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12:32 AM ET, 6/04/06

Nice guys can finish first

Posted by Arash Markazi
A six-pack of thoughts from the Mavericks' 102-93 win over the Suns in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals:

• At no point in the first half or the opening portion of the third quarter did it seem as if the Mavericks had a chance to close out this series in Phoenix. The consensus among most was that the series was going seven anyway. And it seemed like Dallas was more than content to follow that script. The Mavs were down by as many as 18 in the first half and trailed 60-45 with about six minutes left in the third quarter. They were shooting so poorly that I expected the announcer from NBA Jam to come on the set like a Saved promo and shout, "Can't buy a bucket!" after every one of the Mavs' misses. Then Dirk Nowitzki caught fire, and after going 2-for-9 for eight points in the first half, finished the game with 24 points and led Dallas to their comeback win. The Mavericks, who finished the game outscoring the Suns 57-33, are headed to their first ever NBA Finals. By the way, what's the over-under on how many times we'll hear the theme song from Dallas and Will Smith's Miami over the next week?

• I'm a fan of Steve Nash's hair, but how many times do you think he brushes his greasy locks behind his ears with both hands during a game? My count was 19, but that was only when the camera was focused on Nash, so I'm guessing it was at least twice as many.

• Craig Sager's attire may be harmful to viewers' eyes, but Sager offered an interesting tidbit in the first quarter about how officials train their eyes to keep up with the high-paced action on the court. As Sager noted, he was sitting next to official Bob Delaney on a recent flight and saw Delaney watching a game tape in fast-forward. Delaney explained that he wasn't skipping ahead to any particular moment, but exercising all six muscles in the eye so when he was officiating the next game, the action in regular speed would seem slower and his eyes would be more focused.

• The exercise was a waste of time in Charles Barkley's eyes after the way the refs called the game in the first half. "The officials are doing a terrible job," Barkley said. "You can't call every WNBA foul. You have to let the guys play."

Speaking of TNT, is anyone else tired of the network's in-game promos for The Closer and Saved? I hear they're working on a couple of other shows for next season, entitled Rivera and Gagne, so maybe we'll see them make cameos at the bottom of the court during a late-game comeback, too.

• You have to respect the Suns fans at the Purple Palace who stayed and stood and cheered during the final minutes even though their season was coming to a premature end. That would never happen in Los Angeles where most fans would be out the door and trying to beat traffic before the final buzzer. I know that for a fact after being at similar situations for several Lakers playoff games over the years.

• Finally a quick story on why Avery Johnson is my favorite coach and one of my favorite people in the league. About four years ago, I was assigned to do a story for SLAM on Avery Johnson. At the time, Don Nelson was letting Johnson coach some practices and it was beginning to be common knowledge that "The General" would soon be "The Coach." I traveled to the Staples Center in Los Angeles for the story where the Mavericks were going to be playing the Lakers, who were in last place in the Pacific Division. Before the game, I went up to Avery and introduced myself and he told me he had to take care of something but that we should meet up after the game to chat.

The chances of that interview ever taking place seemed slim to none in my mind as the Mavericks allowed the Lakers to pull off the second-biggest comeback in league history, as the Lakers rallied from 27 down in the fourth quarter to win 105-103. After the game, the Mavericks' locker room was silent as I rolled up to Johnson, who was putting on his suit. When he saw me, he shrugged his shoulders and said, "Crazy, huh?" He then proceeded to sit down with me for the next half hour and talked about his career, goals for becoming a head coach in the league and his passion for bible study and biking. Add Mr. Nice, Dirk Nowitzki, to the mix and the Mavericks are proof that sometimes nice guys do finish first, at least in the Western Conference anyway.


Posted: 12:42 AM   by Anonymous
THe Mavericks are all nice guys. even Cuban is a nice guy, though quirky. I think this is why the media seems to ignore the Mavericks as compared to some of the other NBA teams and players. No selfish players, no bad apples, no quitters. I am a witness - Nowitnesski !!! GO MAVS - will win the NBA title in 6.
Posted: 12:48 AM   by John
once again, i am a Nowitzness!
Posted: 1:01 AM   by Anonymous
Avery Johnson REALLY is a nice guy, he often comes into the restaurant I work at and is very pleasant and tips extremly well and acknowledges everyone that approaches him, whereas Keyshawn Johnson often comes in too and that guy is a World Class jerk! Look who is having sucess. Nice guys CAN finish first.
Posted: 1:15 AM   by Anonymous



