Posted on: June 29, 2011 3:37 pm
Edited on: June 29, 2011 4:25 pm
Posted by Matt Moore
Since it may be some time before we see the NBA again as everyone heads for the lockout shelter, it's important that we take note of this remarkable last season while it's still fresh in our minds. We need to preserve what we saw, and make notes of it so we don't forget when the optimism of a new season finally rolls around, be it in October or... you know, later.
So with that in mind, here are 13 things we learned from the 2010-2011 NBA Season. Why 13? Because we're trying to jinx a lockout, that's why.
The Heat will dictate the conversation, one way or another.
"Why does the media over-cover the Heat so much?" "I wouldn't hate the Heat if the media didn't cover them all the time." "Can we stop talking about the Heat?" These are a few of the kinds of comments we, and every other major media outlet dealt with this season regarding the Heat. As if we all got together in a big room and decided to torture fans of the NBA by devoting all this time and energy to covering the Heat. The reality is that the Heat provided huge traffic bumps whenever they were mentioned. The interest was there. Largely due to people's phenomenal interest in their failures. America rooted against the Heat this season, and they relished every moment Miami fell on their face. From the early season stagger out of the gates, to the mid-season lull that left tears on their faces, to their defeat on their home floor of the NBA Finals, fans went crazy wanting to rub it in. With as good as the Heat are, and they are very good, they'll be the starting point of every league-wide conversation going forward. They'll dictate what we say and how we compare teams and the question will be asked if a team can matchup with the Triad. We've just gotten through with Year One of the Miami Triad. Hope no one expects the talk to just go away now that they've fallen two games short of the goal.
You CAN win with a superstar-heavy, otherwise-limited team.
The Heat not winning the title was seen as some sort of victory, proving that superstar-teams are a flawed model, that you have to have a complete team to win a title. Tell that to the Celtics and Bulls, two of the best teams in the league who fell under the Heat's boot in the playoffs. Miami was two games away from winning the title, in a series that came down to a last minute or last second shot in four of the six games. The gap between the Heat and the Mavericks was not an ocean, it was a stream. That the Heat could not get across it is not an indication that the model is flawed, it's simply an indication that the Mavericks put together one heck of a run with one heck of a team.
But the model itself worked. If you consider that the Heat are highly likely to improve in the future, both in their internal mechanics and in improving their core, the Heat weren't a complete failure. A failure? Absolutely. No way should it have been this hard for them, no way should they have pranced like they did in preseason, no way should the roster have relied on pieces they knew were so out-dated. But they were successful, just not as successful as you would think they would be, or that they should be.
Meanwhile, the Knicks put together their own superstar team, and got slightly worse than when they had a more complete team. But the Knicks still made the playoffs and have positioned themselves to be players in the title hunt in the future. Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire are a pretty tremendous one-two punch, and they're still going to have a good shot at a third free agent in the summer of 2012. Don't be surprised to see other teams follow this model that the Heat supposedly set which was actually set by L.A. and Boston three years earlier.
Speaking of Carmelo Anthony...
A star player really can force their way not only out of a situation they don't want, but into whatever team they do want.
The Carmelo Anthony saga was absurd. It was drawn out over the course of seven excruciating months, and during that time the same rumors were floated over and over again. The same information kept coming, particularly from our own Ken Berger of CBSSports.com that New York was where Anthony wanted to be, that's the only place he'd sign the extensoin for, that would be where he was traded. And yet the Nets made every attempt to try and spin the story for themselves, hoping momentum would push Anthony to consider them. It didn't, and he landed in New York.
But consider for a moment what Anthony accomplished. Under contract for a team, the team that drafted him, who had built their franchise around him, had promised him everything, Anthony not only managed to force a trade, but a trade to the one and only team he wanted to play for. If his wife had decided she loved barbecue, the Grizzlies would have him right now. If she wanted shellfish, the Wizards would have his poster on their arena. Anthony demonstrated an unprecedented amount of power for a player, overriding what was best for the club and managing to get the exact situation he wanted... while under contract.
It's a frightening situation that has to have small market owners looking for a way to prevent it happening to them as this lockout goes on.
And speaking of the Knicks...
You can still hoodwink the Knicks, you just have to get Dolan involved.
