MIAMI -- It didn't finish the way it was supposed to for the Heat. "The Decision," the preseason celebration, the dancing, the talking, the predictions, the declarations, the arrogance -- it all looks downright stupid now.
The Dallas Mavericks just celebrated an NBA championship right in front of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. On their home floor, too.
The Mavs were the better team. They understood everything about winning. They understood the little things you have to do. Every player on the roster was available to contribute and, as an example, Ian Freaking Mahinmi played some seriously important minutes and made some big-time plays for them in Game 6.
That's what it takes to taste "The Moment." That's what it takes to be a champion. I think it's in the "How To Win A Championship Manual." Unlikely players come up huge in unlikely moments. The Heat were missing those moments, those players. It was supposed to be LeBron, Wade and Bosh. That was the master plan. But the Mavs showed that it's all about individual talent coming together to win as a group. As a team. Dallas made the plays, got the rebounds, got the stops and did enough to finish it off. They were just better.
|NBA Finals: Game 6|
| Ken Berger
For the Heat to win a championship, LBJ and D-Wade need an attitude adjustment. Read More>>
And as a result, they're the 2010-11 NBA champions.
But it ends there.
"We understand our goal is to win a championship," Wade said after the game. "We wasn't able to accomplish that Year One. But this ain't the end of the Miami Heat. We'll use this as motivation and come back and try to do this again."
That Year One was an experiment didn't finish quite right. But think back to the whole season the Heat just experienced. All those moments where people said, "See? They've got no chance!" The 9-8 start, the five-game losing streak, the struggles in crunch time. The supposed "bump," the talk of Pat Riley replacing Spoelstra, CryGate, all the ridiculous media stories covering every single move they made. They had a lot going on this first season.
Many felt that, in the preseason, in December and even in April, this Heat team wasn't built for a championship. LeBron and Wade weren't totally ready to play together. Chemistry was lacking. The roster didn't have enough depth. Figuring out how to win games was going to come with a little more time. Look back at the predictions in October. The Heat were not an odds-on favorite for the title or even to reach the Finals, despite of the power and talent assembled on the roster.
Lockout talk aside -- because who really wants to think about that right now -- this Heat team will have a next season. This wasn't a one and done deal. Really, if anyone had a window that was near shut, if anyone was having a now or never moment, it was the Mavs.
The future for the Heat is still as bright as any franchise in the league. Their outlook remains bright. Three great players, a terrific young coach, a smart guy in the front office, a solid owner and a lot of room to improve. Nothing says this team can't rip off a three-peat starting next season. Nothing says they will win it all, either. But the point is that the future is a blank canvas for the Heat.
The roster isn't perfect. There's work to be done. Erik Spoelstra said he could win with these guys, and he was almost right. But like every other team in the league, the Heat want to be better next season. Bosh, as he typically does, put it extremely well after the game.
"There's no hiding. In the NBA, you play a series, best of seven games, usually the better team is going to win. So we've got work to do," he said. "We have to go back to the drawing board. It hurts to come this far and come up short. It's disappointing, but hopefully we can use this as motivation going forward.
"Looking back on it, this was our first year. Absolutely we would like to have won it this year. But just being optimistic, looking forward, yeah, I mean, there's a bright spot, but we have to work and we have to develop the mindset to go get it.
Of course they missed a big opportunity. This season ends in disappointment instead of celebration. It's damn hard to get to the NBA Finals and they were there and didn't finish the job despite having two games to win at home. That's a killer. That opportunity doesn't come along very often.
But LeBron is 26. Wade is 29. Bosh is 27. They're all signed through 2014. Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony, too. A solid core is there. A core that was two wins away from an NBA title. To think this team is far off and won't ever get there is insane. That's one hell of a talented group in South Beach.
This championship run ended. It didn't finish as they had hoped, especially after that ludicrous welcome party almost a year ago. This wasn't the first in a run of not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six championships that LeBron promised.
But it's not over for this group. Not by a long shot. Get all your jokes and ha-has in now, because eventually, there's a good chance the Heat may have the last laugh.