GO MAVS!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted: 2:23 AM   by Anonymous
Since the game has been over, all I've heard and read has been about Phoenix being fatigued, Raja Bell playing on half a leg, Steve Nash exhausted and not being able to give any more, etc.... I mean, seriously? The Mavs made it to the Finals because Phoenix was fatigued? Let's be honest here. These guys get paid millions of dollars to play basketball. They live and breathe their job. I can't believe now, at the end of the series, Phoenix's players, fans, coach, and the media are all buying into this business about fatigue being such a major factor. Phoenix was up 18 points, and at least by 15 even in the second half. At that point, fatigue is no factor and adrenaline should be in high gear. And in that situation, Dallas took over. They had the will of a champion, they never gave up, and they came back to beat a team that was clearly worse than them. Phoenix overachieved, but the better team finally won. I'm only disappointed that people seem more intent on attributing it to some bogus fatigue factor rather than the brilliant play of Dallas.
Posted: 3:51 AM   by remote Pole
I am so far away that I can be politically incorrect. In my opinion, Tim Thomas turned out to be an ultimate failure, not because of his shooting or defence, but because his unnecessary ...kiss. The one blown to Dirk gavegot the latter such adrenaline level, that no Sun could match.
Posted: 5:26 AM   by Jake Bernhard
The Mavericks team and coach? Nice guys. The fans? Not so much. The way a hefty chunk of the crowd rabidly denounced Michael Finley during the San Antonio series as a traitor (never mind that the Mavs cut him!) shows them to be fans who don't deserve a championship.

Nice guys finished first last year (Spurs). Here's hoping at least one nice superstar will this year (Dwanye Wade).
Posted: 5:43 AM   by Anonymous
It's kinda sad that Nash, Finley and Dirk couldn't do it together. Ironic how Dirk had to face them both to get to the finals. Dirk's come full circle as a player, thanks in large part to Avery. Now they both benefit...and both deserve it...
Posted: 5:55 AM   by Istvan
I would be very happy, if every admirer of Dirk can write his last name without error ...

Istvan from Germany
Posted: 6:21 AM   by Anonymous
As someone who knows most of the Mavs employees, coaches and players I can say that indeed most everyone in the organization is nice EXCEPT Cuban. They are the one's who should receive the credit not Mark but he does because it's his money. I've seen people fired or not get a yearly bonus because he's having a bad day. If you knew the things that really happen behind the scenes everyone would change their tune on Mark Cuban.
Posted: 9:14 AM   by Anonymous
Now all you Mavs fans are getting a taste of what the Spurs and us Spurs fans go through every finals... no attention from the media. 1999, it was all about the Knicks, 2003 all about Jason Kidd, and 2005 all about The Wallace's and Billups. This entire finals will be focused on Wade and Shaq. Dallas fans, be grateful that you are disrespected in the media. It will lead you to a title... Mavs in 5! ***Spurs fan displaced in Dallas***
Posted: 10:02 AM   by Anonymous
I am so happy for the Mavs and for Mark Cuban. I look forward to seeing teams other than Detroit and San Antonio in the finals. We rejoice in Indy that nice guys can finish first!
Posted: 10:14 AM   by cardlrmatt
Let's not forget to thank the man who set all this in motion.........Don Nelson. First, he has the foresight to draft Dirk. He knew when to step aside and bring in Avery. And he fathered the best G.M. in basketball Donnie Nelson. Mavs in 5!!!!!!!
Posted: 10:45 AM   by Anonymous
The Mavs will not win the championship this season. I respect AJ as a coach, but the Mavs still need some major improvements on their defense. The Heat guards will slow this team down, and their inside scoring will be muted with Shaq in the game. Think about it, the only real playoff challenge for the Mavs occurred when they played the Spurs. They almost lost that series versus the Spurs after being up 3-1 and 20 pts the final game…….They played a Memphis team who can’t spell playoffs, and an injured Suns team. The Heat will be the NBA champs this season. If the Heat can get through the defense of Detroit, they can walk over the Mavs defense. The only real hope for the Mavs is to score over 100 pts…like they did against the Spurs. I don't see 100 plus points happening in a championship game with Shaq.
Posted: 11:01 AM   by Anonymous
It's real good 2 see people from La.on bouth sides the ball with ,Shack from L.S.U.and Johnson from the NewOrleans area.People from NEWORLEANS really need something to cheer about.
Posted: 11:26 AM   by Anonymous
on Avery Johnson: quality people

on his Dirkness: undecided - still remember his lashing out at his team mates in the press after last year's playoff elimination. But obviously an elite player the way he willed his team to win (the 50 pt game was awe inspiring)

