Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Eating Crow on the Miami Heat

At the beginning of the NBA season, I made some predictions. At the halfway point of the season, I was looking like a genius. I predicted that the Pistons would be better under Flip Saunders than under Larry Brown. I predicted that the Heat would start out as underachievers, that they’d force out Stan Van Gundy and Pat Riley would take over. At the all-star break, I was ready to claim the mantle of Nostradamus. I spoke a little too soon.

I never imagined a team with Jason Williams and Antoine Walker – classic team killers on and off the court – in the starting lineup could win a championship. What I didn’t count on was Dwayne Wade becoming the best player in the game this year and carrying this team on his back past the Pistons and the Mavericks. Wade had a Jordan-like playoffs, averaging 35 points a game and simply becoming unstoppable. He certainly deserved his first championship and first MVP trophy.

The other nice thing about the Heat winning the championship is this: Alonzo Mourning finally got a championship. I don’t care what team you root for, you have to root for this guy, one of the true warriors in NBA history. Always undersized to play center, he became an all-star on sheer will and hard work. On top of that, he came back from a kidney transplant to keep playing professional sports and that’s pretty astonishing. If anyone deserves to get a ring, Alonzo does. So congrats, Miami Heat. And I like my crow served BBQ’d, please.

Comments

  1. #1 Jeff Hebert
    June 21, 2006

    I’ll take a helping of that crow too, Ed. I thought the same thing as you, that there was no way that collection of selfish, me-first prima donnas could come together as a team. But when the playoffs started, it was like a different group of guys out there for the Heat.

    You’re right, though, it was Wade who won this championship for Miami. He was unbelievable. Of course (sour grapes warning) it helps that he has another Jordan-like ability — to get the refs to call a foul every time a guy from the other team so much as glances at him. That got a little annoying. But hey, he drives to the hoop so you get the benefit of the doubt when you’re the more aggressive player.

    Congrats to Mourning, who besides Wade is the only player on that team I can stand. He really is a scrapper, it’s nice to see him get his Ring.

  2. #2 Chance
    June 21, 2006

    I felt especially happy for Mourning. I like Shaq as well, he is always good for a humorous comment or two in an interview.

    And Wade, his dominance was really spotlighted when he moved from the top of the key in for that rebound late in the 4th. In was a great play by a really active special player. He missed the shot but got the foul.

  3. #3 tacitus
    June 21, 2006

    I’m a Heat fan but it was hard to be that enthused by their championship run this year. I feel happy for Haslam and Wade, but it was tough to root for Riley after he dismantled last year’s team–young and fun to watch–in favour of a group of self-centered mercenaries in search of a last gasp championship. And his treatment of Stan Van Gundy when he was forced out at the beginning of the year was reprehensible.

    I agree that Mourning is a great story, but don’t forget how he bailed on the Nets and didn’t even turn up for the Raptors forcing them to swallow his huge contract so he could go back to Miami (the team who had refused to resign him for anything close to what the Nets were prepared to pay him). Not exactly a feel-good part of the story.

    Miami was close last year–they would have beaten Detroit with a healthy Wade and Shaq, though they probably would not have gotten past the Spurs. Who knows, maybe Riley did what was necessary to put the Heat over the top, but I have mixed feelings over the way Miami won this year.

  4. #4 Dave M.
    June 21, 2006

    Not a fan until the finals, I must admit I was pulling for the Mavs (no good reason). The last few seconds of the game had me shaking my head. Down by three with 10 seconds to go, the Mavs foul the guy who is 16 of 19 from the line (that would be Wade), who had sunk two key free throws in a similar situation to win game 5. He promptly misses both, leaving it a three-point game. But the Heat get the rebound. But the rebounder travels, turning the ball over to the Mavs, who get the ball to some clown for an open three to tie. And what is that familiar sound? Why yes, another “clang.” I guess they needed to make excruciatingly clear why they did not deserve to win.

    So congratulations to the amazing Mr. Wade (who I believe spells his first name “Dwyane”).

  5. #5 steve s
    June 21, 2006

    Halfway through the game I thought, you know how to shut down Antoine Walker? Let him shoot.

    I also cringe whenever Williams gets the ball, because while he can be very good, he can also throw the ball away trying to look cute. So I was satisfied when he hit Mourning with that behind-the-back pass on the fastbreak.

    I really thought it was a fantastic series, maybe the most exciting playoffs I’ve ever seen. Teams were making 10-0 runs like it was nothing. Dwayne Wade was really something. If Miami wants to be in it for the long-haul, they need to think about getting a young center. Shaq and Zo aren’t going to be around much longer.

  6. #6 Ryan Scranton
    June 21, 2006

    For me, this finals series ruined what had been a truly excellent play-offs for the league. Once the officials decided they were going to call a foul on someone whenever Wade drove the lane, the series became a joke. Credit Miami for figuring out what was going on and shame on Dallas for not (particularly that 4-5 minute stretch in the middle of the fourth when both Shaq and Mourning were on the bench and Dallas drove the ball exactly once), but it took all of the interesting play that had gone on in the previous three rounds and killed it. Bill Simmons nailed the dynamic for the series from the outset and was sadly proven correct.