Part of you has to wonder if Donnie Walsh's step down from the office of the President of Basketball Operations was nothing more than one giant facepalm.
The Knicks got their man all right. They got Carmelo Anthony who decided he wanted to play in New York and New York only. But instead of capitalizing on what should have been the ultimate position of strength, the Knicks once again managed to bungle the situation, and in doing so, cost themselves a world of assets they needed to build around Anthony.
The Nuggets were going to break. That much was clear. After an All-Star Saturday night meeting between Anthony and Mikhail Prokhorov failed to convince Melo to hitch his wagon to the Brooklyn train, the Nuggets really had no other option. But instead of keeping Donnie Walsh's poker face as the expression of the organization, squeezing every bit of advantage out of a situation they couldn't really lose as long as they remained cool, James Dolan brought Chef Isiah Thomas into the kitchen, turned the burners on high, and torched everything.
The result is the Nuggets going from a team that looked like it would get minimal assets out of a deal with the Knicks, to a team that fleeced them up and down. Not just Raymond Felton, Raymond Felton and Danilo Galinari. Not just Felton and Galinari, but Wilson Chandler, and draft picks. The only thing Dolan didn't send the Nuggets for a player who had made it clear he only wanted to play for Dolan in the first place and was a free agent in less than six months was Walsh's heart. Mostly because he'd already crushed it.
We thought the days of the Knicks being the team you looked to try and take advantage of were over. But James Dolan proved that you can take the front office out of the crazy, but you can't take the crazy out the ownership.
Blake Griffin is the next "You Gotta See This Guy" Guy.
We expected good things out of Blake Griffin (okay, most people did; I had him pegged for third in the ROY race behind Wall and Cousins, whoops). But no one expected this.
And that was just the beginning. Griffin was a revelation in his rookie season. Yes, the dunks were impressive. Really impressive. And bountiful. But beyond that, Griffin showed everything you want to see out of a player you would expect to become a superstar. An All-Star in his rookie season, Griffin showed tenacity, smart rebounding, great conditioning, a versatile, if still unpolished offensive game, and a craftiness to put that crazy athleticism to good use. It got so bad teams started giving him flagrant fouls to get him off the rim. Nothing worked. And Griffin has managed, almost by himself, to make the Clippers a must-watch team and a squad on the rise. He turned the heads of every player in the league and has everyone expecting the Clippers, yes, the Clippers, to be a playoff team within a few years.
It was a remarkable ride, and it was just year one.
Dirk Nowitzki is worthy of "legend" status.
This is what a ring can do. From near-legend to legend. Nowitzki's season had pretty much convinced everyone that due to staying power and consistency, he deserved to be mentioned with some of the greatest offensive players of all time. His postseason run proved he was worthy of "legend" status outright. The comparisons to Larry Bird were made (even if slightly absurd given Bird's rebounding and passing). The comebacks, the last second game winners, the impossible fadeaways, it was a remarkable torrential downpour of tenacity, skill, and determination. Nowitzki took himself off Barkley's list and into the halls of champions. If there was an overriding theme in the Mavericks' locker room, mostly made of players who had been questioned their entire careers, it was this: "No one can take this away from us." They had been validated, no one more so than Nowitzki, the Big German Legend.
Derrick Rose is the next superstar with the polarizing game.
The MVP won in convincing fashion, but his postseason struggles (and successes) will continue the theme started in the regular season. There is a debate as to just how great Rose is. If you watch him, it's hard to see anything but a bonafide "best in the game" caliber player. The twisting layups, the pull-up jumpers, the incredible speed, it's all there. Rose had two incredible performances, one against the Pacers in the first round, and an absolutely blistering game against the Hawks in the semifinals. His regular season was marked by one important number, 62, the most wins in the NBA as he lead the Bulls to the top seed in the East.
But Rose touched off a heated debate between pundits and fans who consider advanced metrics overrated if they don't reward a player that shows what Rose showed in the regular season, and proponents of said metrics who questioned just what Rose's impact was beyond the eyeball effect. It wasn't a matter of points or effort, but efficiency and effectiveness. Rose's adjusted plus/minus and efficiency metrics showed a player anywhere from a marginal liability to a slightly above-average gunner. A key question raised was how Rose was better than Russell Westbrook in terms of his on-court effectiveness. The playoffs brought this into stark relief as Westbrook was buried for taking too many shots with a low percentage while Kevin Durant was on his team (also missing shots most of the time in the WCF), and Rose was excused for some of the mostly truly dreadful performances by an MVP in the Conference Finals.
