Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Celebrating Dwyane Wade On Draft Day
How did that pick work out? Three years later, that kid is the NBA Finals MVP and is being called the best player in the league.
Several things stand out to me about this day. First off, it brings back memories of watching it and being really, really happy about getting Wade. Once LeBron was off the board, I had my hopes set on Wade after watching him in the NCAA Tournament that year and falling in love with his game. The other thing that stands out is the guy’s coolness. The guy was born to thrive on pressure and tense moments. He's so cool during his interviews, it makes you appreciate what a fortunate pick this was for us. It’s that calmness that would help him shine on the biggest stage 3 years later in the Finals. And there’s also his humility. Wade has always been grounded and has carried himself with such class and maturity. You can’t help but be happy for him, his wife and his baby boy when his name is called and a dream is fulfilled. One more thing: I like the comments made by the ESPN analysts: "... there's really not a lot he can't do ... he's a physical two guard ... he's not afraid to take it to the hole, he can draw contact and finish." Sound familiar? Yea, somewhere Mark Cuban is still crouched in a fetal position in a closet of one his mansions mumbling to himself about D-Wade.
Also, check out these videos made by Heat fans. Two outstanding pieces that celebrate the greatness of Wade. Count how many ankles Wade breaks on all those killer crossovers (especially in the second video). After watching these vids, it’s a wonder anyone even bothers to make an argument against Wade as the best player in the NBA. The kid is galactically phenomenal ....
By the way, if you’re interested in tonight’s draft, here is NBA.com’s latest mock draft report.
Labels: Miami Heat
Monday, June 26, 2006
A Scorching Day. A Semi-Hot Chick. A Championship Parade. Let's Do It Again Next Year!!
First off, let me just say that I chose to be here because I wanted to experience the whole championship parade celebration thing. God knows I’ve waited long for this day to come and I was not going to be kept from it. Let me also say that as parades go, this one was pretty lame. Not sure if it was because of the weather or the fact that over 200,000 people showed up (a quarter of them not real Heat fans in my book), but it kind of sucked. BUT – a lame championship parade beats NO championship parade any day. I’ll take burning in the sun while waiting to catch a glimpse of Antoine Walker wigglin’ on a championship duck-boat with 199,000 other people, over whatever the hell was going on in downtown Dallas that afternoon.
So here’s how my day went down: I get there with the intention of meeting some friends. My buddy Cash had been there for hours, holding a nice spot for us. I call him on the cell while I wade through a sea of sweaty, pit-smelling Heat fans languishing about like zombies in the sun soaked afternoon. It was friggin hot, which is why I came armed with two water bottles. The Dude is always prepared. Cash didn’t pick up right away, so I walked towards the Freedom Tower that had a large banner draped over the front that read Congratulations To The World Champion Miami Heat. Very cool. Just then, a pretty girl and some of her friends approached me and asked me where I got my bottle of water. Being the smooth Dude that I am and, as always, looking to seize a moment with a pretty girl, I pulled out the other bottle of water from my shorts pocket and offered it to her. She refused. I insisted. She thankfully accepted and we stood there drinking water and shooting the breeze.
Eventually, Cash called. After finding out where he was standing, I said my goodbyes to, I’ll call her Amanda, and turned to meet Cash. I’m a loyal friend that way. But as I turned, Amanda asked if she could come watch the parade with me. “No, you can’t come with me! What are you? Some kind of leech? First you take my water now you want to use me to get a better look at the parade?” Actually, that’s not what I said. Just checking to see if you’re still paying attention. She was semi-hot. So I said, “Yea.”
We met Cash, who had himself a pretty decent spot on the north side of the parade route. We stood there in the hot, hot sun. Amanda asking me about myself. Me asking Amanda about herself. Eventually, the parade got started. Thank God. Did I mention that it was hot?
First came a convertible moving at 1 MPH filled with a bunch of people none of us knew. Two whole minutes later came a fire engine. Mind you, this fire engine was about half a foot behind the convertible. This frickin thing was like watching a glacier move, except that instead of freezing our asses off we were burning to death. On top of the fire engine was Burnie, looking very merry and waving with unbridled, flippant enthusiasm at us. I think I can capture 100% of the people’s sentiment when they saw that cute, lovable rambunctious orange-red colored fuzzy-wuzzy waving at us with such adorable flair and frivolousness from the top of a Dade County fire engine: Get the f$#@ out of our faces! Nobody wants to see you! I hope you’re melting in that dumb-ass costume you lame excuse for a mascot! Move along! Move along, damn it! I’M BURNING UP!!!! GO ALREADY!!!!
Mercifully, the fire engine moved on, revealing the next car: another convertible filled with more people we’ve never seen before in our lives. Again, the crowd’s sentiment was pretty unanimous: Who the hell are those people? Where the hell is Shaq? MY SKIN IS BLISTERING AND BUBBLING!!!!!
Finally, Cash spots a duck-boat heading our way. The crowd slowly starts to build up a powerful crescendo. The duck-boat floats past us. It’s Shaq! This is the closest I’ve ever seen him! Holy, he’s huge!! There’s Pat Riley! Where? Right there! He’s shooting a water gun at us! Wait let me take a picture! Hurry up! Wait! Hurry up! Okay … got it! Who else is on that float? I don’t know. I was looking at Pat Riley. Wait, where’d they go? They’ve moved along. What? Is it me, or did we catch a longer glimpse of Burnie than we did of Shaq? Ok forget that, forget that … the next vehicle is coming. This should be better.
That’s right – another convertible. This time the Heat dancers are on it, so that’s pretty good. Still, they look oddly out of place. They each have this Darryl Hannah semi-smile on their faces like they sort of know why they’re here but they’re not a hundred percent sure. They’ve stopped right in front of us. Why couldn’t Shaq’s float stop like this? Why are they still waving and smiling? This is getting a little Stepford Wives creepy. Okay, that’s enough. If I wanted to get a long look at fake boobies and dumbfounded looks on bubble-headed bleached blondes, I’d do it on the internet in the air-conditioned comfort of my own home. MOVE IT!!!
Another duck-boat coming up. Who’s that up there? Is that Gary Payton? I’m not sure. The duck-boats all have these make-shift tents over them to shade the players. And they’re all dressed in white. And their faces are all covered in the shade. Damn, did I just take a picture of James Posey or Khalid El-Amin??? Look, Dwyane Wade!!! Where? On the other side. Other side? What the hell, you got x-ray vision? How can you spot him on the other side? Look, he’s right there. Where? Right THERE! Where? Oh wait, is that him? I think so! Let me take a picture! Crap, that dude’s bald spot just got in the way! Let me try again … Oh … the duck-boat is gone. Crap it all!! Damn you bald headed man! I hope your bald spot burns like gonorrhea on a fat hooker in the middle of the equator!!! You son-of-a b...Wait … Here comes another car!
It’s Mickey Arison. Fantastic! I saw Shaq for two whole seconds, I may or may not have snapped a shot of James Posey, I caught an obscure, bald headed blocked-out glimpse of Dwyane Wade but, hey – Mickey Arison’s car has been standing there for a full minute. Lucky me! Take a picture! Go f%$# yourself!!
The parade once again gets going. Car after car passes with people I could give two craps about waving back at me. Another duck-boat finally comes by. Look! It’s Zo!! You know what? I don’t care. My tongue is sticking to the roof of my mouth. My sweat feels hot and cold at the same time, which can’t be good. And thanks to this 90+ degree weather, much like Lindsey Lohan, I am now officially a fire crotch. That might as well be a topless Maria Sharapova up on that duck-boat and I wouldn’t give a crap. Just get me to some shade and give me some water!
Like the others, Zo’s float speeds past us like Jeff Gordon is driving the duck-boat. Is it that all the floats are going at the same speed but in my excitement it seems like they’re zipping by? Or did we just park ourselves in the worst possible spot for the parade? Later on, I found out that further along on the parade route, Shaq got off his boat and started walking around among the people. This is what it must have felt like for the one town with lepers that Jesus did not stop to see. I want to leave. Cash and Amanda want to see the presentation on the stage in front of the arena. We wait for an hour for the parade to come back. Instead of it coming back our way, it hangs a quick right and heads off to the back of the American Airlines Arena. Seems fitting in a very sadistic way. The back of my neck feels like a solar panel.
The rest of the day has been well documented:
-Shaq makes Riley dance.
-Riley makes the team dance to Springsteen’s The Rising.
