While we in Dallas prefer not to discuss the 2006-2007 playoffs, we can’t help but applaud Michael Finley. The Mavericks were carried by Michael Finley for years, then Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki were added to the mix and the team became a playoff contender year after year.
As Nash and Nowitzki took center stage, Finley began to fade from the public eye. He had fewer touches, fewer scoring opportunities, and he seemed to lose the will to win. Perhaps it was Don Nelson that left him feeling unimportant or uninspired. Whatever the case, Finley lost his fire over his last few seasons as a Maverick. Perhaps he just ran out of gas after carrying a sub-par team for so many years.
Together, the Big Three seemed to lack the killer instinct and spark necessary to take a team to the championship. When Steve Nash left Dallas, his game improved beyond anyone’s expectation. Nash brought an average Phoenix team back to life. Dallas continued to reach the playoffs, but the lack of point guard and center really hurt the team.
With Finley’s departure to San Antonio, the Big Three became the Dirk Nowitzki show. Even without Nash and Finley, GM Donnie Nelson and Avery Johnson have taken a first round playoff team and transformed them into legitimate championship contenders.
Both Nash and Nowitzki elevated their games once apart. Finley took a 7th or 8th man role on the Spurs, which he seemed all too happy to accept given the team’s drive and discipline. Michael Finley’s best years may be behind him, but his golden years are just beginning. This championship ring makes him the first of Dallas’ Big Three to win the ultimate prize.
While we celebrate Finley’s much deserved moment in the sun, we also find ourselves wondering which of the remaining Big Three will taste the sweet sweet taste of victory next. Will Nash lead the Suns to a championship first? Or will Nowitzki carry the Mavs back into the playoffs with the confidence it will take to win it all?
One thing is certain: if it can’t be the Dallas Mavericks bringing home the trophy, it’s at least some consolation that a beloved ex-Mav has the opportunity. Should Steve Nash and his Suns make it to the dance before we do, we will still find it in our hearts to cheer him on.
Once a Mav hero, always a Mav hero. But please, Dirk, let’s get it done first.