After watching Lebron and Wade have another championship-esque celebration following their excruciating 16-0 run is making me upset. So I’m dedicating this space to a positive story (no, not Juwan Howard’s “Hey, don’t you belong on the Junior Varsity Team” performance)…but first—let me get out all my anger by listing all of the other things I’m frustrated with:
Bynum’s shove, that one of Oklahoma City and Memphis has to lose, that Russ Westbrook is getting way too much hate when Scott Brooks’ crunch time play calling should be called out more, PVR recorders that don’t know when a game is going into triple overtime, zero Gus Johnson, zero Nate Robinson, the fact that I want Atlanta to force the first (!) Game 7 but realistically Chicago is the only team that can stop Miami before the Finals, Kenny’s pictures, the fact that it may have helped the Lakers to get swept because now they’ll have no doubt that they have to get Dwight Howard, that after watching the Heat Dwight Howard will want to go to LA, that the Lakers are getting Dwight Howard and Danny Ainge not bringing a sign to every Celtics game saying he was wrong about the Green-Perkins trade. He averaged 8, 2 and 1 versus the Heat! And wouldn’t it be nice if you had Perk and Nate Robinson instead having to play Shaq and Rondo both missing limbs?
But let’s move to a more positive storyline. That of Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks. A lot of people foresaw them losing to Portland. Nope. Everyone thought they would lose to the Lakers. Swept them. Now Dirk and the Mavs are waiting for the tired winner of the Oklahoma City-Memphis series and look like favorites to get out of the West.
Here’s where it gets interesting. I’ve mentioned this before how Dirk belongs in the 2001 All-Star game era of players who are slowly getting phased out of the game. Granted, Dirk wasn’t in the game—but it stands out in my head and is a great landmark for that era of players. Also, Allen Iverson put together an insane comeback in the 2nd half to bring back the East.
Anyway, Dirk represents this group of players who were drafted sometime in the 90s and all peaked in the early 00s. Duncan? 3rd all-star apperance. Kobe’s third, Kidd’s fourth, KG’s fourth, C-Webb’s fourth, T-Mac’s first, Iverson’s second, Carter’s second, Ray Allen’s second etc. And there are a few oldies thrown in there (Malone and David Robinson)—for the most part, this was the welcoming party to the new era of basketball players. Much like many think this year’s game was the beginning of a new era of superstar in the same way.
It’s fitting that Dirk wasn’t invited. Dirk’s sole Finals’ appearance has been labeled as a choke job in the highest order. Giving up a 2-0 lead and letting the Heat string together four straight wins which opened (for only a brief period) a Jordan-Wade comparison that seemed scarily plausible.
(Sidenote: The 2-3-2 Finals format absolutely kills me. I still think the Mavs would have stood a much better chance of winning that series if it was 2-2-1-1-1. With 2-3-2 you still allow the home team to win all of its home games in order to win it all—but you have the issue that the home team should never have to face an elimination game so long as they win at home. The Mavs had to come home for an elimination game with the Heat winning 3 straight games and holding all the momentum. Not fair for the better team to have to face that. If you’re worried about travel the series should be 3-3-1…but that won’t happen because the owners need a guarantee of 2 home games)
Going back to Dirk—out of those 90s drafted players he’s gotten the worst rep (maybe outside McGrady—although T-Mac had those years when he could score at will). He’s been discounted and overlooked ever since that Miami series—and especially after the Golden State series in ’07. No rings (Duncan, Kobe), no profilic playoff performances (Iverson, Carter)—nothing. Even Chris Webber has the ’02 Western Conference Finals reffing debacle to at least say that he should have been in the Finals.
Dirk and the Mavs have been largely ignored. Last year’s falling to the lower-seeded Spurs should have put the dagger in the Dirk era. They were done. Dirk would twist and turn his way to early exits and Mark Cuban’s pocket would been a one way ticket addressed to the desk of David Stern every spring. Dirk would put together a few more playoff years—maybe even keep that 50 win season streak alive. Then we’d be sold on the Roddy Beaubois era in Dallas which would include full building sized ads saying: “IF WE DIDN’T TRADE HIM, HE MUST BE AMAZING.”
In other words, this wasn’t supposed to end pretty for Dallas. But perhaps the Basketball Gods have something in store for the pained Dallas fans. After rewarding them by sweeping the Lakers on a deadly Puerto Rican-German pick and pop—which sounds closer to dessert than a play designed to crush the once-great Lakers.
Speaking of dessert—wouldn’t it be even better if Dallas showed up and spoiled Lebron’s dessert (James equated each round of the playoffs to a course in a meal). One Puerto Rican-German pick and pop for you, Lebron, coming right up.
Here’s where it gets even more interesting. Remember how we were talking about how Dirk would be representing the older generation of players (along with Kidd, Terry, Marion) against the new wave of superteam/superfriend dynasties? This may be the last shot for the 90s draftees. Think about it—could Dirk be the last leader of a team who won a championship that was drafted before 2001?
Garnett, Allen and Pierce may be done. Kobe could certainly do it again but we can’t say it for sure after they got clobbered by the Mavs. Carter and Shaq will never be the leader of a team. Iverson is done. Is this it for this group? Is Dirk their last chance before they hand the torch to OKC, Chicago and Miami?
Dirk would be getting revenge against the Heat, against all those who have discounted him before and against people who still want to hold him out of this era’s greatest players. He’d cement himself into my 2001 All-Star Game—without even being there. And he’d do it all in one series.