-Shaq introduces the players. He says Antoine Walker has a head the size of the Larry O’Brien trophy. He says Jason Kapono is the coolest guy on the team (what else can he say about a guy who saw as much playing time in the Finals as I did?). He says D-Wade is sexy. He starts an “Uno mas” chant when Zo took the mic.
-Mickey Arison tells the most culturally mixed city in America to “Stay White.”
-The team shows the crowd Antoine Walker’s head. That is, the Larry O’Brien trophy.
-Shaq says we’re going to do it again next year.
-They reveal the new billboard that hangs over the front of the AAA. It’s a team picture that reads 2006 NBA Champions. The team is in their best X-Men pose. Jason Williams’ whiteness stands out in a profound, almost blinding, way.
The ending was a bit anti-climactic. But I was able to hang out with Amanda until later that night. The partying and celebrating lasted all weekend long for us. You can fill in the details yourself. Go Heat!!!
All in all, I’m happy I went. It was a great experience and I do hope we can do it again, like Shaq said. Only next time, I’m going to see what I need to do to be one of the unknown people riding in the convertibles. If not, then I’ll just invite Amanda to watch it on my TV with a couple of beers. In fact, yea … that’s officially the plan. I’ll ask Cash to e-mail me the pictures.
Stay white everybody!
Labels: Miami Heat
Saturday, June 24, 2006
Parade of Champions High Lights
What Every Visiting Team Will See When They Come To The Triple A Next Season:
Labels: Miami Heat
Friday, June 23, 2006
“How does it feel?”
This is the question I mostly get from those who have known my love for the Heat, now that the team has been crowned NBA champions.
Most of the time, I point to this, my blog, to show them how I feel. After the Heat won Game 6 and clinched the title, I devoted a whole day to writing a three part series on the Redemption of my team. I was caught up in the swell of emotions and couldn’t justify my feelings with mere pictures from the team’s celebrations. I had to write a damn Homeric epic.
The biggest swell of emotions came when my Dad called me to congratulate me. He’s not much into basketball. He’s more of a football guy – a die hard, old school Dolphins fan. He rooted for the Heat because they’re the home town team. But mostly, he rooted for them because of me. So his phone call meant a lot, because Dad knows what I’ve been through as a fan of the Miami Heat. What moved me was that he stayed up late just to watch the team clinch, so he could be the first to call me.
After the phone call, I kept on celebrating. I poured beer all over myself and my friends who were with me. We hopped around like idiots, acting as if we were a part of the team, celebrating in the locker room with champagne. That’s what happens when your team wins it all – you get a license to act like a kid all over again.
I was happy for the team, happy for myself and my buddies and happy for the Heat fans in general. This win is for us Heat fans, I said.
But mostly, I told myself, this championship win was for Danny.
Danny was my best friend in college. We actually met on a basketball court. We hit it off because we both liked the same movies, music and sports teams. Danny was the biggest Miami Heat fan I have ever known. We joined a basketball league together and helped lead our team to the semi-finals. He was a religious fellow too. He loved to talk about God and the Bible. Two things that have stayed with me all these years later – his positive attitude no matter the circumstances, and his faith.
Eventually, Danny got a job at the old Miami Arena as a stock boy. He helped me get a job there too. And it was sweet. Our duties were simply to empty the concession stands and re-stock them with food. This was done everyday, hours before the games. And since we used the same door to enter the employee lounge the players used to enter the building, we got to meet some of them. I met Rony Seikaly and Steve Smith, among others. One day, when the Bulls came to town, we were all hoping to meet the Man himself. But our bosses did everything they could to keep us busy.
Of all 12 of us that worked there, Danny was the fortunate one. He happened to be down in the office when Michael Jordan walked into the arena. Danny ran up to him, pulled a photo of Jordan out of his pocket and asked him to sign it. Jordan did and even said, “Nice picture.” Danny was beaming when he ran upstairs to tell me. He said Jordan was a very cool guy who didn’t really seem to be full of himself. I was so envious. The closest I got to Jordan was being able to watch the Bulls run practice up close while I stocked one of the stands. Danny eventually sent the autographed picture to his kid brother in New York, who was a huge fan. Also, that night happened to be the first time the Heat ever beat Jordan’s bulls. It was an exciting day all around.
Eventually, Danny quit school to pursue other ventures. I quit the arena job when I was offered something better. We kept playing ball and kept hanging out. We both had our whole lives ahead of us.
But, as time passed, Danny’s health began to decline. At one point, he passed it off as working too hard or being too stressed over bills and what not. But after his family insisted he go to the doctor, he got some startling news. Danny was diagnosed as HIV positive. We were all devastated. Except Danny who, as always, kept things positive. As his health got worse, he decided to fly back to New York to receive treatment while being with his family. I remember saying my goodbyes at the airport. One of the last things he said to me was to stop being so negative about the Heat. Their day would come. Outwardly, I smiled and said, sure. In my mind, I scoffed at his naïve faith. That Danny. Always positive even in the worst of circumstances.
As we shook hands I remember getting the chilled feeling that I would never see him again. Here was my buddy, who had once been an athletic, strong guy and was now extremely thin and pale and sickly. His vigor and strength had been completely sapped from him. But the joy in his eyes never faded. The disease never robbed him of that.
So it came that on a cold November morning of that same year, I got the call from our old basketball coach. Danny’s brother called him and told him the news.
Danny had passed away.
The family flew his body down here since a good majority of his extended family lived in Miami. The funeral was a mixture of profound sadness and pure joy. Stories about Danny were shared with tears and with laughter. I shared about him meeting Michael Jordan and about his unwavering love for the Miami Heat. His brother placed a Steve Smith basketball card in Danny’s casket. He loved Smith and would always share how fired up he was when the Heat drafted him 5th in the 1991 draft.
Several years later, while I stood in the American Airlines Arena, cheering for the Heat to comeback against the Mavericks in Game 3 of the NBA Finals, there were moments when I would pray, “Danny, pull some strings for us up there! Ask the Big Man to help us pull this out!” That night, the Heat came back from a 13 point deficit to win the first of what would be four consecutive games to win the 2006 NBA Finals.
So as I celebrated with my buds and my beers on Tuesday night, I saved one on the side. On Wednesday, I took the bottle to Danny’s grave, cracked it open and toasted my good friend. “We did it, Danny,” I said. “You always knew this day would come. Sorry I doubted you. We did it.” I poured the beer into the ground and left the bottle by his head stone.
So now I’m off to Downtown Miami to celebrate the Heat’s first NBA championship. I’m off to celebrate with my friends and I’m off to celebrate with a throng of fellow Heat fans.
But, most of all, I’m off to celebrate for Danny.
Labels: Miami Heat
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Some Final Thoughts On The Mavs & The Refs Before I Go And Party At The Heat Championship Parade …
First let me say that a lot of Mavs fans have conducted themselves with class after the loss. These are intelligent people who root passionately for their team. These are people that offer this mind boggling concept as to how their team lost: “No excuses. We just got beat.” These fans have something many others can learn: integrity and dignity.
So after this, I will not argue it anymore. I believe the facts for the Heat’s championship title are true and reasonable. So, after this, it’s over and done with and it’s time to celebrate our NBA Champs!
Game 3: Dallas had a 13 point lead with 6:30 left in regulation. This was a team up 2-0 in the Finals and they were up by 13 points. I was at Game 3. At one point, the place was so quiet you could hear the Mavs players cheering every time one of their teammates scored. So what happened? For one thing, there was that terrible pass by Jason Terry with 1:16 left that was intercepted by Udonis Haslem. Dwyane Wade got hot and dropped 42 on them. Shaq made two very big free throws during the comeback phase of the game. And, of course, Dirk Nowitzki (a 90% free throw shooter) missed the tying free throw at the end. They just couldn’t close the deal. They had the Heat on the ropes and they allowed a 13 point lead to evaporate. They had no answer for Wade. Lost in his big offensive night, was his block of the last-second in-bounds pass by the Mavs to try and tie the game and force overtime.
Game 4: The Mavs were simply beaten. It was their worst performance in the entire series. Again, they allowed Wade to have his way and allowed him to get to 30+ points which, statistically, meant a win for the Heat in these playoffs.
