Posted: May 9, 2011 in NBA

The Mavs are in the Western Conference Finals and the NBA is preparing for war! Although the Mavs are preparing for basketball games and the NBA is preparing for the negotiating room wars (pending lockout/player strike after current CBA expires) but it’s exciting none the less!

Yesterday, on Mother’s Day of all days, the Los Angeles Lakers’ second attempt at a three-peat in almost a decade was terminated courtesy of the Dallas Mavericks. After a week of typically cool interviews courtesy of Kobe Bryant, and the now infamous “dot, dot, dot” quote in a post game interview with ESPN’s J.A. Adande, some thought the impossible. There was widespread talk of “no one’s done it before but they can do it” around the sports media world. “Gasol needs to get tough” they said, “The bench just needs to help out” they said, well neither happened yesterday in an inspired effort by the Mavericks.

The most telling stat that took me by surprise in this game was points off the bench. Dallas’s aging and veteran bench scored an eye popping 86 points, led by the runner up 6th Man of the Year Jason Terry who was 9/10 for 3PM and had 32 points, to L.A.’s 37. In a series where everyone knew the bench would be crucial, L.A. might as well have not even dressed theirs.

Not only was Jason Terry having a field day beyond the arc, the seemingly forgotten Peja Stojakovic pitched in with 21 points, going 6/6 from the land beyond like he used to do back in his Sacramento days. This all raises questions as these two players ALONE went 15/16 after Phil Jackson was shown in the ABC pre-game interviews as saying the key for the Lakers was to keep the Maverick’s off the three point line. Didn’t really get the message across did you Phil?

Or maybe these Laker’s weren’t destined for the three-peat. There was controversy on the last three-peat team with budding stars Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant battling for supremacy and super stardom, they almost fuelled each other to mutual success. Kobe wanted people to know it was his team, he was their star, their leader. But no matter how hard he tried, Shaq always had more points, more rebounds, and more hardware as he won 3 straight finals MVP trophies to match each ring they won together.

Ever since Shaq’s departure it was Kobe’s team, his rules, his players, all about the Black Mamba. When Pau Gasol was acquired it was a sign that Kobe would have his chance to be the #1 star to a #2 big man. Kobe could flourish and run the show the way he wanted to do without anyone talking back or trying to hog his spot light. This resulted in a well deserved (about time!) MVP award in 2007-2008 and then followed by two successive NBA championships.

But maybe that’s what great stars need, they need someone there attempting to take the torch from them so that they are always on their toes. Kobe is a mature leader, he knows the team goes as far as he takes them, and now after 14 MVP calibre seasons, he couldn’t take them past the second round. Maybe the mamba has lost his venom and it’s time to consider a change in roles, from the floor bench to floor seats.

Now onto the winning side, no one could be happier here of course than eccentric owner Mark Cuban. I don’t want to be biased but I could no be happier for him. After the tumultuous showing in the 2006 NBA Finals where the Mavericks dropped a 2-0 lead to Miami and lost four straight to lose the NBA title, no one will hesitate to remind them of their past, and hopefully it will change their future.

Cuban has been vital in this team’s revival and continued success since then. Now granted, most of that success has been in the regular season as they are a perennial top 4 team in the West every year. Has his team done that much since then? No not really, as they lost to the Warriors as a #1 seed in 2007 and were ousted early three out of the last four seasons, including that one. But that has no prevented Cuban from making changes. He added Caron Butler (sadly out with injury or this team would’ve been the #1 seed), Shawn Marion, Jason Kidd, Tyson Chandler, Brendan Haywood. As much as he knows about business and the internet he knows just as much about keeping his team fresh.

After years of adding and subtracting players from his roster, Cuban may have finally found the right formula to not only get to the finals, but reward this team of misfits for their careers of hard work. Dirk Nowitzki has given his whole career to the Mavericks and Cuban has been trying feverishly to pay him back. Now with the additions and strong resumes of Marion, Kidd, Stojakovic, Terry, they may finally have their time.

No one knows if this team will make it through the uber-competitive West or out of the Finals if they get there, but man will it be fun to watch. The pending NBA lockout after the current CBA expires will keep things in check as we can only get too excited until the eventual down fall. But for now all signs point to a great run but another great Mavericks team, and you know the angel of Stern is keeping his eye on this as the last thing he needs is Cuban walking around with a new piece of jewellery.


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