A few weeks ago, Dirk Nowitzki made what at first
seemed to be a rather mundane comment about last year's NBA Finals. After all, his words merely expressed the viewpoint widely held by many basketball fans and pundits: that his Mavericks "gave away" the championship by not closing out the series after winning the first two games and building a double-digit 4th quarter lead in Game 3. As you can probably imagine, Dwyane Wade -- who was the Finals MVP -- didn't like that one bit. Wade had this to say
''At the end of the day, you're remembered for what you did at the end. Dirk says they gave us the championship last year, but he's the reason they lost the championship, because he wasn't the leader that he's supposed to be in the closing moments. That's because of great defense by us, but also he wasn't assertive enough as a leader's supposed to be.''
Dallas fans and the Wader-haters like to point with wagging fingers at the extraordinary number of freethrows Wade shot in the Finals (a whopping 16 a game...and 18 per in the Heat's four wins). And while there's certainly a grain of truth in the notion that the refs were extremely kind to the Heat in general and Wade in particular, it's also true that Wade was very aggressive throughout the series and continuously took what the officials were willing the give him. That's basketball. And strangely enough, no one in Dallas said anything
about how Nowitzki shot 24 free throws in a 104-103 win
against the Spurs in Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinals. You think that might have made a difference in the game, not to mention the series? (For the record, the Mavs -- who were playing at home -- got 50 free throws that game, 18 more than the Spurs.) Dirk also had a game-high 15 FTAs in the Mavs' 123-118 overtime win
in Game 4, not to mention 16 FTAs in their 119-110 overtime win
in Game 7 (including the "and 1" that sent the game into overtime).
So what should we conclude from this? Was the NBA conspiring against the Spurs, just as many people suggest they were conspiring against the Mavericks (or for the Heat) in the Finals? Or did the Mavericks average more free throw attempts than the Spurs because they were the more aggressive team? Go back and watch that semifinal series and you'll notice that Dirk played like a madman, taking the ball strong to the hoop and crashing the boards. And, as a result, he got the benefit of a handful of generous calls, as the aggressors often do. For whatever reason, Nowitzki wasn't nearly as aggressive in the Finals, especially down the stretch of Games 3, 5, and 6. He never took the ball to the basket as decisively as he did at the end of regulation in Game 7 against the Spurs. And his unwillingness or inability to do so is one of the primary reasons the Heat prevailed...as Wade rightly pointed out.
Of course, Dallas owner Mark Cuban couldn't let this go. He posted about Wade's comments in his blog
. Oddly enough, this was his initial response:
"Say what ? Is this the DWade of some of the lamest , boring commercials known to man ? Commercials that are singlehandedly responsible for selling more commercial skipping Tivos than anything else on TV?"
Maybe I picked the wrong week to stop drinking cough syrup, or maybe I just needed to run this through the Dork-to-English Translator, but I have no idea what the quality of Wade's commercials (which are actually pretty funny) have to do with anything. Maybe Cuban is suffering from Commercial Envy. Speaking of boring commercials...
"Dwayne I don't blame you for not looking at tapes of the finals. You obviously didn't. You would have seen your unbelievable skills and some other unbelievable elements that if I could discuss honestly here I would get fined for."
That Mark Cuban...he truly is the crafty master of subtlety! Gosh, whatever could he be talking about?? I do think it's kind of creepy that he has such absolute knowledge of Wade's TV watching habits. And hey, when did Mark become afraid of getting fined? Oh, that's right; when he transformed into a huge, flopping vagina.
"I know Shaq appreciates your leadership as well. He called out your team a few weeks ago saying it was 'embarassing'. Great leadership Wade. Your coach sat players for being fat. I guess you couldnt lead them away from the buffet."
This would be a really snappy comeback if Shaq didn't consistently go out of his way to praise Wade's various abilities (leadership included). As for the "embarassing" quote, well, I thought the Nowitzki/Dampier mini-feud was pretty lame and embarassing, but I'm sure Mark would say that's all in the past.
"You are an amazing player Dwayne. I love watching you shoot free throws. What you know about Dirk's leadership skills is non existent. You don't have a clue. Your ability to evaluate leadership skills....well you obviously have an overinflated value of your own. Did you take business classes at Marquette ?"
I would like to point out that the guy who's questioning Wade's ability to evaluate leadership skills is the very same guy who didn't think Steve Nash was worth a few more million dollars per year. And Nash "only" went on to win two consecutive MVPs and is playing well enough to win it again this year. Oh, and let's not forget how he popped up on The Late Show with David Letterman
and predicted the Mavs had the championship in the bag because they had a 2-0 series lead. So, you know, maybe you
need to attend a few more business classes, Mark.
"And Im pissed for one more reason. Im going to have to miss our next game against the Heat on Feb 22. A previous engagement. I guess its just a missed opportunity to bring a local business class to the game and try to let them interview you about your leadership skills."
This is like telling the school bully that you'd totally show up to fight him after school, but your mom expects you home by 3 o'clock. Previous engagement? Whatever. I'm guessing a guy with a billion dollars in the bank and a few weeks notice could rearrange his schedule if it was that important to him. Maybe he's just afraid of watching Wade show up his team again.This man knows leadership. Dwayne Wade Does not.