusations, and also his holier than thou attitude. But that does not change the fact that he is still one the best in the game and a damn near unstoppable offensive force on the court. My point here is that it is none of our business what these players do off the court and we are nobody to even try to judge them, we should only judge them by thier on court performance. This is basketball, not the lifetime channel bro.