Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Finals Recap

Well, this is too bad on a couple of levels.  First off, I’m going out be out of excuses for why I haven’t been writing real stuff.  Maybe the draft will help me prolong things some.  Also bad because the wrong team won.  I picked Miami before the series started, so it’s not about that.  It’s not even fair to say that Miami wasn’t the best team, even if they needed Detroit to implode and Dallas to fall apart.  Miami persevered and the others didn’t.  That’s why they are getting rings sized today.  

The wrong team won because I can’t be happy for these guys.  Shaq and Haslem are fine with me, but Walker represents every coach’s worst nightmare.  Wade won by abandoning his ability to create in favor of tunnel-vision scoring.  Mourning’s been a back-biting, self-serving poser hiding behind his kidney PR free pass for several years now.  Jason Williams is tough to cheer for.  Payton finally rode enough coattails to get his ring.   And then there’s Riley, who managed to displace Larry Brown as the worst backstabber in the league.  He ducks into the President’s chair as soon as his playoff-disaster-prone Mourning-led Heat fall apart, giving Van Gundy the chair, swears off coaching like it was a curse for several years, then slams Stan right out the door the moment the team was on the verge of a title again.  Despicable.  At least Karl Malone didn’t somehow wedge himself onto this roster.

Every year, the champions set the new trend for the other GMs to copy.  The last few years, the champs have been the Pistons and Spurs, fantastic models built on intelligent spending and teamwork.  Now, we get Miami, whom I’ve referred to as a collection of individuals on several occasions.  This may set off another round of silly spending, like Portland’s All-Star stuffed squad of 2000.  I hope this doesn’t happen, and the league doesn’t forget the lessons learned from the last few Dream Teams: gathering a room full of guys that want to be the main scoring option doesn’t work.  The Heat got away with it because over half the roster has a foot in the grave and conceded the load to Wade.  It’s a bad formula, and it’s not good for the league.  The best case scenario is for the league to keep moving towards teams built like the Suns, Spurs, Pistons, and Mavs, where big names are created through success and not the other way around.  

(sliding the soapbox back under the desk)

Why did Dallas lose the series?  It’s simple: Dirk never got off the floor.  In Game 6 of the Spurs series, he disappeared in the clutch, the bottom fell out on the Mavs, and their double-digit lead became a Spur’s win.  He erased that in Game 7 with a bulldog performance.  Game 3 of this series kicked off the exact same scenario.  Dirk was nowhere to be found as Wade exploded in the Miami comeback.  The difference was, Dirk never responded.  He tallied good numbers overall, but he never figured out how to break down Miami’s defense so that he could score at will.  Dirk kept trying in vain to stick with the plays that carried him through the western conference, refusing to adjust.  It was unsurprising to me that last night he again was AWOL in the 4th (0-4).  Dirk establishes the Dallas mindset, and he was in a shell from Game 3’s 4th quarter on.  

Where do the Mavs go from here?  They have a fantastic team in place, but must resign Jason Terry in the offseason (looks like a good bet from here).  Stackhouse is the only other major contributor not signed long term (entering final year).  They should be fine as Howard, Daniels, Diop, and Harris are all still young and developing.  

The Heat have a shakier future ahead.  O’Neal and Mourning clearly do not have much more miles to travel in their careers, and there is no prospect to replace them at the moment.  Walker is signed long-term, and that may be a good or bad thing, depending on your point of view.  Payton may take this as an opportunity to retire on his own terms, and Williams will stay on board.  Wade is up for an extension, and will probably take it.  The Heat are said, per the Miami Herald, to be interested in bringing in a combo guard in the offseason.   Haslem is signed for several more years, but Posey has a player option that he may or may not take.  It would be foolish of the Heat to sign him to more than the $6.4 million he’s set to make next year.  The Heat will have a tough time defending their crown as the cast around Wade ages.  

Additionally, I’m concerned about Wade’s development.  I’m seeing too many disturbing parallels to Steve Francis.  This isn’t to say that Steve was ever at Wade’s level, but Flash is starting to pick up the same bad habits.  Like I mentioned earlier, Wade stopped creating for others and just looked to score himself.  That may have been necessary, but it’s a tough habit to break.  Consider: after averaging almost 7 assists in the regular season, Dwayne Wade handed out as much as 6 only in the Finals’ opener.  He averaged less than 4 for the series.  In his clutch drives, it was plain that he wasn’t even interested in hitting a wide open teammate when he had the opportunity.  Again, maybe the necessary action at the time, but a hard habit to break.  Are teammates going to enjoy playing with him down the road?  Isn’t this exactly what we roast Kobe for?  At least Therapist #8/24 has a jumper; Wade has seriously become a one-trick pony.  And defenses in this league catch up to those players.  Wade’s turnovers are also disturbing; he had 4 or more in 4 of the 6 games and averaged 3.9 for the postseason.  This is the exact same road that Marbury and Francis took.  Wade may draw the annoying Jordan comparisons now, but will it last?



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