Game 5: This one went into overtime. Again, thanks to Dwyane Wade hitting the key shot at the end of regulation and Jason Terry not hitting the key shot to win it. Can’t blame the refs for one guy being clutch and another not being clutch. Josh Howard missed two very big free throws in OT (not to mention the mental meltdown with the whole time-out fiasco). For the third game in a row, the Mavs did not double team Wade. The Mavs also turned to the Hack-A-Shaq strategy too early, putting them in the penalty. We’ve seen it all season long. As soon as the opposing team gets in the penalty, Wade constantly attacks the rim (he’s as crafty as he is athletic). This is why he went to the line so much. And, once again, Dirk Nowitzki failed to take his team on his shoulders like stars are supposed to do. Wade did. The last foul on Wade with 1 second left in OT is the most disputed claim of all. But three guys were all over him as he attacked the rim. If the refs did not make that call, it would be the Heat fans hooting and hollering about a non-call. The refs lose either way. But they gave the star the benefit of the doubt, as they had been doing for Nowitzki throughout the entire playoffs (just ask Spurs fans). And, unlike a certain David Hasselhoff loving German, Wade hit both of this free throws.
Game 6: The Mavs blew not one but two double-digit leads at home while facing elimination. At one point, they led Miami by 14. That late 2nd quarter rally by the Heat, led by Wade and Alonzo Mourning, gave the Heat a one point lead at the half and changed the momentum of the game. Miami played quality defense in Game 6, forcing the Mavs to shoot only 37% on their home court. They closed out Dallas’ strength – their perimeter speed. They out rebounded Dallas, grabbing 42 defensive rebounds to Dallas’ 34. Miami made 23 of 57 jump shot attempts. Dallas, only 17 of 64. And, again, once Dallas was in the penalty, the Heat attacked the rim while Nowitzki and his teammates settled for jump shots and fade aways. Defense won the game for Heat, in what turned out to be their best performance on the road in these playoffs. Josh Howard, who had been one of the Mavs’ most reliable all-around players after Dirk throughout the season, had an off night as did Jason Terry.
The bottom line is that this series came down to two budding super stars. One stepped up, the other didn’t. Dwyane Wade elevated his game to the point where he is now drawing real comparisons to Michael Jordan (the guy who always got the calls from the refs). He did it by waking up after Game 2. Once Wade decided he was going to take over this series, he did. Nowitzki never got into a comfortable rhythm. While Dallas had no answer for D-Wade, Miami threw Udonis Haslem, James Posey and even Shaq at Dirk and contained him.
The other major point here is that Dallas had a 2-0 lead. Only two other teams ever came back to win a Finals after going down 0-2. Then, Dallas went and lost 4 games in a row. Four games in a row! It’s just simply ludicrous to throw all of that on the referees. Somewhere along the lines, Dallas has to take responsibility for that. Instead, a lot of these sore losers are taking their cue from the team’s owner, Mark Cuban, who – lets be frank here – acted like a child when things didn’t go his way. Rather than give credit to the winners and appreciate that they were out played by a burgeoning star in Wade, they pout, whine and point fingers.
It’s just not fair to the greatness of Wade or the determination of the Heat. As a Dolphins fan, I rooted for The Seahawks in the Super Bowl. I hate the Steelers. But when the Steelers won, in very similar “controversial” circumstances, I did not whine, complain or concoct conspiracy theories. I tipped my hat to the Steelers. They won. They were the better team. And not only that, they got to the Super Bowl by overcoming seemingly bad calls when they defeated the heavily favored (and supposed NFL darlings) Indianapolis Colts. The Steelers earned the right to be called World Champs. Just as the Patriots did in 2001, even after the so-called “tuck rule” play against the Raiders.
Champions earn their championships.
Again, Dallas was up 2 games to none. They blew a 13 point lead in Game 3. They lost four straight games, including one that went into overtime. And they had no answer for the best player on the floor – the Finals MVP Dwyane Wade.
You never win or lose a championship because of the referees. You lose a championship when your offense scores only 37% from the floor. You lose a championship when a star beats you.
Labels: Miami Heat
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Redemption, Part III
PART THREE: FIFTEEN STRONG
Hope precedes redemption. Freedom is what follows redemption.
Redemption is a beautiful thing.
With Shaq now part of the team, the Heat seemed to be running on all cylinders. Shaq had become the major difference for a team that had gone from young and respectable, to a team that was going to be reckoned with.
As Wade continued to show his blossoming skills, thriving while playing alongside O’Neal, it seemed as if the Heat were destined to meet with the defending NBA Champion Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Heat played valiantly in the 2005 playoffs. And they set themselves up for a date with the Pistons in the seventh and deciding game of the Conference Finals. But just as it had happened so many times before, that dark ominous, cursed cloud reappeared. This time in the form of a strained rib cage injury to the team’s most talented player, Wade.
The Heat were a mere two minutes from being Eastern Conference Champions in 2005. That’s when everything collapsed. Again.
The Pistons won the game. The Heat, defeated and dejected, simply were not good enough to close it out. Injuries or not, the Pistons were the superior team.
Suddenly, the old nightmares of Allan Houston’s jumper and Clarence Weatherspoon’s missed shot came flooding back. The Heat were good. They were always good. They just were never good enough. It seemed to be this team’s fate. Always at the cusp, but never able to grasp the prize.
2005 was “the 19th nervous breakdown.”
Pat Riley had been chasing the elusive gold for 18 years. While he watched as Jordan’s Bulls and Hakeem Olajuwan’s Rockets and Shaq’s Lakers drank up championship glory after championship glory, Riley was always left wanting.
His life’s philosophy had always been “winning or misery.” Yet his world was drowning in misery. When the Heat lost that last series to the Knicks in 2000, the embattled coach had been so overwhelmed, so drained, so utterly spent, he literally could not find the strength to rise from his office chair to face the team for the post series/season address. What could he say? He had given his all. He had driven himself, and them, into the wall. But again, the fates handed them a cruel hand. A cruel bounce of the ball. And at the hands of his greatest nemesis at that. What do you tell your team after once again falling short of the promise?
But Alonzo Mourning, always driven by passion and furor, stormed into the office and grasped his coach’s shoulders and made him get up and address his defeated team.
That is the measure of men who care. That is the measure of an Alonzo Mourning. The soul of a warrior rests in that man. And the coach had always said the two were kindred spirits.
Fast forward five years into the future, and suddenly the two warriors were reunited again. Riley had taken over the coaching job again. He re-tooled the team again. And he re-focused the energy of the team on two men: Shaquille O’Neal and Dwyane Wade.
But there would also be a bonding nucleus there. One that had not been seen since the 90’s. A team unified in every way. The faces were different, but the initiative was the same: TEAM. The common denominators: Pat Riley and Alonzo Mourning.
The two were once again one.
They were back together. And they were about to take care of some unfinished business.
The Heat marched through the 2006 playoffs which led to the inevitable rematch with the Pistons. But this time, the East belonged to the Heat. This time, the Heat were the superior team. Unfinished business indeed.
Pat Riley once said, "In order to win a championship, you have to go through the fire."
This team, this franchise, this fan base, had been through the fire and back several dozen times in its 18 year history. It was in their nickname for petesake.
It was time.
Riley had always been a master motivator. Whether it was sticking his head into a bucket of water until he was near passing out, or having championship rings painted in the team’s locker room walls, Riley thrived on getting the most out of his players through unconventional means. So during the 2006 playoffs, he dreamed up what he considered a unifying idea. Fifteen strong.
It was a method made up of small yellow index cards thrown into a covered bowl inside the Heat dressing room. On those cards were words of wisdom, photographs of the team with their wives and children. Photographs of the team doing non-basketball things together: cookouts, birthdays, dinner parties. It was their secret bowl filled with images and words taken from their everyday lives together. The unifying message was clear: We are a family. No matter what. Everyone doubts us. It’s Us against Them. Fifteen strong.
It ultimately became the reason O’Neal declared this Heat team to the best team he had ever been a part of in his entire storied career.
It became the team’s mantra and it was slowly becoming the fans’ mantra as well. Even after all the familiar heartaches began reemerging. Even after falling 0-2 to the vastly talented Dallas Mavericks in the 2006 NBA Finals. Even after it seemed as if, once again, we were going to come close, but only so far. The cruel hand of fate would once again keep us from touching the void. The mantra echoed in our hearts.
So when the Mavericks’ Jason Terry, the same Jason Terry who scorched the Heat for 32 points in Game 1, threw up one last desperate shot to tie Game 6, and the ball rimed in and out again, it seemed as if the fates had finally been reversed.
