By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
Was Dallas Basically Fooling Us Into Thinking They Were Championship Caliber?
SAN ANTONIO — It turned out to be nothing but Fool’s Gold in Big D.. It was a sham, a mockery, a shamockery if you will of what was supposed to be a new day in Mavericks land. A new head coach was bringing a new direction to a team that had never seen consistency in the playoffs.
Yet what ended up happening in a two week span was the heartbreak and demoralized realization that the Dallas Mavericks were still, well, the same old Dallas Mavericks who falls in love with the jump shot.
“We aimed high this year, and I told them that a lot of teams have to go through this,” Mavericks head coach Avery Johnson told reporters after the 95-92 loss.
That is a good speech to give the basketball troops and their legions of fans but the reality of the situation is that Johnson and the Mavericks were not ready to ascend the throne that they thought they had rightfully secured.
This team, in its current make up, is not a championship caliber team because it is made up of youth and very little experience in these matters.
Tuesday’s loss was indicative of how the Mavericks played good teams in the playoffs. What was ironic is that the Mavericks lost to a team that was built in the traditional ‘playoff’ style in the Miami Heat.
The only team that they struggled with were the San Antonio Spurs, a team built on a similar formula. In both series, the Mavericks were exposed in some key defensive areas but only the Heat were able to capitalize.
Whether basketball fans want to believe the premise or not, experience does make a tremendous difference in these situations. The Mavericks really didn’t have any answers to Dwayne Wade’s scoring. Whether he was hitting 20-foot bank shots or driving to the basket, the third year player out of Marquette made the porous defense pay for their mental lapses.
Dallas’ inexperience at stopping runs was exploited continuously as the Heat basically gave Wade the ball and trusted him in coming up in clutch situations. Wade and back court mate Jason Williams distributed the ball to the players that could hurt the Mavs the most and that was usually a shooter or a post player.
“They made some adjustments,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “I thought once they got back home, they were great, obviously Dwayne was great. After Game 2, whatever, he was unstoppable.” Much was made about how Johnson had made adjustments against San Antonio and his former coach, Gregg Popovich. Many articles were written about how Johnson was fast becoming a coach on the rise in just his first year.
However, as great as the accolades may have been during the season and even up to three weeks ago, the one thing that proved to many experts, myself included, was that he wasn’t tested as a head coach. The NBA Finals was the ultimate test and he failed the test with four straight losses.
The deficiencies of the team right now are glaring. At the center position, athleticism is a must. If you are looking at what a veteran player, as a back up, can do for you in these games, just look at Alonzo Mourning and his most recent performance in game six of this series.
Mourning had eight points, six rebounds and five blocked shots. As a 14-year-veteran, Mourning knew his role and he did his job. When you look at other players on that team, they all accepted their roles in this endeavor. They accepted their roles and they bought into the coach’s philosophy.
Ironically this is what has to happen for this young team to succeed. The players have to accept their roles and they most definitely have to buy into what Johnson is preaching, teaching and showing to this young team.
Players have to get dedicated to a new way to playing Mavericks basketball and they have to be dedicated to the system that Johnson and the coaching staff has put in place.
Right now, this team is still playing “Nellie” ball and not “Little General” ball.
As disheartening as this loss could be for this team and their fan base, the positive to take from this experience is that they will learn what it takes to be champions. Dedication is what is needed and you have to learn from the mistakes that plagued them since the loss in game three.
“I go down with my guys. I’ll try to get better this summer,” Johnson said in post game. “They will try to get better. But we’ve had an incredible year, and I think you guys have been really fair to us.” That is all anyone can expect this team to do. Someone had to win and someone had to lose. As hard as it may seem for the Mavericks’ faithful, this team just wasn’t ready to make that extra step like Miami was able to do. Eventually this team may be able to do just that.
SPURS ALREADY RE-TOOLING INTERIOR FOR NEXT SEASON
The season is officially over but the San Antonio Spurs made a big splash of their own. The Spurs have done the ‘impossible’ by trading veteran center Rasho Nesterovic to the Toronto Raptors for Matt Bonner and Eric Williams.
In a story that appeared in the daily paper and on that website, Spurs general manager R.C. Buford said“We are excited about the additions of Matt and Eric.
Matt is a big guy who has the unique ability of knocking down the outside shot which will help us spread the floor. Eric gives us a steady veteran presence and some added depth at the forward position.” This is good business move for the Spurs as Rasho’s contract was a hefty $7 million number and they were able to fill that salary slot with two solid players.Bonner, a 6-10 forward, has spent the past two seasons with the Raptors.
Last year he appeared in 78 games, averaging 7.5 points and 3.6 rebounds in 21.9 minutes a game while shooting .448 (209-467) from the field, .420 (102-243) from three-point range which tied for 12th in the NBA, and .829 (63-76) from the free throw line.
During his rookie season in 2004-05 he shot .533 (247-463) from the field and .424 (39-92) from beyond the arc while scoring 7.3 points a game. For his career the former Florida Gator has appeared in 160 games, averaging 7.3 points and 3.6 rebounds in 20.4 minutes per game.
Williams, an 11-year NBA veteran, played in 28 games for the Raptors last season, averaging 3.3 points and 1.8 rebounds in 12.6 minutes a game. Prior to being traded to Toronto midway through the 2004-05 season, he started in 21 games for the New Jersey Nets, averaging 12.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 35.2 minutes per game.
For his career, the 6-8 forward has played in 637 games for five teams (Toronto – 2005-06; New Jersey – 2004-05; Cleveland – 2003-04 and Boston – 1995-97, 1999-2004), averaging 8.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 24.5 minutes a game.
AS THE SEASON WINDS DOWN, WHAT’S NEXT?
Believe it or not but it’s almost time for Summer League basketball. The NBA Draft is next Thursday night and shortly afterwards, teams will be putting their summer league rosters together and headed out to Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Salt Lake City.
If you get a chance to catch a game in your area, go and see the up and coming players of the NBA.
Right here in San Antonio there’s a basketball tournament that will kick off next Thursday night. The U18 tournament, hosted by the San Antonio Sports Foundation, will feature some top teams in the Americas and will be playing at St. Mary’s University.
To find out more about this tournament, go to www.usabasketball.com.
Finally don’t forget about the ladies basketball junkies. Now in their tenth year, the WNBA needs the support sports fans all over the country. Check out what they have to offer at their website at www.wnba.com.