Old Flames and Young Guns

By Mike Wesson
Updated: June 10, 2006

Both Heat and Mavs Have Finals moment

Washington, DC�Both the 18-year-old Miami Heat and 26-year-old Dallas Mavericks are making their first NBA Finals appearance. Both teams knocked out the first seed of their respective conference. Both teams had the second best record in their conference. Both teams came into the Finals with 12-5 playoff records. Both teams can�t win the NBA title.

Well, we�re finally getting something worthy of watching (as far as TV ratings) with this year�s NBA Finals. With all the complaining of Detroit and San Antonio, we finally have two exciting teams, or at least exciting players. Based on NBA jersey sales, Dwayne Wade (#1) and Shaquille O !Neil (#6) and the Heat will have most of America in their corner. Yes, this year the external factors will have a big impact on who wins the Finals. It will be more than just X�s and O�s.

The Dallas Mavericks momentum starts on the sidelines. And while most owners stay reclined in luxury suites, this one, with the small tee shirt and blue jeans, is high-fiving the towel boy and showering himself with popcorn.

Mark Cuban.

Anytime the boss has his own candid blog, you�ve got to be at ease. Cuban has everything to do with the carefree Dallas style of basketball. He is also indirectly responsible for the new attitude by making changes. The biggest change Cuban made was hiring Avery Johnson. It�s confirmed AJ can coach now after being awarded Coach of the Year. But he also has Dallas playing with an unyielding-and surprising toughness unseen before. That was evident when they outplayed the Spurs in the second round. The Maverick heart was suspect in past, but not anymore. Many people thought the Mavericks would do well, but didn�t imagine them taking it all the way to the finals. The leader was quoted in the June 4th edition of the Dallas Morning News. “Coming into this season, no one had Dallas and Miami in the Finals,” Mavericks coach Avery Johnson said. “If you did, you made a lot of money.”

They didn�t know you�re supposed to pay your dues-get the conference finals for two years then make it to the Finals. They simply come to play basketball.

The Miami Heat momentum started when Shaq held his press conferences in South Beach. Basketball fans knew it was serious and immediate when Pat Riley stepped in for Stan Van Gundy. He then showed his genius by overhauling the roster into a championship contender. It has worked, at least so far. Miami pretty much beat up on Detroit this time around. And regardless of how lousy Detroit seemed to have played, it�s an accomplishment. Riley�s resume is legendary and there has to be sense of confidence with him on the sidelines.

But Shaq is the reason everyone is in Miami. He may seem less dominant, but showed in game six against Detroit, he�s still about business. Gary, Alonzo, Antoine, and Pat Riley are all here because of Shaq. And they all want a ring-and want it badly. Gary Payton will play his nomadic heart out, as will Alonzo Mourning. Time is short and their careers have been long. It�s hard to beat athletes playing desperate, especially when they�re good. So, external factors are important, but the game is played on the court and each team has its weapons.

Don�t hurt �em Dirk! There is no answer for the German engineering. Unless he has an off night, he�s going to get his points. Shaq will do work despite Erick Dampier and Sagana Diop banging with him. Jason Terry could be a game changer, especially if he defends Wade. Udonis Haslem grabbing boards will be pivotal and the duo of Howard and Harris have to slow Wade down. Overall, Shaq will have to dominate for Miami to win. He�ll have to counter Dallas� athleticism and versatility. Miami cannot beat Dallas running and Dallas will have a tougher time beating an efficient Shaq oriented Heat.

Riley is a great coach but overcoming skilled athletic ability is improbable. If they do, Wade and the roll players will have to have all-around games to counter the Dallas depth. Yes, Miami is deep, but not as versatile and athletic as the Mavericks. That�s where Miami�s intangible experience can prevail. Dallas did sweep Miami during the regular season. But this isn�t the same Heat. Ask Detroit. But, with their newly acquired confidence in Avery Johnson, they will slow down Wade and frustrate Shaq. Avery Johnson will bring it all together.

In the end home court advantage and the athletically versatility of the Dallas guards and forwards will be too much for Miami. Dallas should win the 2006 NBA Finals in six games.