Rose is young, and will improve. He is a remarkable talent, and in my opinion, very worthy of the MVP. But if his efficiency doesn't improve and the highlights don't fade, Rose will continue his ascension to the most polarizing player in the league in terms of his game. LeBron's character and willpower is questioned, but the strongest comparison to Rose in terms of his controversial effectiveness is really Kobe Bryant.
When the dam is burst, evacuate the town, bring in the bulldozers, and start over. Don't bring in mops.
The Cavaliers broke the record for consecutive losses in NBA history this season. That's going to hang on those players' career for all time. They will always have this season on their permanent records. But what's worse is that this monumental failure wasn't the result of cleaning the decks. The Cavaliers were actually trying to win.
The Cavs didn't try and start completely over once LeBron James left. Despite brining in new management and a new coach, and having a roster of extremely questionable talent, the Cavs tried to compete. The disaster that unfolded would have been more understandable if it had been D-Leaguers and undrafted rookies trying to make a future roster. Instead, the Cavaliers were a team of veterans, mostly injured, but some just inexperienced, thrown together facing what amounted to death from heartbreak from the team, its fans, and the organization. The arena even seemed sad.
If the Cavaliers taught us one thing this season it's that when things go as badly as they did for the Cavaliers, it's not best to try and compete. You blow it up. The Raptors embraced this to a degree. They gave out some bigger contracts in the offseason, but when things went badly, they did try and bring in young talent. Don't be surprised if Bargnani were to wind up elsewhere, provided anyone would want to take a flyer on him and his massive contract. More and more the younger players were given time. In Denver, the move was made preemptively. The Nuggets, and then soon after the Jazz both decided they weren't going to wait around for their superstar to stab them in the heart. They moved them for the most flexibility they could wrangle, set themselves up well for the future, and went back to the drawing board. It's one thing to have a losing team. It's another to pay quite a bit of money for a losing team.
As the Magic face the Dwight Howard situation, Otis Smith should pay attention. Sure, do everything you can to convince Howard to stay, because your window is shut for the next five years and your job is probably liquid if he goes. But he minute it becomes clear it's over, that you've lost the franchise center, do what you can to set the team up for the future. It's the only way to make sure you don't wind up with the black mark this season's Cavs carry with them, emotional victory over Miami or not.
A reminder: everyone is human, and they are vulnerable.
Shaq played a handful of games, tried to come back in the playoffs, got injured again, and that was it for a career. Shaquille O'Neal played his last season in the NBA, after a decade and a half as the Most Dominant center in the league. Jerry Sloan was thought invulnerable. There was nothing that could remove him from Utah. But instead, unrest from his star player and a young team that couldn't gel did him in. Sloan was a legend, a staple of the league, an unshakeable part of the foundation. And now he's gone.
So we remember that everyone will have their day, that eventually Kobe Bryant will have to hang it up, as will LeBron James and eventually Derrick Rose. But we also saw what conditioning can do, as Jason Kidd won a title on a team full of aging veterans. And even age doesn't protect you, as Greg Oden suffered yet another knee injury which ended his season. You can never tell when the ride is over, so players as competitors, and we as the fans that watch them, should appreciate every moment they're on the floor.
Chris Paul is still the best point guard in the league, when healthy.
Derrick Rose may be the league's best player, but his position is as much a hybrid as LeBron James'. For the best point guard in basketball, we were assured of what we were pretty confident of to begin with: Chris Paul is the best at his position in the league, when healthy.
The Hornets blistered out of the gates, and it was Paul showing that he could do all the things he could before injuries derailed his season in 2010. The super-vision, the flawless technique, the expert shooting, it was all back.
Then it left for a while. Paul struggled in the middle of the season with his aggressiveness, too often deferring in key situations. The Hornets would go on long winning streaks and long losing streaks, stabilizing just long enough to ensure their playoff berth.