All the old ghosts seemed to howl at once as they faded into nothing. Allan Houston’s bouncing jumper? Faded to black. Weatherspoon’s missed shot? Evaporated into oblivion. Zo’s health issues? Vanished.
In that split second when the ball rimmed up and into Dwyane Wade’s waiting arms and the clock struck double zeros, and the scoreboard read Miami 95-Dallas 92, all the baggage, all the nightmares, all the heartaches, all the anguish, all the misery, all the pain, was suddenly and swiftly vanquished. It was all washed away in the clear cool waters of redemption.
Never again would we be a laughing stock. Or a punch line. This fan base had suffered enough to deserve a championship. While the naysayers mocked us as we dressed all in white. While they said that we only cared for what was trendy. While they said we weren’t real fans (whatever that means or however that is supposed to be defined), we knew all along – Fifteen Strong. A Unified Front. White Hot Heat.
This championship is for you, Heat fans. For you who, like me, celebrated the fledgling team with Coach Rothstein back in 1988. Lived and died with every Michael Jordan jump shot in the ’97 Conference Finals. Anguished over each and every heart wrenching loss to the hated New York Knicks. Wept when Zo announced his ailment. Stood in awe of this new kid from Marquette. Thanked God for the arrival of Shaq. Thanked God again for the return of Riley. And stood with arms held high as Wade carried us through Games 3,4,5 and 6 of these Finals into what had been promised to us from the beginning.
From the hands of cruel fate, into the arms of sweet redemption.
Hope precedes redemption. Freedom is what follows redemption.
And FREEDOM is a beautiful thing.
They can never take this away from us, brothers. NEVER, EVER, EVER.
MIAMI HEAT 2006 NBA FINALS CHAMPIONS.
Labels: Miami Heat
Redemption, Part II
The dark days closed with Alonzo Mourning stepping away from the game because of his unfortunate kidney ailment. He missed the entire 2002-03 season. And with the departure of players like Tim Hardaway, PJ Brown and Jamal Mashburn, it seemed the Heat were in full blown re-building mode. A far cry from the seeming power house Riley had promised to deliver. The darkest days of the franchise seemed to be towards the end of a once great nucleus. The vast sense of unfinished business was overwhelming.
The biggest roster move, however, came when Riley himself stepped away from the sidelines. Placing his assistant, Stan Van Gundy, in charge of the head coaching duties, Riley decided to focus on being the team’s President and GM. The Heat, as we once knew it, was now a shell of its former self.
And so a new era dawned. In the 2002 NBA Draft, the Heat selected talented small forward, Caron Butler out of UConn, 10th overall. Butler brought a lot of promise to the team and it seemed as if the tides of fortune were beginning to shift. The following season, with the fifth pick, they selected a kid from Marquette University.
His name: Dwyane Wade.
Riley had watched Wade play on television during the NCAA Tournament and saw the talented wunderkind from Chicago single-handedly take out Riley’s beloved alma matter, Kentucky. Entering the Midwest Regional Final, Marquette was a major underdog against the top seeded Wild Cats. Yet Wade torched Kentucky with a triple double (29 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists), leading the way to an 83-69 shellacking of the Wild Cats and leading Marquette into the tournament’s Final Four.
A sour and upset Riley took notice of the kid that had just decimated his team. And he wanted him. After highly touted high school phenom LeBron James and NCAA Finals MVP Carmelo Anthony were selected ahead of him, the Heat drafted Wade with their fifth pick.
With Butler and Wade, the Heat was on the rebound. The team swept into the playoffs and managed to beat New Orleans in an exciting series but were eventually beaten in the conference semi-finals by a more experienced Pacers team. Still, with the explosive Wade and the talented Butler, the Heat had served notice. Miami was on its way back to being relevant again. It was the new era.
But this new era would soon be jarred with an historical trade between the Heat and Riley’s former team, the LA Lakers.
The trade sent away Caron Butler (and a host of others) but brought in the legendary big man, Shaquille O’Neal. In a move most experts agreed was a steal for the Heat, the three time Finals MVP was officially headed east to Miami.
On July 14, 2004, the deal was consummated. O’Neal was now a part of the Miami Heat.
After his falling out with the Lakers and his super star teammate Kobe Bryant, O’Neal asked for a trade. The Heat topped his short wish list of teams.
The reason? Dwyane Wade.
Labels: Miami Heat
Redemption, Part I
How do you capture this Heat championship after 18 years of frustration and heart ache? How do you sum up the sheer spirit and emotion of what it feels like? How do you encapsulate this moment after so many years of chasing the elusive dream?
I think you do it with one word: Redemption (Broken down into three parts.)
PART ONE: THE DARK TIMES
I remember rooting for players like Rony Seikaly, Grant Long, Glenn Rice, Rory Sparrow and Steve Smith. There was even Harold Minor. The Heat was an exciting team to root for. The hometown scrubs (and I mean scrubs in a very 'Bad News Bears' respectful way -- a team you WANTED to root for because they were so much fun).
But it wasn’t until Pat Riley arrived from New York that this team made its presence felt in the NBA. He traded away fan favorites Rice and Matt Geiger to the Hornets for center Alonzo Mourning.
The waning years were defined by an unfulfilled promise. In 1995, Pat Riley said he had visions of a championship parade down Brickell Avenue. We had little reason not to believe him. Riley brought his championship rings, his championship swagger, his championship experience. He brought his talents for turning mediocre teams into great teams. And we all bought into it with all our hearts and souls.
But then came the dark times. Mostly at the hands of the Knicks (and Bulls with that one guy who always got "favorable calls" from the refs. What was his name? Oh yea ... Michael Jordan).
1998 Playoffs: Alonzo Mouring and Knicks forward Larry Johnson got into a nasty scuffle that spilled benches and coaches onto the court. Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy hung onto Mourning’s leg like a rabid chiwawa, in a vain attempt to stop the fight. Mourning missed the deciding Game 5 after being suspended. And the Knicks took full advantage, winning the game and the series.
1999 Playoffs: The Knicks' Allan Houston put the dagger into the hearts of the Heat when hitting a jumper with .8 seconds left in the game, giving the Knicks a one point victory. The shot seemed to bounce around the rim a thousand times before finally dropping through the rim, sucking the air and the life out of the Heat and their fans.
2000 Playoffs: the Knicks again beat the Heat by one point in the decisive game. The final straw coming when our supposed go-to player, Jamal Mashburn, passed up the opportunity to take the game winning shot with the clock winding down and the Heat down by one. He passed the ball to Clarence Weatherspoon instead. Weatherspoon missed. Another heart wrenching defeat.
And then in 2001, the Heat announced that Alonzo Mourning had been diagnosed with a rare kidney disorder. He missed 69 games that season.
It seemed as if the spiral into the darkness was dizzying and slow. Cruel and tormenting. Being a Heat fan was like a scourge. It was suffocating.
But hope has a way of bringing light into a dark place.
Hope came because the Heat were near the bottom. Near enough to become a lottery team. And in 2003, boy did this team win the lottery.
“With the fifth pick of the 2003 NBA Draft, the Miami Heat select Dwyane Wade, guard from Marquette.”
Labels: Miami Heat
Miami Heat Championship Parade Update
I'll be posting some stuff on the game and series shortly (still trying to recover from a k-razy night.)
But I know everyone is wondering about the Parade. So here is the latest:
City Officials are currently planning the Day and Times.
Pat Riley said the parade will be Friday but that has NOT been confirmed. [Sun Sentinel]
Stay tuned here at the MSD as I'll update this info as I get it. One thing is for sure. We are having a parade. We just didn't plan it prematurely, like some people (ok, last jab, I swear).
UPDATE: The parade celebrating the Miami Heat's NBA championship will be held from 2 p.m-5 p.m. on Friday in downtown Miami, city and county officials announced.
Here's the route: The parade will start at American Airlines Arena, go south on Biscayne Boulevard to Flagler Street, then west on Flagler for four blocks, south one block to SE First Street and back four blocks to Biscayne Boulevard. It will head north and end at the arena for a grand celebration.
Officials urged citizens attending the parade to arrive early -- use public transport if at all possible -- and to bring plenty of water. [Miami Herald]
Labels: Miami Heat
Miami Heat 2006 NBA Finals Champions!!!
Labels: Miami Heat
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
And Last, But Certainly, Not Least ...
Labels: Miami Heat
An Open Letter To Shaq
You promised us an NBA championship.
