As advertised, I was not amused with the conference finals.
The Dallas Mavericks, to steal the name of Mark Cuban's short-lived show, became The Benefactor of a high energy Phoenix Suns team that ran out of adrenaline sometime last week, and won their first Western Conference championship.
Meanwhile, the Miami Heat blitzed through the Detroit Pistons almost as badly as the Pistons tore through the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round. Miami, like the Mavs, won their first conference title.
Both conference finals series lasted six games, and few of the games were close. It was a boring round of basketball, and I was right: they should have cancelled the playoffs after a most excellent second round.
Not everyone agrees, though. Fellow sports writer Q Bit learned the hard way the penalty of questioning my ultimate authority on the NBA playoffs. He now gets a cavity search any time he goes to the library.
The NBA Finals could be just as fugly as the third round. And while my initial prediction of Pistons-over-Mavs is now way around, that should mean I'm going with the Mavs, right?
Before I answer that, let's just take a gander at Miami's roster, shall we?
- Point guard Gary Payton, former first round pick for the Seattle SuperSonics.
- Backup point guard Jason Williams, former first round pick for the Sacramento Kings.
- Two guard Dwayne Wade, former first round pick for the Heat.
- Backup guard/forward Derek Anderson, former first round pick for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
- Third string guard/forward Dorell Wright, former first round pick for the Heat.
- Small forward Antoine Walker, former first round pick for the Boston Celtics.
- Power forward James Posey, former first round pick for the Denver Nuggets.
- Backup forward Wayne Simien, former first round pick for the Heat.
- Center Shaquille O'Neal, former first round pick for the Orlando Magic.
- Backup center Alonzo Mourning, former first round pick for the Charlotte Hornets.
- Third string center Michael Doleac, former first round pick for the Magic.
As Captain Obvious (or Ric Romero) might deduce at this juncture, a lot of Miami Heat players have been former first round picks. Now, understandably there are only two rounds, so many of the players in the league are first rounders.
But only three men — Wade, of course, and bench riders Simien and Wright — were drafted by the Heat. And besides Simien, Wright, and Posey, everyone else was a first round lottery (top 13) pick. Shaq went No. 1 overall. Mourning and Payton were No. 2 picks. Wade went No. 5 overall. 'Toine was a 6th pick, J-Will a 7th. And so on.
Now a lot of these players were good or great players who couldn't win elsewhere. Others left their fans disappointed. Walker spent a number of the years with a so-so Celtics franchise. Jason Williams was sloughed off to the Grizzlies after a few exciting years with the Kings.
Some players just bounced from team to team, and Miami was their next stop. James Posey and Derek Anderson both followed this pattern.
Some players are Hall of Fame stuff but you just can't picture them in a Heat jersey. Gary Payton is supposed to be a Sonic. O'Neal is supposed to be a Laker. Mourning is supposed to be either Hornet or — for those with a more jaunty outlook on the league — a Knick with one of the Van Gundy brothers wrapped around his leg.
A lot of these players seemed to be acquired by way of trade or free agency and built around Dwyane Wade. Much like the '97 Marlins and '01 Diamondbacks, there are too many wily veterans — and one Hall of Fame coach, Pat Riley — for this team not to win.
This is no lick on the Mavericks, though. They took down the defending national champion Spurs (who lost very little, if anything) and have perhaps the most versatile center (Dirk Nowitzki), the best coach (Avery Johnson), and best owner (Mark Cuban). Johnson is a proven winner, playing in 90 postseason games and winning a championship with the Spurs in '99.
The Mavericks roster are more than Dirk deep. Third year player Josh Howard has given his team 17 points per game as has teammate point guard Jason Terry who wasted many a three-point shot with the Hawks for so many years. Vagabond veterans Keith Van Horn, who looks more ill than Jeff Garcia during play, and Jerry Stackhouse also give the team the occasional trey.
And the most pressing question — who's gonna guard Shaq? — can be answered with two players: DeSagana Diop and Erick Dampier, who average three blocks between them.
The series does have intrigue, don't get me wrong. But the Heat seem to have way more firepower in the frontcourt and backcourt.
And that's why I'm conflicted. The Mavericks have so much huggable personality. You just want to run on the court to rub Avery Johnson's head and give Mark Cuban a high-five. It's the team that pure unadulterated passion built.
Meanwhile, with the Heat you have several prickly personalities. Be honest — a team with Gary Payton, Jason Williams, Shaquille O'Neal, Antoine Walker, Alonzo Mourning, and Pat Riley appears to have as much affability as a garbage disposal, with just as much internal discord. Yet they get along so well that you just have to respect 'em.
It pains me to slam the Mavs like this, but it's shaping up to be a sweep. Heat in four.