MIAMI -- Reaching the NBA Finals typically means a shorter offseason for the teams involved. This year, the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks realize they might be looking at a lengthy layoff because labor strife looms.
The collective bargaining agreement expires June 30, and while the league and players are trying to reach a new deal, they remain far apart on major financial issues, raising the possibility of a work stoppage.
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"Until something is done, nothing is done," Heat player representative James Jones said Monday on the eve of the Finals. "We're looking at a scenario where we're riding a high of excitement and the game is thriving, to coming back to reality and understanding we're in a labor battle where there may not be games and players may be locked out."
In an attempt to block a potential lockout, the players' association filed an unfair labor charge against the league last week with the National Labor Relations Board.
"From what I hear and read and see, we're going to get locked out," Mavericks co-player rep Brian Cardinal said. "But hopefully that doesn't happen."
Thanks largely to interest in the Heat, the league has seen a big increase in TV ratings during this year's playoffs. Any work stoppage would come with the sport's popularity at a peak.
"Not thinking about that now," the Heat's Dwyane Wade said. "When it's time to think about it, we will. Obviously, it's something that we've known is a possibility for a while. All of us have done our jobs and if there is, we'll be prepared for it.
"But at this point, the game is at its highest. The game is doing great. We've been part of the most-watched games in NBA history. NBA basketball is as [good] as it's been in a long time."
When Erick Dampier first saw the players' parking area at AmericanAirlines Arena, he was less than thrilled. Like many of the hallways around the Heat locker room, the sides of the garage are covered in pictures.
Pictures, that is, of Miami's win over Dallas in the 2006 NBA Finals -- when Dampier was a member of the Mavericks.
He's with the Heat now, and even though he's endured the ignominious fate of going from a starter for much of the second half of the regular season to being out of the postseason rotation entirely, Dampier is pleased just to have another chance to win the ring that slipped away from him in 2006 when the Mavs won the first two games of the series before dropping four straight.
Dampier played in 51 games this season, starting 22, and hasn't appeared for the Heat since April 6.
"Being on a team like this, you have to sacrifice something," said Dampier, who signed with the Heat in November after Udonis Haslem was injured. "I just looked at it as, I have to do whatever's necessary for the team to win. ... Being older, having played this game for a while, it's only about getting an opportunity to win a championship."
Seeing old friends on the Dallas side during these finals will not make the series emotionally trying, Dampier said. He's with Miami now, and he made peace a long time ago with what happened in 2006.
"It's all about us winning at this point," Dampier said. "We can reference back to 2006 all we want to. That doesn't mean a damn thing if we don't win it this year. Those guys won it in 2006 and they deserved to win it. That's how I look at it. Here's our opportunity for us to win. We've just got to go out there and take advantage of it."
"Grilled cheese and French fries -- that's all he would eat back then," Terry said Monday.
Terry said he keeps in touch with Bibby, which hasn't always been easy this year. Bibby played for three teams during the regular season, and he gave up his entire salary for next season to join Miami.
Now the 13th-year pro has a chance to win his first ring.
"At this point in his career he has nothing left to do but win a championship," Terry said. "This was a great situation for him, and I'm happy for him. We're brothers. But when the lights come on Tuesday night, we'll be fighting for every inch of this court."
Terry also seeks his first title. He has spent the past seven years with the Mavericks and averaged 15.8 points per game during the regular season, mostly off the bench.
"He's still playing at a high level," Bibby said. "He's being aggressive. The way he's playing now is the way I always saw him play when we were at school together."
Dallas star Dirk Nowitzki is shooting 52 percent from the floor, 52 percent from 3-point range and 93 percent from the foul line so far in the playoffs.
What makes those numbers look even better is the fact that he had similar ones in the 2010 postseason.
Nowitzki shot 55 percent from the field, 57 percent from beyond the arc and 95 percent from the foul line in Dallas' six playoff games last year. He's on pace to become the first player in the last 20 years to shoot at least 50 percent from the floor, 50 percent from 3-point range and 90 percent from the foul line in multiple postseasons.
Over that span, 15 other players have done so once, including Heat reserve James Jones in 2009.
And for comparison's sake, Nowitzki shot just 34 percent from 3-point range during the 2006 playoffs, when Dallas lost to Miami in the title series.