So far, this series has been all about Dwyane Wade. The kid is magical, phenomenal, astounding. And if we can pull this thing off, he will be named the Finals MVP.
But Game 6 rests on your burly shoulders, Diesel. Because as much as the Dallas defenders have had no answer for Wade, they surely have an answer for you. It’s called the foul line.
It’s a self-admitted weakness. You suck at shooting free throws. You always have. You’ve had to suffer through it your entire career. But in this series, it has been more evident than ever before. You say you can hit them when it matters? I believe you. You hit two very crucial free throws in the waning moments of Game 3, which led to our improbable comeback win.
But that was Game 3. That was yesterday. I plead with you, Big Aristotle. Hit. Your. Free. Throws. Tonight. (And, for petesakes, stay out of foul trouble)
Expect the Mavs to be all over Wade tonight. Avery Johnson is going to send 3 guys at him all night. He’s going to do everything to keep Wade from penetrating to the hoop and he’s going to have guys bother him and make him take bad shots.
This means that you, Diesel, will have to step up and deliver. The Mavs, along with every other team in the NBA, have no one who can guard you. They have no one who is as strong as you. All they have is the Hack-A-Shaq.
So, it’s time to deliver, Big Man. It’s time for one of those patented Shaq-Finals performances that has defined your legacy over the years. Everyone, and I mean everyone, insists that you just don’t have it any more. They say you are not able to be the Dominant Force or Difference Maker any more. They say you’re old. They say you’re over-rated. They have relegated you to “role-player” status.
I say that’s all crap. And you know it. Now it’s time to prove it.
Shaq, this team is one win away from a title. One win away from sealing your legend among the greatest big men in the history of the game. All signs point to the Mavs gearing to stopping Wade tonight. He’s done his part. He’s gotten us this far.
It’s time for you to get us through the rest of the way. It’s time for you to heave this team onto your gargantuan shoulders and carry them through the fire, into the Promised Land.
It’s time for you to deliver a Shaq-like performance. It’s time for you to deliver on that promise.
Labels: Miami Heat
Game 6 Pre-Game Musings
1.) On his BlogMaverick blog, Mark Cuban insists he did not throw a tantrum in NBA commissioner David Stern's direction after Game 5 in Miami and he slams the Herald's Greg Cote a little (which doesn't bother me in the least).
But Cuban's blog runs into a few problems here. First off, according to this article, Stern says that Cuban's post Game 5 outburst is 'unhealthy.' But Mr Stern, there was no outburst. Cuban said so himself on his blog! You must be the one who is unhealthy, sir!
Sounds to me like Cubes tried to avoid the inevitable fine that was coming his way. Too late. Of course, the NBA has been known for fining people $250,000 for no reason whatsoever.
Just be sure to watch your language around your three year old as you sign that check, Mr. Cuban.
Any one else tired of the act that is Mark Cuban?
2.) Maverick Moneyball sites the Cote article as 'One More Reason to Hate Miami.' The post begins with the words: "How about idiot Miami Herald reporter Greg Cote."
Nicely done, Maverick Moneyball.
Now here's one more reason for us to really, really, really hate Dallas. How about idiot Dallas Morning News reporter Tim Cowlishaw.
Here are a few points of profound wisdom from Cowlishaw's June 11 article:
“The Heat has no chance (have no chance? I don't know, why don't they get a real nickname?) in this series.”
“The Heat wants to play games in the 80s because it isn't good enough to score 90.”
“The two best teams [in the NBA] played in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs.”
"A confident Jason Williams shrugged off Jason Terry's 32-point performance that torched the Heat in Game 1. 'We're the two best teams, obviously, in the NBA this year,' he said.
Oh, gosh. It's a shame that's not even close to the truth."
Right back atcha Maverick Moneyball!
3.) Looks like Bill Simmons is talking (or is it typing?) out of his ass again. Really, Simmons has just become flat out annoying. The guy was once my hero. He's one of the main reason's I started blogging and even the title of this blog is inspired by him (the Boston Sports Guy). But his rants lately have just been lamer than lame. Or, as he might put it, his latest columns have become the Karate Kid 3 to his previous Karate Kid columns.
He has the Ewing Theory. Well, I have the Simmons Theory. Your career starts off red hot, you set the tone and almost singelhandedly change the way sports is written (by a fans' point of view) You cleverly infuse pop culture references into your pieces which, in turn, gets ripped off by a dozen other writers.
But then, you move to L.A. of all places, your Red Sox finally win the World Series, and the Celtics have just flat out SUCKED and haven't won anything since Reagan was in office, so you resort to lame, tired Isiah Thomas bashing (the one time you did it, it was funny, but then ...) and lame, tired The Sports Guy's Rules For Standing During An NBA Game but not before publishing a book everyone gets excited about only to realize it's a collection of your old columns.
When the Simmons Theory begins to creep into my bones, I will immediately stop blogging and take up cross country cycling or something. It's the humane thing to do.
4.) This guy from Orlando is really bitter at Shaq leaving the Magic. Time to let it go, big guy.
5.) True Hoop takes some jabs at Dan Le Batard. I really love reading True Hoop.
6.) Finally, Miami Heat Wave says it all for me. Shaq needs to step up tonight and deliver on a promise he personally made to all us Heat fans when he got here.
Labels: Miami Heat
Monday, June 19, 2006
Labels: Miami Heat
Heat-Mavs Game 5
tran.scen.dent\adj 1: to rise above or go beyond the limits of b: to triumph over the negative or restrictive aspects of: OVERCOME c: to outdo in some attribute, quality or power; to rise above or extend notably beyond ordinary limits d: being beyond the limits of all possible experience and knowledge; being beyond comprehension (Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary)
"I got a rhythm going. The guys just did a good job of putting the ball in my hands.”
-- Dwyane Wade
Labels: Miami Heat
Sunday, June 18, 2006
Game 5 Momentum
Desire. Drive. Determination.
Tonight’s game doesn’t end the season or the series. But it gets the winner one game closer to the NBA title. Tonight’s game is not for the title itself. Tonight’s game is for “momentum.”
For the Heat, it means one last game at home in what has been the greatest season in franchise history. One more game in front of 20,000 rabid, white clad fans chanting, “Let’s Go Heat!” It means another opportunity to turn the screws on Dallas and apply the white hot pressure.
Just a week ago, the Dallas media and Dallas city officials were busy planning (and printing in news papers) the championship parade routes in Downtown Dallas, after the Mavs took a 2-0 series lead. Dallas sports writers loudly proclaimed that the Mavs would come back home to Dallas as champions, after dismantling the Heat here in Miami.
And yet, here we are. Game 5 and the series has yet to be decided. In fact, it’s dead-even.
It can be said that the Mavs are a team in disarray right now. The team that just a week ago was practically being fitted for rings is now suddenly down a key player with Jerry Stackhouse serving a one game suspension. Head coach Avery Johnson moved the team out of their Miami hotel over to Broward to, in his own words, “get them out of a vacation” mentality. Their team owner is griping about Shaq and the Heat supposedly throwing elbows. And their star, Dirk Nowitski, has yet to make his mark in this series.
By no means am I saying this thing is over. We all know where that road leads. Nowitzki can drop 50 against the Heat tonight faster than I can post this blog entry. Let’s not forget how dangerously efficient these Mavericks are. Just think back one week ago today if you’re having trouble remembering.
What I am saying is that, right now, more than ever, the Heat must seize the opportunity. With all the struggles the Mavs are facing today, the Heat need to keep applying pressure, need to keep playing aggressive, need to keep playing within themselves, so they can give themselves a real shot at winning the first NBA title in franchise history.
We all know what’s at stake here in Game 5. A win for the Heat means two shots at winning one more road game, which would give them the NBA Championship. A loss almost guarantees the Mavs the championship win back in Dallas.
But with the Mavs reeling the way they are, with Shaq playing with new life, with the Heat D clamping down, with one last game at home for the 2006 season, and with Dwyane Wade proving his utter brilliance as the game’s most electrifying player, the Heat are closer than ever at making history.
They just need to seize the opportunity.
Win Game 5 and retain the momentum.
It starts tonight. Let’s Go Heat.
Labels: Miami Heat
Mark Cuban Gestures Like an Aroused Monkey More Than Is Statistically Possible
Avery Johnson: “This is what I call ridiculous. The league is so inconsistent. I've been holding my tongue all year about the foolishness, just the foolishness that goes on there. They're so inconsistent.”