  7. #7 FishyFred
    June 21, 2006

    What Ryan Scranton said. You can’t absolve the Mavs of all the blame because they choked away Game 3 and should have blown out the Heat last night, but 5 + 6 were absolute jokes in terms of refereeing. Wade didn’t earn half of the free throws he shot in this series. The foul on the last play of Game 5 was a complete gift from Bennett Salvatore – who, by the way, called the foul from halfcourt. In Game 6, one call in particular stood out. Last minute of the first quarter, Wade hits a jump shot over Jason Terry. Fine. Terry has turned around to watch the arc of the ball and is standing still. Wade comes down, his extended forearm smacks Terry’s shoulder, and Wade tumbles backwards. FOUL!

    More ref’ing crap: http://img204.imageshack.us/img204/9675/test1db.gif That play was called a foul on Dirk. WTF?!

    On Mourning:

    I don’t care what team you root for, you have to root for this guy, one of the true warriors in NBA history.

    Nope. I remain unconvinced. This is a guy who was traded from New Jersey to a crappy Toronto team and then kicked and screamed and refused to report until he got out of it. He also held them hostage for $8 million before he went away. How is Alonzo Mourning any more important than Aaron Williams, another player in the New Jersey-Toronto trade? Aaron Williams took the trade like a man, went to the Raptors, and made a big contribution to a bad team.

  8. #8 tacitus
    June 21, 2006

    The problem with blaming the refs, it seems to me, is that basketball games (or, at least, NBA games) are almost impossible to referee correctly. Even though I’m a Heat fan I barely watched the finals because the games are almost too painful to watch. Refs have a far greater influence on the results than in baseball or football, and given the nature of basketball, I don’t see it ever changing.

  9. #9 Ryan Scranton
    June 21, 2006

    I’m not asking for perfection, I just want some semblance of consistency. If Wade driving to the basket gets the call, then Howard or Terry driving the basket gets the call when Mourning or Shaq gets them with the body while blocking the shot. I’m really not a fan of either team (although I will confess some preference for Dallas after their excellent series with the Spurs and Suns), but I do feel cheated out of the sort of fluid game that we had for the first three rounds of the play-offs. That’s the NBA that I wanna watch, not a return to late 90s thugball and Jordan calls.

  10. #10 Matthew
    June 21, 2006

    I find it extremely hard to root for that team for most of the reasons given. I do not feel happy for Mourning, even with his health problems, he turned out to be an arrogant jerk for most of his career and bailed on the team that stood by him through his difficulties. I also have a hard time being happy for Payton (not that there is anything particularly bad about his personality), just because of his recent piggybacking habits.

    Also, it aggravates me to know end the way people overreact to events in basketball. Nothing against Wade, but he’s not any better today than he was in the previous series. Or better now than he was in the regular season. Not that he hasn’t improved over the course of the season, but the improvement is small, not the mammoth leap that sports pundits always proclaim. Conversely Dirk Nowitzki isn’t any worse than he was in the Phoenix series. He didn’t go from the next Larry Bird to a bum overnight; he was never either of those. But this goes on and on in the NBA for some reason; a good or bad series is treated to the extremes. I’ll never forget when last year, after Manu Ginobili put together a couple of really good series and then 2 really good games to start the finals and Greg Anthony called him the best player since Jordan retired….

  11. #11 Heathen Dan
    June 21, 2006

    I’m just happy for Zo and Payton to finally retire with a ring. Following the NBA through the years, you get to see great names retire without winning a ring. I remember Karl Malone and Payton joining the Lakers a few seasons ago just to have one last chance at a championship, and being upsetted by a more focused Detroit team. Charles Barkley did that by joining Houston but he was a year too late, unlike Clyde Drexler who teamed up with Hakeem to win a championship for the last time.

    I don’t see Dallas winning the Western Conference title next year. This is their best opportunity to become champions and they blew it. And to those who whine about the foul calls in favor of D-Wade, remember that Dirk was getting the same calls in Dallas’ series with the Spurs. Mark Cuban’s constant attacks on “bad calls” gives the impression that they are always at the losing end of officiating injustice. An objective look at Dallas’ postseason games belies that impression. If anything, the Mavs are finally getting the calls that Cuban whined about with the other teams.

  12. #12 Ryan Scranton
    June 21, 2006

    I’d agree with the notion that Dallas probably has less than a 50% likelihood of making it back to the finals, but I’d probably give them the best chance of the contenders in the West.

    The Spurs will be basically the same, perhaps somewhat better if Duncan is healthy all year. They could be much better if Tony Parker ever develops a reliable outside shot.

    The Clippers are young enough that they could improve a fair bit, but they seemed to depend an awful lot on Sam Cassell and who knows how much he’s got left. Plus, they’ve got the worst coach of any of the contenders.

    Dallas could be somewhat better, based on the natural progression of the Howards and Daniels.

    The Suns probably have the best chance to be much better than this season. If Stoudamire regains his form from last season’s play-offs and they get the expected development from their young players, they could be an absolute monster. OTOH, if Nash’s back finally gives out on him, they’re in rough shape.

    Like I said, I think Dallas has the best chance of that cohort.

  13. #13 Hume's Ghost
    June 21, 2006

    My respect for Shaq grew a lot over the course of the season and the playoffs. He’s gracefully kind of backed out of the spotlight to let D. Wade become the star, and hasn’t complained about his minimalized focus in the office. It takes a big man (pun intended) to be able to do that.

  14. #14 Dave L
    June 22, 2006

    Just saw that the Knicks fired Larry Brown and that Isaiah is going to coach. I could have sworn that you predicted something like this Ed?

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