Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Color Me Shocked...And Pleased

I have to admit, I was convinced the Mavericks were going to choke their series away against the Spurs. I thought so before the series even started. I thought so when they were up 3-1. And I most certainly thought so during Game Seven last night when their once large lead had completely dwindled away.

So color me shocked and impressed. And pleased. I've been a pseudo-Mavs fan ever since Mark Cuban bought the team and instilled it - nay, the entire NBA - with the genuine, child-like excitement of a pure fan that is seen way too infrequently from the greedy, cold businessmen that normally comprise the fraternity of professional sports owners. You can't help but feel happy for Cuban because you know he wanted that win last night more than anyone else. And you know if the Mavs had lost, he would have been bitching away about the refs (or who knows what else) just like some nobody on a barstool whose team has just broken his heart. Which is awesome.

It's easy to be happy for Dirk Nowitzki, who has quietly been Larry Bird-esque for years now yet has been labelled as a dude who doesn't play defense or play with heart. Supposedly, he's soft. Hogwash! Nowitzki may not be Ben Wallace on the defensive end, but he shows up night in, night out, and his three-point play near the end of regulation to tie the game when it appeared the Spurs had finally overcome may just be the biggest basket in Mavericks history, not to mention about as clutch as clutch can get. Besides, there are few things more unintentionally funny than a Nowitzki interview, what with that German accent. One of my favorite moments of this postseason thus far was Nowitzki's postgame interview with Lisa Salters following Game Four with the Spurs. If you remember, Jerry Stackhouse almost gave that game away when he failed to hit the rim an on intentionally missed free thow. When asked by Salters about the scene, Nowitzki looked at her incredulously and his thickest German accent replied bluntly, "Well, I was wondering what the hell he was doing." Hilarious.

It's easy to be happy for Jason Terry who spent several years in NBA purgatory (i.e., Atlanta) and was forced to miss Game Six while serving a suspension. He was once forced to pay his way into playoff games as a fan because the Hawks suck. Now he's in the big time. Good for him.

It's easy to be happy for Avery Johnson, a little dude with a pipsqueak voice who was told he couldn't play in the NBA yet won a title as a starting point guard, and now has done as a coach what was once thought near impossible: he got the "soft" Mavs to play defense and to play gritty ball in the playoffs when all the chips are on the line. The longer the Mavs are alive, the more chance we have of hearing classic quotes from Johnson. And when Johnson is fired up, his quotes are classic. Maybe not quite Ozzie Guillen-esque, but they're splendid, nonetheless.

Finally, it's easy to be happy for fans of the NBA who'll get to witness a Mavericks-Suns conference final. In a postseason that has already been the best in recent memory, this series, on paper at least, looks wide-open and fanatstic. Should be fun.

The pick? Mavs in six.

Incidentally, remember all that "Kobe Bryant was robbed for MVP" talk? Well, let's take a gander at the other players on the this year's short list of MVP candidates:

- Steve Nash: Just helped win a second Game Seven this post season by posting 29 points and 11 assists against the Clippers.

- LeBron James: We all know what he (almost) did against Detroit.

- Dirk Nowitzki: 37 points and 15 boards last night...in a Game Seven...at San Antonio.

- Chauncy Billups: Back in the Eastern Conference finals for a fourth straight year.

- Tim Duncan: 41 poinst, 15 rebounds and six assists in a Game Seven last night.

My queston: Where's Kobe? Probably at the Gap purchasing sweater vests in lavender or pink. Or text messaging Charles Barkley.


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