This is not the outcome we envisioned when the Miami Heat’s Big Three agreed to play together. They were already thinking Not One, Not Two, but several championships during their introductory press conference/coronation last summer. However, reality slapped the Heat in the face on Sunday, while watching the Dallas Mavericks celebrate on the floor of the American Airlines Arena. That was the scene after Dallas shocked most of the basketball world, defeating the Heat in six games in the NBA Finals. Now, LeBron James and his band of merry men will have the entire off season to ponder why the Mavericks are toasting it up and not the folks in South Beach.
After taking out the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls in convincing fashion, the NBA Finals were supposed to be a mere formality in crowning the Heat the team of the century. But the ironic thing is that Miami was beaten by a real team in the true essence of the meaning. The Heat looked like a collection of mismatched stars while the Mavericks played like a well-oiled machine that exploited Miami’s deficiencies and took advantage of a young coach who was in over his head.
This is to in no way demean Eric Spoelstra. I feel that he will become a solid head coach in this League but, unfortunately the Heat, that day has yet to manifest itself. The Heat made it to the Finals on the back of their defense and some timely shooting, both of which disappeared in the last two games of this series. The same defense that shut down MVP Derrick Rose in the Eastern Conference Finals was no where to be found as far as slowing down Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, or JJ Barea. And speaking of no where to be found, King James pulled a Houdini-like disappearing act in the closing moments of most of the games of this series.
James brought his talents to South Beach to secure his first crown with the help of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. This was supposed to be a walk in park compared to trying to carry a team on his back like he had to do in Cleveland. He was vilified for teaming up with another mega star to accomplish his ultimate goal. Hell, he gave the Cavalierss seven years to build a team around him. Danny Ferry could not get it done, so he became his own GM and took it upon himself under the rules of the NBA’s Collective Bargain Agreement to come up with his own team. The only thing he did not take into account was the importance of team chemistry in constructing his squad.
He and Wade are basically the same player and that is why the Heat looked so discombobulated in their half court offense. If they did not get out on the break and exploit their freakish athletic abilities, the offense came to a screeching halt against the Mavs ever-changing defenses. Spoelstra did not come up with any new wrinkles to get his stars free, while Mavs coach Rick Carlisle constantly threw different looks at the Heat to confuse the Big Three.
The Mavs championship renewed my faith in the Team Concept. It reminded me of the ’77 season when Bill Walton and the Portland Trail Blazers took out the Philadelphia 76ers led by Dr. J, George McGinnis, Doug Collins, World B Free and Joe Bryant, yeah Kobe’s father, off the bench.
Give me one or two superstars and a bunch of reliable role players over a collection of superstars any day. I know some of you might bring up James in Cleveland or even Patrick Ewing in New York. The difference was that Dirk Nowitzki’s role players consistently came up big for the most part where as the Cavs and Knicks role players did not. A good well balanced team normally beats a collection of stars and this series proved that.
Hopefully, James will look back on this experience and realize that he has to not only work on his game but his attitude as well. If you look at the all-time greats, they made improvements on their games after each season. Michael Jordan developed a post-up game and added a lethal jumpshot to his exciting mid-range game. Magic Johnson added the baby hook as well as extended the range of his jumper. Even Hakeem Olajuwon added a new post move to his arsenal every year. I’m not going to come down hard on James. There are enough LBJ Haters out there right now. He should work on his post up and mid-range game. He should also stop making these Alex Rodriguez-like quotes and focus on his game and stop worrying about his brand.
The 2011 NBA Playoffs were the best reality TV show that the industry had to offer in quite some time and the ratings confirmed that. You had your heroes and villains. Many of the games went down to the wire. And more importantly, the concept of team prevailed over talent. A Finals Game 7 would have been the only thing that would have made this series better. But then again, you can’t have everything. James and company should use this off season to think about what could have been and look how the Mavs players checked their egos at the door for the betterment of the team.