Mark Cuban: "It makes no sense at all. There have been more 'accidental' elbows to Mavs' player's heads this series than is statistically possible....More stiff-arms to faces of our double teams, all without response. Shaq creates more dangerous contact camping in the lane for five seconds, trying to set an NBA record for charges taken by a center, than Stack did trying to prevent a layup."
Avery’s comments should be viewed as a coach going to bat for his suspended player. I don’t fault Johnson for saying what he said. It’s what a coach is supposed to do during a situation like this. It’s part of what makes Avery Johnson a great coach.
But Cuban? The Billion Dollar Penis proves, once again, why owners need to shut up and sign the checks and write trite, prosaic blogs during games while gesticulating like feral, horny monkeys.
What the hell is Cuban babbling about? More accidental elbows to Mavs’ heads than is statistically possible? What does that even mean? It makes as much sense as Burt Reynolds telling me how to be a man through a mouth slit the width of a nickel resulting from three decades worth of face tucks. I guess when you’re the luckiest dickhead in the world, you can pretty much spew any asinine drivel out of your mouth and the media will print it and make it relevant.
I respect and admire Mark Cuban. But I’ve come to the realization that he is an absolute moron.
Well, here’s hoping that Jason Terry doesn’t punch Shaq in the balls tonight. Because Jason Terry touches other people’s balls more than is statistically possible.
Anyway, stay classy, Mark. Good luck tonight.
Labels: Miami Heat
Friday, June 16, 2006
MSD FINALS BREAKING NEWS ...
ESPN is reporting that the NBA has suspended the Mavs' Jerry Stackhouse for one game. They called his flagrant foul on Shaq in Game 4 "unnecessary and excessive."
One more thing for Mavericks fans, media and their Billionaire Penis Owner to whine about.
Update: You can see the Stackhouse foul on Shaq over at SporTech Matter
Labels: Miami Heat
Heat-Mavs Game 4
In fact, we have only just begun.
The NBA Finals is suddenly a best of 3 series with the next game – the most pivotal game of this series so far – right here in Miami.
And after the Heat held the talented Mavs to an NBA Finals record 7 points in the 4th quarter to close out and seal Game 4, all I have to say is -- it’s about friggin time.
It’s about time the entire Heat team showed up and played some ball. It’s about time the Heat defense showed up and did what they do. And it’s about time a role player other than Udonis stepped up while he and Shaq fought off foul trouble.
For the first time in these NBA Finals, the Miami Heat had a solid, all around game. This is what we expected to see from them after they eliminated the Pistons (God, it always feels good to say that) in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals. A team that plays with energy. A team that out hustles and out rebounds the opposition. A team that hits its shots. A team that shuts down the opposing team’s star.
A team effort.
That’s what it’s going to take to defeat the vastly talented Dallas Mavericks and that’s what we saw in Game 4 Thursday night.
Dwyane Wade once again led all scorers with 36 points while O’Neal turned in a very solid 17 points including 5-10 from the free throw line.
But no one came up as big as James Posey. His 15 points and 10 rebounds gave this team and, more importantly, the bench, a much needed spark. All I’ve read from Heat blogs the last couple of days is how much Posey needs to be in the starting lineup. Thursday night, he proved us all right. Posey played within his range, hitting the boards, playing tough physical defense and hitting timely shots, including two crucial three pointers. Posey’s play led to an all around solid performance from Miami’s bench. A bench that had been much maligned in this series. Alonzo Mourning came up big while subbing for Shaq. His three blocks and his energy were critical. Anderson also contributed with tough defense.
With Game 5 at the AAA on Sunday, the Heat find themselves in a great position to take control of the series. If they can keep up the momentum and win on Sunday, they go back to Dallas with two shots at winning the fourth game. It’s still a tough hill to climb and you can expect Dallas to make the necessary adjustments and to make this thing what Dirk Nowitzki said would be a “dog fight.”
But you have to love the way the Heat is playing right now. You have to love the way the entire team feeds off Wade’s brilliance. You have to love the way Shaq is throwing his body around, diving for loose balls and making his free throws. Just a week ago, this thing looked like it was all over. Like the Heat were just overwhelmed and outmatched.
Suddenly, things seem different. Hope is still alive and breathing.
We’ve only just begun.
* * * *
-- I’m getting a little tired of certain fans (mainly Dallas and Detroit fans) saying that Dwyane Wade is a whiner because he “complains” about his injuries. First of all, I have never seen the guy complain or whine about his injuries. Believe me, if he did, I’d be the first to call him out on it. Just as I’ve called him out before when he sometimes whines to the officials during games. The guy plays with reckless abandon. He’s relatively small. And guys bang him all the time. Besides that, he’s the focal point of the media. When he or guys like Nowitzky, LeBron, Kobe or any other super star gets injured during a crucial series, the media is going to report it into the ground. Again, this is nothing more than a few fans getting a little frustrated with Wade dominating their team, making their team look positively silly and then trying to vent that frustration by dissing the guy and calling him a whiner. When Jason Terry killed us in Game 1, I showed nothing but respect for the guy. I was frustrated, but I showed the proper respect for a talented player. I would do the same for Dirk or any other player (except maybe Rasheed Wallace) if they were just better than my team. I would expect supposed knowledgeable fans to do the same with Wade. I guess I expect too much.
-- It’s been said before many, many times. So permit me to say it again – Jerry Stackhouse is an absolute jack-ass.
-- I love the way the Heat has been playing Nowitzki. They’re being physical and trying to bother him as much as possible. Dirk, like Shaq, will break out one of these nights. But so far, containing him the way we have seems to be working. Keep it up, boys.
-- It’s been said before many, many times. So permit me to say it again – Dick Bevetta is an absolute jack-ass.
-- This is the Antoine Walker that we’ve all been waiting for. Hallelujah, Amen!! 14 points, most of them from high percentage spots (ie, attacking the basket), and only – now this gets me really gitty – only 6 three point shot attempts. And, more importantly, the three point shot attempts came when the game was either NOT on the line or the Heat were up by a very substantial margin. On top of that, Toine played some heavy D. Did I mention that the majority of his 14 points came from him actually attacking the basket? He made two 3’s. This is extremely significant and can’t be stressed enough. THIS is the Toine that needs to show up for the remainder of the series. Am I asking for too much? Yea, knowing Toine, I’m sure I am.
-- Eric Dampier: 27 minutes. 0 points. 0 free throw attempts. 1 shot attempt. That’s more like it!
-- Despite the big win over Dallas, they still managed 15 points off Heat turnovers. Most of those came at the end of the 3rd when the Heat just looked absolutely sloppy. Enough of the dumb turnovers already, guys! 15 points is way too many points to be handing out to the Dallas Mavericks.
I’ll have a preview for Game 5 Sunday. I look forward to your always insightful and sometimes laugh out loud funny comments.
This thing is far from over and the Mavs will come back strong. But keep the faith, fellow Heat fans.
It’s a brand new day.
Labels: Miami Heat
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Heat-Mavs Game 3
It’s not over.
Dwyane Wade said so before Tuesday’s Game 3.
It’s not over.
Dwyane Wade made sure of that with a performance for the ages.
His 42 points and 13 rebounds led the Heat to a furious comeback in the fourth quarter. Just when things looked their bleakest, just when Dallas was within earshot of going up 3-0 in this series, Wade took this team on his back and willed it to victory. Even while playing with 5 fouls, there was no way Wade was going to let this team drop their third straight against the Mavs. Miami was down and apparently done after Jason Terry's basket made it 89-76 with 6:34 remaining.
That’s when Wade took over.
With less than two minutes left in the game, Wade led the way towards the Heat’s 22-7 run, making a key three pointer from the corner and attacking the basket with a ferocity we haven’t seen since the Eastern Conference Finals. It was inevitable. With Shaq drawing as much as three guys at a time whenever he’d get near the basket, Wade just did what he does. He took over. And the rest is NBA history. Now with the series 2-1, and with 2 more games to play in Miami, the Heat have a golden opportunity to tie the series on Thursday and take back the momentum. Suddenly, there is hope again for the Heat faithful. Because of Dwyane Wade. Again.