But in the first round, Paul showed that he had been seemingly been saving himself. He torched the Lakers end to end, showing that they were vulnerable and foreshadowing the Lakers' second-round flameout. Paul is still the best at his position, and whatever team he winds up on after 2012 will have a franchise player for the rest of his career, most likely.
New Orleans is in trouble.
They made the playoffs. They met the attendance mark. They pacified Chris Paul. And still, the future of the New Orleans Hornets is very much in the air as we enter the lockout. The Hornets' prospective buyer, Gary Chouest, backed out, and George Shinn had all he could stand. So the league was forced to buy the Hornets. The NBA and its 29 other owners are in possession of one its franchises.
The league has promised to make every effort to keep the team in New Orleans, working with local leadership to try and find a stable ownership group in a region that can't seem to catch a break. But the longer the situation goes, the more it becomes untenable, and the more anxious owners will be to capitalize on their investment by selling to the highest bidder... which will likely come from outside the state of Louisiana.
Even after a season that showed so much promise on the floor, these are dark times for the Hornets.
No one trusts the Maloofs.
NBA ownership never goes against its own. That's a pretty solid unwritten rule. And yet when former NBA player and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson made the case for Sactown to keep the Kings, with plans in place to make them profitable, the league made it clear that if forced to, they would vote against the desires of the Maloof brothers. The team will stay in Sacramento another season.
So now you have fans that don't trust the Maloofs not to screw them out of their team. You have ownership that doesn't trust their decision making in deciding where to relocate and how. You have the league trying to deal with a weak ownership group and another publicity nightmare.
So no, it hasn't been a great couple of months for the owners of the Kings. It's unclear how this story ends, whether the Kings will be in Sacramento or Anaheim in 2012. But we learned this season that the Board of Governors and its ownership representatives do have their limits in terms of what they will go along with.
(Insert Donald Sterling joke here.)
This league can still surprise us.
The Lakers and Celtics were going to meet in the Finals. That looked certain. Then it looked like the Lakers and the Bulls. But it was Miami and Dallas. Surely the Heat would win, cementing their destiny, manifest style. But no, Dirk Nowitzki and Mark Cuban raised the trophy.
In a season that faced so much uncertainty about the future of the league as it became more and more apparent that neither side was willing to make the significant steps of compromise to avoid a lockout, we learned that nothing in the 2011 season was certain either. The Thunder weren't ready? They traded for Kendrick Perkins, became a contender. The Thunder were ready? A Mavericks assault on offense showed they still have some things to learn on defense. The Bulls are better, not great? They earned the top seed with a league-best 62 wins. The Bulls are worthy of being favorites? A five-game flameout against the Heat. It goes on and on.
The Lakers will be in the Finals as long as this core together? Buried under a Mavs avalanche of 3-pointers. The Celtics are still the favorites? Crushed beneath the Heat's athleticism. The Heat can't be toppled because of their talent? Dallas showed beat the team that won a title with a slogan of "15 strong" exactly what that means.
One player can't do that much damage to a franchise? Look at the Cavs. One player can't really change the fate of a franchise? Check out Blake Griffin. The Bucks and Kings will be must-watch League Pass teams? Only if you like DeMarcus Cousins techs and missed jumpers. The Timberwolves are hopeless? Hello, Kevin Love. The Timberwolves have to get better at some point? Hello, David Kahn.
The Grizzlies are a miserable failure of a franchise and professional basketball will never work there? Seven playoff wins, the first in franchise history, and an upset over the top-seeded four-time champion Spurs (kind-of).
Yao Ming can't get hurt again? Oh, sad. Greg Oden can't get hurt again? Sadder. You can't make the second round and push the top seed to six games and have a bad season? Ask Hawks fans. Superstars can't just decide where they play? Carmelo says "Hi" from New York.
The Suns will never trade Steve Nash? Okay, we're still waiting on that one.
But the fact remains, this was an absolutely stunning season, from start to finish. It was full of drama, last-second trades, intrigue, big-time personalities, new rivalries begun, old rivalries renewed, dramatic comebacks, and unlikely champion, and most of all, great, great, great basketball.
But if there's one thing we've learned from the season that was more than any other?
There's absolutely no reason to throw away all the good of this season for a lockout.
