As David Stern gently weeps, the world rejoices.
From the (on) crack crew at ABC after last night's game "nobody can say Dirk is soft now. He's a top twenty player of all time."
Correct, but that was true last month.
When life gives you lemons, draw comparisons between yourself and the guy who has a delicious papaya.
In 2008, two teams seemed to be in the same boat. A successful regular season, disappointing playoff outcome, aging veterans, the wrong coach. Both teams were written off by the media as lacking the will to win. Time to take out the dynamite and rebuild, said the media.
One GM took the media's advice to heart, and traded his best player for pennies on the dollar and cap room. The other doubled-down, got rid of bad apples, brought in some number-crunchers to wring every last bit out of a core that won 51 games in 2007-2008.
Lesson learned, when you have a 50 win team (much less a 60 win team), you keep the dynamite at home. Mark Cuban recognized that he had a once-in-a-franchise in Dirk Nowitzki, and realized its easier to win a ring with 51-31 as your starting point.
Most sportswriters seem scarcely capable of bathing themselves. You don't let them dictate personnel decisions. You don't buy into narratives about "softness" or "lack of star power", or whatever the hell the agreement monkeys decide to agree upon.That's why YOU are a GM, and THEY are sportswriters.
Off-topic, but you have to think this gives owners of non-destination franchises a leg up in negotiating rules inhibiting the sort of machinations that brought about the Heat's unholy alliance.
Let's face it, David Stern wants to recreate the dynastic era of the 1980s and 1990s. Right or wrong, the Heat racking up eight straight championships (or six, 'cause you know LeBron's going to take two vanity years to record a rap album and try out professional Jai-alai) would fit the bill. Sure, fans are angry at the arrogance displayed by the Heat players and their "fans" now, but winning franchises have a way of winning fans, even when they are populated by bastards.
But now, the franchise is embarrassed. Owners like Tom Gores should push for tougher rules against collusion at minimum, and possibly for cap rules that make it a bit more difficult to land three superstars at full price (or close to it).
Otherwise, a salary cap serves little purpose.
Has this ever happened, where even casual NBA fans so viscerally despise a team that they actively celebrate the victory of an otherwise unheralded opponent? There has always been a fair amount of Laker hate, but that seems more anti-Kobe + negative perception of Los Angeles than anything.
The only analogy that makes any sense is the Yankees. To which, it seems as though fans have a particular aversion to teams that horde talent that transcends personal attitudes toward individual players. Talent hording, even more than forms of explicit cheating, seem to generate a far more negative response among casual fans.
See, for all the Lakers' faults, they have more or less earned their success. They got a couple odd bounces (Game 6, Pau), but it's a good franchise that performs well. Casual fans like to watch them go down, but really aren't invested in it. The Lakers are a team everyone loves to hate. The Heat are a team that people hate the way they hate cancer, a hatred borne of anguish.
The former is good for basketball. It is good for casual fans to have a rooting interest in big games. The latter eventually erodes confidence that the sport is on the up and up.
Brian Cardinal? Brian Cardinal.
I'll make one note about the Heat from a basketball perspective. The one way superstar scorers win down the stretch is either with long distance shooting (Reggie Miller, Steve Nash), unblockable shots (Garnett, Dirk, MJ), or post-up moves (Duncan, Shaq), or driving and dishing (Kobe). That's how you carry a team. When the offense stalls, you can be relied upon for a little over a point per possession.
LeBron and Wade really don't have those tools at their disposal. They can't shoot from distance, can be blocked and have no post-up moves. Since there are no consistent three-point threats on the Heat, there wasn't a lot they could do when they were losing control in the fourth. Until the Heat solve this problem, they are going to be very, very beatable in a seven game series.
Oh, and that three-point threat pretty much needs to be a point guard.
As for the Mavericks, it is pretty clear, given their playoff run, that they adopted the (former) Spurs strategy of laying low in the regular season, and saving room for the playoffs. They compiled a 16-5 record, with one of the losses coming on a fluky collapse against Portland.
My guess is that you'll see Dallas adopt a similar strategy next year, and we'll get to read about how the Mavs have lost their championship spark and all that. That will make for an illuminating read.