THE CRUSHERNAUT CRUSHES
The Crushernaut is my Finals Heat MVP so far. Without a doubt, the one guy who has been leaving his heart and soul on the floor night in and night out in this series has been Udonis Haslem. Playing with an injured shoulder, U once again was able to bother Dirk Nowitzki enough and make the little plays that always turn into big ones down the stretch. None bigger than his steal of Jason Terry’s pass towards Nowitski with 1:16 left in the game. Haslem was fouled on his way to the basket and he nailed both free throws to put the Heat up 94-93. While Wade’s spectacular play led the way, it was U’s fearlessness that injected the crowd with one last burst of energy to see this team through towards this great win. Haslem truly has the soul of a warrior. Long Live The Crushernaut!
In my Game 3 preview, I slammed Gary Payton. I said that he’s old and that his clock has struck midnight. But GP has a little something to say about that. After Devin Harris tied the game for the Mavs with 33 seconds left to play, the crowd began to have visions of Dwyane Wade attempting a final shot for the game winner or we were overtime bound. But, just as Wade was about to head to the basket with 10 seconds left, he got caught on top of the key with no shot and nowhere to go. He passed the ball to Jason Williams who went on to pass it to Gary. With 9 seconds to go, I saw Payton pump fake his shot. This is when my mind said, “Quick, old man, find Wade!” But as Payton squared up to take the shot, my heart leapt to my throat and I had visions of the ball clanking in and out and this thing going down the proverbial toilet. But the shot went down cleanly. Nothing but net. The entire arena went crazy and I found myself hugging and high-fiving strangers and yelling, "GP!!! GP!!! Ahhhh!!!!!"
Gary still has some gas left in that tank of his, after all. My apologies to the Glove. Thanks for bailing us out.
YOU CAN KISS 90% OF MY ASS!!
And finally, who would’ve though it possible? Dirk Nowitzki with his 90% free throw shooting skills missing the all important second shot with 3 seconds left in the game, sealing the victory for the Heat. Truth be told, I have never heard the arena as loud as it was before Dirk went to shoot that second free throw. And with all that noise, mixed in with images of David Hasselhoff on the jumbo-tron, the mission to frighten and confuse the seven foot unfrozen caveman power forward was complete. Dirk leaned into that second shot, and it was clear that it was going to fall short. It did. The Heat won. All is well.
In the end, some things jump out at me:
One last thing. I challenged Heat fans to come through and get loud and stay loud throughout the game. And you came through like actual fans who actually care. No doubt our energy was felt not only by the Heat but added a lot of pressure on the Mavs. I’d like for us all to take credit for Dirk’s missed free throw with 3 seconds left to play. It turns out the best way to tune out David Hasselhoff is to have 20,000 crazed fans screaming at the tops of their lungs. That’s why it’s a home court advantage. Way to go, Heat fans. Bring that stuff strong again on Thursday.
Labels: Miami Heat
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Game 3 Preview: A Little Walton Mojo & Post-It Notes
Time for some Walton Mojo to rub off on the Heat starting tonight.
Tonight is the first night of the rest of the Heat season. Down 0-2 in these NBA Finals to the Dallas Mavericks, the series now turns to Miami, where the AAA will host three games in a row. That’s three chances to at least win two games and make this a series.
History has not been kind to teams buried in an 0-2 hole in the Finals before. The last team to win the Finals after going down 0-2 was the 1977 Portland Trailblazers, who beat the Philadelphia 76ers 4 games to 2. Portland was led by the Big Red V8 loving, hemp smoking, tie-dyed wearing center, Bill Walton, who averaged 18.2 points per game in that series.
So, as we attempt to become only the third team in NBA history to win a Finals after going down 0-2, I have written a few post-it notes for some of the key guys on the Heat. I've asked Rachel Nichols to place them in that huge Pottery Barn bowl they have sitting in the middle of the locker room. (I'm also meeting her after the game for a drink ... but that's besides the point.)
To Shaq: Do whatever it takes to get the ball. Five shots in one game is unacceptable and you and I both know this. In fact, the entire NBA watching world knows this. My mom knows this. As it so happens, your teammates do not know this. This is your team, Big Fella. Yell at guys on the sidelines, yell at Riles. Do whatever it takes to get the ball. Demand it, threaten people’s livelihoods for it. And for the love of Shazam … please, please, please hit your free throws. I don’t mean you need to go 9-9 (although that would be nice), but make it a goal to hit at least one of each of your two shots every time you’re at the stripe. And one more thing, don’t be afraid to kick Antoine Walker in the groin multiple times if he refuses to pass you the ball. And don't wait to do it, either. Do it right there on the gigantic Heat logo in the center of the court. Do it every time you ask for the ball and he shoots a tippy-toe three instead. All of Miami will back you up on this one. I guarantee it (I’m not even going to get into it about Eric Dampier. You know what’s up with that. That’s just embarrassing, Diesel. Embarrassing. So, c’mon Daddy. Get rollin).
To Dwyane Wade: You’ve done a pretty nice job so far. You’re getting your points and you’re always a threat. Still, you’ve yet to break the 30 point barrier in this series and, as you know, the Heat just don’t lose when you hit 30 plus. I know the Mavs are throwing a lot at you. But, c’mon, you’re D-Wade. You’re spectacular. You’re a one of a kind talent that knows no bounds. It’s time for the D-Wade we saw against New Jersey and Detroit to step up. No one on Dallas can guard you. I totally believe this. Go for it, D-Wade. And one more thing – don’t get frustrated. Even the great MJ knew that nothing was going to be handed to him. He earned his 6 rings. Don’t whine, don’t complain. Just play ball. You’re better than that. I ... I love you.
To Antoine: Ok, Antoine. We’ve been over this before. You are not the star of this team. You say you’re not a role player? What the hell does that mean? Oh, I know what it means. It means exactly what I’ve written about you on this blog since you first stepped into the uniform of my beloved Miami Heat. You want to take 20 shots a night? Do it somewhere else. This is not your team. This is Shaq’s team. This is Dwayne’s team. I’m going to make your job real simple, ok. Here it goes: When Shaq asks for the ball, give it to him. When you’re even remotely tempted to take a three pointer because you think it’s going to get the crowd behind you or because you think it will deflate the Dallas defense – don’t do it. Resist the temptation. Want to chuck up threes? Do it when the team is on a 12-0 run. Or, better yet, when the team is up by double digits with 1:35 left on the clock. Otherwise, do what you were brought here to do. Play your role. You are a role player, Antoine. Look at your jersey. It says Heat. Not Celtics. Swallow your damn pride and come to grips with that fact before we run you out of town with torches and pitchforks like the Frankenstein monster that you are!
To GP: Dude, it’s been a nice run. But the fact is your clock struck midnight about a week ago. Your carriage has turned into a pumpkin. You’re old and it shows. So when you’re out on the floor, do what you can and stay within your limits. Play D, draw charges, talk some trash. But do not, for the love of all that is good and decent in this god-forsaken world, do NOT take any shots unless you are right beneath the rim. Having trouble with this concept? See my note to Antoine.
To Udonis: You truly are the Crushernaut. And if there was an MVP for the losing team, I’d hand it to you quicker than you can say Yogi Bear. You injured your shoulder because you play all out every night. You are the heart and soul of this team. You represent the desperation, the passion, the sheer desire of all us Heat fans and we love you for it. Keep taking your shots, U. Dallas is going to give that to you – so, stay aggressive. The shots will fall. Especially here at home. And if you play hurt tonight, you will have secured your name in the All Time Greatest Heat Players pantheon. Keep on hustlin, Crusher. We salute you!
To Zo: As always, you wear your heart on your sleeve – or huge biceps. You’ve shown a lot of heart and have played very well for us in this series. You are our Jerome Bettis. My only request, Zo, is if you can please remember that you are not allowed to stay in the paint for more than 3 seconds at a time. Also, remember that you are a big guy. There is no need for you to push off other players to get to loose balls. The refs are on top of that kind of thing.
To Coach Riley: Dallas has done an excellent job containing both of your stars. Shaq touched the ball a godawful 5 times on Sunday. Wade has yet to crack the 30 point barrier. But let’s forget about the whole “Miami’s role players need to step up.” It’s clear that they won’t and can’t be counted on. Antoine Walker is Antoine Walker. He insists on being the star and shooting the ball 20 times a game. Gary Payton is old. And while he’s supposedly an upgrade on defense for Jason Williams, that’s not saying much since Jason Terry – as much as Dan Le Batard keeps denying the facts – is killing us.