Posted on: June 29, 2011 11:34 am
Edited on: June 29, 2011 12:02 pm
Posted by Royce Young
Dirk Nowitzki is definitely the NBA's greatest international player ever. And being from Germany, as you might assume, he's kind of a national hero there. The tall guy that went to the United States and took over the NBA.
Dirk returned to his hometown of Wuerzburg, Germany, for a little celebration and his town flipped out. Thousands of people showed up for a parade-type thing and if you weren't paying attention, you'd think these were pictures from the official Mavs parade.
Naturally, Dirk sang "We Are The Champions" from a balcony. Saw that coming from a mile away.
Nowtizki said he was "overwhelmed" by the turnout and for good reason. He's the first German to win a NBA title and basketball is big overseas, but wow! For one guy, that's quite a showing there.
Posted on: June 26, 2011 5:39 pm
Edited on: June 26, 2011 5:43 pm
Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki says the team partied harder after losing the 2006 NBA Finals than they did after winning the 2011 NBA Finals. Posted by Ben Golliver.
Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki was an emotional unknown to the nation for more than a decade. A bit distant, subject to cultural barriers as an international player and not playing an overly athletic game, Nowitzki was a superstar who resided on the outskirts. He was rarely the hot story, unless you count the time he got bamboozled by his crooked fiance.
All that changed when the Mavericks defeated the Miami Heat in the 2011 NBA Finals. Nowitzki and the Mavericks were the nation's heroes, having slayed the new Evil Empire in South Florida. The enduring image of this newfound celebrity and accessibility came from South Beach's Club Liv, when Cuban, Nowitzki and company bought out the club and partied with the Larry O'Brien trophy in full view of thousands of cell phone cameras. This was the peak of happiness, the ultimate spoils for the victors.
The Dallas Morning News reports, though, that Nowitzki told 1310 AM in Dallas that the Mavericks actually drank more following their 2006 NBA Finals loss to the Miami Heat than they did after winning the title.
"I actually think we partied harder in '06 when we lost just to forget about it than we did now. Yeah, we've had some good nights so far, my birthday was in there. In '06, Jet picked me up for the party bus almost every day, and we went somewhere just to make us forget and have a good time. We ended up in Vegas after three hard weeks. This year, we've had a couple of good nights, but I'm 33. My body can't recover, so you have to party one day, and the next day you have to be off. You can't go back to back when you're that old. Partying once in a while gets old. But I'll definitely put in some good work when I get to Germany when I see my friends, definitely be a couple of good nights there."This is something you wouldn't expect and we likely wouldn't have known -- in full -- had Nowitzki not earned the teflon status we give to NBA champs. It follows in a long line of revealing statements and actions that we were witness to over the last month or so. Nowitzki the enigma was replaced by Nowitzki the showman and leader. Point blank: he opened up. He admitted to the media that he ran off the court following Dallas' Game 6 win so that he could cry in the locker room by himself, expressed deep respect and appreciation for his teammates and owner Mark Cuban, and displayed a subtle but sophisticated sense of humor in his post-game press conferences, dropping unexpected quips and honest assessments on just about any topic.
Of all the great things that happened during the 2010-2011 NBA season -- record TV ratings, an amazing playoffs, the emergence of young stars and new championship contenders -- getting to know a more humanized Nowitzki ranks at the top of the list. Experiencing the joys of winning with athletes is a euphoric sensation, but hearing about the pain of losing is fascinating too. Here, Nowitzki gives us both.
Posted on: June 21, 2011 4:30 pm
Edited on: June 21, 2011 5:21 pm
Among the many reasons this NBA season and these NBA playoffs were incredible, the fact that the Mavericks -- who had never won a title -- won should be considered heavily as the favorite. This was no rote "just another title" to throw on a dynasty's pile, nor a coronation of a team expected to win. It was an organic title, the kind that everyone should pay more attention to in sports. From good team to great team to hot team in the playoffs and finally champion.
And now we've got a nice video of what it was like after the Mavericks partied like a rock star on South Beach. Here's a video of them returning home to Dallas on the team flight. Highlights include:
But the best part of this video? This, right here:
That, friends, is priceless.