It’s up to you to work your supposed magic and find a way to get Shaq and Wade involved in 98% of the offense the rest of the way. That's right. You heard me. 98% of the time. We're down 0-2 here. There's not much left that we can do but hand the ball over to our two best players ALL THE TIME. Make adjustments, set screens, whatever. Find a way. The Mavs clearly have found their third scorer in Terry and we’re going to have to live with that. We have no third scorer. And that’s fine. Antoine needs to get back to doing what he did against Detroit, mainly getting the rebounds and shooting threes only when the time calls for it. The rest of the guys just need to play hard-nosed basketball. Defense, rebounds, fouling people. But this game must belong to Shaq and Wade. Hey, I know what I'm talking about. I've read your book.
You can’t allow Avery Johnson to continue to out-coach you, Pat. Stop with the Socratatical quotes and get back to the X’s and O’s of the game. You have the most dominant force in the NBA and the most talented up and coming star in the NBA outside of Lebron James. No way we should be getting our asses handed to us like this with those two guys on our team. No way.
Anyway ... I'll be going to tonight's game and will have a report tomorrow. And this reminds me. Heat fans, please do not show up late. Do not leave early. Get off your cell phones. This is not about seeing Janet Jackson or P-Diddy (or whatever the hell his name is nowadays) or Gloria Estefan or Jamie Foxx. This about your home town team playing in the NBA Finals. Did you see how loud the Dallas fans have been the last two games? That needs to be us tonight. Get loud. Cheer. Shout. Let's hear you Heat fans! LET'S HEAR YOU!!!!!!
Sun Sentinel, SoFla Leader in the Obvious
Le Batard Echoes It
MJD Has A Theory on Shaq
Mavs Fans Expect The Heat to Bring It Tonight
Pistons fans just can't seem to LET IT GO. It's sad, really.
Labels: Miami Heat
Monday, June 12, 2006
Heat-Mavs Game 2
Too depressed to post any in-depth stuff … besides, what more analysis can I bring to this that isn’t already obvious? The Mavs are just too good, Shaq has been made a non-factor, D-Wade is getting frustrated, guys are missing free throws and we may have lost Udonis to a shoulder injury.
Anyway, Ira from the Sun Sentinel has more observations and managed to be more coherent in this loss, so read his stuff.
Despite all this, I’ll be going to Game 3 on Tuesday and will file a report on what will – hopefully – be the Heat’s first win of this so far wretched series.
(P.S.) Seriously, sorry about the short and delayed posts. Blogger.com has been having a lot of issues with their servers and assure me that they have their engineers working on the problem and thank me for my patience … )
Labels: Miami Heat
Friday, June 09, 2006
Heat-Mavs Game 1
Trying to analyze this loss with six points, without losing my cool … so here goes.
1. Jason Terry: I’ve been warning us of this guy for a week. 13-19, 32 points in Game 1. This is not Tayshaun Prince having a few good games at home. This is a guy who is not going to go away. This is the guy the Mavs went with when they let Steve Nash go West. Riley and his Minions need to find a way to contain Terry. Now.
2. Free Throws: The Heat shot an NBA Finals record-low 36% from the free throw line. As a team, they made an abysmal 7 of 19 shots from the charity stripe. And by “as a team,” I mean Shaq and Wade. Shaq went 1-9 from the stripe. No surprise there. What was surprising: Wade only made 6 for 10 and – here’s the real kicker – the rest of the Heat did not attempt one single free throw all night. Now I don’t know who is to blame here, the refs or the Heat’s lack of aggressiveness. But I do know this -- if the roles were reversed, and the Mavs only had Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry shooting free throws, Mark Cuban would be throwing one of his billion dollar penis hissy fits towards the refs on Blog Maverick. Here’s to you, Joe Crawford! You short, bald headed bastard!
3. Not A Terribly Good Sign: The Mavericks clearly did not play their best game and yet won by 10. That does not bode well for our boys. Nowitzki only went 4-14! If you had told me Dirk Nowitzki was going to go 4-14 prior to Game 1, I would’ve bet my house on the game in Vegas. And I would’ve been blogging this from the library because I’d be out of a home. The Bavarian Hurricane only made 4 shots and we still lost? Whoa boy. Jerry Stackhouse gave the Mavs a huge spark off the bench with 13 points, as did Eric Dampier. The same Eric Dampier that Shaq has repeatedly insulted in the past. The same Eric Dampier that Shaq said could dominate the WNBA. The same Eric Dampier that is now up 1-0 over Shaq in the NBA Finals.
4. Feed The Big Dog: Right now, my prediction of the Diesel dominating this series and winning his fourth Finals MVP is looking rather stupid. There is simply no excuse for Shaq only taking 11 shots for an entire game. Eleven shots! That’s unacceptable! If Shaq is going to score 17 points a night, we might as well just call it quits right now and hand Cuban and his penis the O’Brian trophy tonight. The Heat got caught up in Dallas’ game – they fell right into the Little General’s trap. They got caught up with too many fast breaks and way too many unnecessary three point shots rather than going to what got them here – feeding Shaq and going with their inside-out game. I’m going to say this again: neither Dampier nor Sagana Diop nor Kieth Van Horn nor even Nowitzky can guard Shaq. Not one of them. So feed the Big Dog. Feed him often. Feed, feed, feed. 11 shots? Unbelievable.
5. Antoine F%$# Walker: Yes, I’ve been hounding Walker all year. And this game was the epitome of why. The 17 points on the box score looks respectable. But it’s the little things, the Toine-Things, if you will, that makes me rip my hair from my scalp and yell at the top of my lungs, “NO, ANTOINE!!!! NO!!!!” 8 three point attempts, 6 of them completely ill-advised and badly missed. 6 turnovers. And I don’t mean guys poking the ball from his hands, or him losing his grip of the ball. When Antoine commits a turnover, it’s really an art form. Stupidly overly aggressive passes, balls bouncing off his foot, traveling, and let us not forget his patented Young Frankenstein style lay up attempts. The guy is useless. Can we just agree on this finally? His numbers for the playoffs have been good but, frankly, they’re a bit inflated. Let’s face it. Toine is the A-Rod of the NBA. His threes go in all nice and pretty when they matter the least and when the team needs him most, he turns into a chicken on acid, legs flailing, arms akimbo, head down, and the basketball ricocheting violently off the backboard and ending up in Jason Terry’s lap. Arrrghhh! And I swear to God, if either Boog Shiambi or that fat ass Le Betard start their Antoine Apologist Rants on 790 today, I am going to go on a five state killing spree.
6. D-Wade Needs To Close: Wade started the game off hot and then seemed to disappear after the Mavs took the lead at the end of the half and then went to the zone D. Why does D-Wade struggle so much with zone defenses? Is it the long arms? The closed lanes? It’s a mystery to me. I can’t help but feel completely baffled when a street ball strategy can shut down the NBA’s most explosive player. Look, when Wade hits 30 plus points, the Heat are 13-1 in the playoffs. He scored 28 in Game 1. At crunch time, Wade needs to just take over. He’s perfectly capable and no one on this Dallas team can stop him. In the Eastern Conference Finals, Wade beautifully closed out games and gave Detroit no hopes of come backs or game winning attempts at the buzzer. Wade failed to be Wade in the closing minutes of this game. No coffee for Dwyane. Coffee’s for closers only. He has two days to think about this.
Conclusion: The most frustrating part of this game is that the Heat had it in the bag. They were on cruise control for most of the first half and then let the game slip away. And as I mentioned above, the Mavs won without getting a good game out of their star -- Nowitzky. That is not good. For all the talk about hunger and wanting to cement their names in history and wanting to be the next MJ, the Heat now have two full days to fix their problems after dropping Game 1. Two full days to walk around with the frustration that they had this game and let it slip out of their hands.
How to fix it? Five Simple Solutions:
1. Feed Shaq the ball until he throws up. No more of this 11 shots only crap.
2. Wade needs to take over. He needs to shoot for 30+ every night.
3. Antoine Walker needs to stop being Antoine Walker.
4. Udonis Haslem needs to stay out of foul trouble. It didn’t help that they drew up Joe Look At Me, I’m A Star Crawford as the Game 1 ref. U will bounce back.
5. Get in Terry’s face and brace for a Dirk coming out party.
The Heat need to take Game 2 on Sunday or it’s back to Miami to try to win 3 in a row in the NBA’s stupidest series format (2-3-2. Stupid).
I think the Heat can take Game 2.
Labels: Miami Heat