(HT: Earl Sneed on Twitter)
Posted on: June 17, 2011 7:18 pm
Edited on: June 17, 2011 7:27 pm
Posted by Royce Young
OK, Cleveland, it's over now. The LeBron James saga finally has a bit of closure. The season of vengeance and hate has ended, and now we can all pick up the pieces and take a step forward.
I understand you're psyched about LeBron's failure and all. If I were in your circumstance, maybe I'd respond the same way. But you burned the jerseys, booed him to death, cheered wildly when the Mavs beat the Heat and had a day honoring Dallas. I think that's enough.
But now? Now people are naming their unborn children after Dirk Nowitzki. Via the NY Daily News:
A pregnant Cleveland radio host is getting the ultimate revenge on LeBron James for leaving the Cavaliers: she'll name her son after a star player on the team that beat the Miami Heat for the NBA championship.Why not just go all the way with this? Why not "Dallas" or "Maverick?" (Oh wait, not Maverick -- that's the reason LeBron's in Miami.) Or how about "Hatelebron?" Or "Lebronsucks?" I feel like Jerry in the "Seven" episode. What about, Mickey?
She does make a good point though for all the people that are saying this is ridiculous. Navidad agrees. But she'll always have a fun story about how they got the name of their second child. She'll have to explain she made a silly promise on Twitter -- which obviously is a binding contract -- but it all happened because Dirk's Mavericks knocked LeBron and his evil Heat teammates off. As a Clevelander I'm sure that's something they will take great pride in.
Navidad said it's actually her husband's turn to name the child -- she named the first -- but said she promises the baby's name will include Dirk somewhere, even if it's a middle name.
Lebronsucks Dirk Navidad. Got a nice ring to it.
Posted on: June 16, 2011 1:52 pm
Edited on: June 16, 2011 4:17 pm
Posted by Matt Moore
Under a blistering sun (as usual) in Dallas on Thursday, the Dallas Mavericks celebrated their NBA championship in front of an estimated 250,000 fans along their championship parade. Mark Cuban grinned, Tyson Chandler rode with his kids, Brian Cardinal got to celebrate being the Brian Cardinal of a championship team. But perhaps funniest was Dirk Nowitzki, singing a tune to the crowd.
Well, singing may be a strong word for it.
Nowitzki may be the happiest guy on the planet right now. In fact, all these Mavericks seem to embody joy.
Perhaps that's what's best about the Mavericks winning the Finals. There's no self-evident "Well, yeah, we expected to win" like there would have been from Los Angeles or Miami. There's no quiet reserved respect for the moment. There's just an egregious amount of celebrating and joy, as there should be when a team wins a championship.
And terrible singing. Lots of terrible singing.
Posted on: June 16, 2011 12:26 pm
Posted on: June 14, 2011 12:32 pm
Edited on: June 14, 2011 3:20 pm
Posted by Matt Moore
See, when people question their will to win? This is what they're talking about.
Reports surfaced Monday on 790 The Ticket in Miami that some Heat players joined the Mavericks on Sunday night while the new NBA champs partied on South Beach (photos!) after their Game 6 win. One trusted member of Mavs media confirmed that Erick Dampier was one of the Miami members in attendance, along with unnamed others.
Just so we're clear on this. The Mavs trash-talked you all series long, dashed your title hopes, put even more criticism on your squad, celebrated on your floor and then in your city, and you go party with them? Nice chemistry guys. A few assorted thoughts:
(HT: BDL via PBT)
Tags: 2011 Finals, 2011 Heat-Mavericks, 2011 Mavericks-Heat, 2011 NBA Finals, 2011 NBA Playoffs, Brendan Haywood, Caron Butler, Chris Bosh, Corey Brewer, Dallas Mavericks, DeShawn Stevenson, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwyane Wade, Eddie House, Erick Dampier, Erik Spoelstra, Finals, Ian Mahinimi, Jamal Magliore, James Jones, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Jason Terry, Joel Anthony, Jose Barea, LeBron James, Mario Chalmers, Mark Cuban, Mark Cuban, Miami Heat, Mike Bibby, Mike Miller, NBA Finals, NBA Playoffs, NBA Playoffs, Pat Riley, Peja Stojakovic, Rick Carisle, Shawn Marion, Tyson Chandler, Udonis Haslem, Zydrunas Ilgauskas