on TNT: should stick to broadcasting silly overblown TV dramas and movies butchered with edits and commercial interruptions. Sports fans are better off when sports networks broadcast sports.
Posted: 11:27 AM   by Anonymous
I'm so happy to finally see nice guys finish first. After years and years of being knocked for being "soft" the Mavs show everyone that focus and determination can take you to the next level. GO MAVS!
Posted: 11:32 AM   by rootypoo
HOW BOUT DEM' MAVS? !!!!!!!!!!!
Posted: 11:41 AM   by Don
Great story. To those who now find yourselves on the Mavs bandwagon and act like you were a fan 10 years ago when they struggled to get 15 wins, PLEASE learn how to spell Dirk's last name. It's Nowitzki.
Posted: 11:43 AM   by Anonymous
Unfortunately, the officials will not let Nowitski push his way around the Heat. Dallas is a poor team that would have been swept in 4 if Amare Stoudamire had been playing. Heat in 5. Dallas in the championships is an embarassment to the NBA.
Posted: 1:11 PM   by Anonymous
You wish you had Nash, Mav fans! Why did it take 6 games to beat a depleted Suns team? Less you forget what a full Suns team did to the Mavs last year?
Posted: 1:14 PM   by Anonymous
so that's pretty cool that with all the new rule changes that NBA has made...that they've included a rule where dirk gets an and-1 everytime he goes to the hoop. clearly worked in his favor in the spurs series, and most obviously in the last 2 games of the suns series. is there anyone who has gotten more and-1's than this guy!?!? it's ridiculous. it changes the momentum of games. he is genuinely such a good player, that he's making the shots so often, does he really need to be gifted with an extra foul basket as well? i'm sure riley will be fuming if the refs keep calling it that way in the finals.
Posted: 2:56 PM   by Jeremy
i really enjoy how all the mavs bashing is done by "anonymous" people! its ridiculos! If anyone has watched the mavs all season then you would know they are one of the best teams! you can say the suns "only" had nash but they also had all star shawn marion, the most improved player in the league (Diaw), and one of the leading three point shooter in the game (BELL). also we beat a great spurs team that had duncan, parker, and ginobili! And look who is still standing! so dont try and tell me that Dirk is a scrub and the mavs arent any good! Watch a little more of teh mavs and see how great he is! and miami isnt going to win just bc they have two great players! we beat them both times in the regular season and bad!
Posted: 3:41 PM   by Anonymous

1)Nice guys finally finsh first? Guess you missed the three Spurs championships in the last seven years.

2)AJ, great coach, nice guy. Of course, what else would you expect from a former Spur? ; ) BTW, Mavs fans, you should take a lesson from Spurs fans, who are happy for AJ's success, despite it coming at the Spurs' expense this year. How you could boo Finley, after all he did for the Mavs organization, for a business decision made by YOUR JERK OWNER is beyond me. Did you expect him to demonstrate his loyalty to the Mavs and commit basketball Hare Kiri by signing with the Raptors or something?

3)Suns fans, stop making excuses. Yes, your team was tired and beat up. So were the Spurs, but the Mavs beat us on the court by playing (slightly) better basketball. In fact, I think a stronger case can be made for the Suns' game 1 victory resulting from the Mavs obvious emotional and physical fatigue after the titanic 7 game battle with the Spurs.

4)I don't know who Miami has that can defend Dirk away from the basket any better than the Spurs or Suns did. Then again, not sure how Dallas stops D. Wade or Shaq either. Should be an interesting matchup in the finals.
Posted: 5:34 PM   by Anonymous
Anonymous, who said anything about nice guys "finally" finishing first, it just said, "nice guys can finish first." And in case you're wondering Coach Johnson is a hell of a lot nicer than Coach Pop and Dirk is ten times more aproachable than Duncan.
Posted: 6:35 PM   by nmgrayfox48
Idle Thoughts Post-TNT Coverage:
1. If you had not watched Games 4 & 5 of the Mavs-Suns series and only saw TNT's Postgame show, one would have thought the Suns won.
2.Could we have a NBA finals without incessant promos for shows that most sports fans could care less about?
3. Barkley let his true Phoenix colors show at the end! How's the fishin', Chuck?
4.TNT Grades - Marv Albert- D-
Steve Kerr - B
Doug Collins- C
Kenny Smith - C
Magic - B
Barkley - D-
Production - F-
Posted: 7:15 PM   by Anonymous
Congratulations to the Mavericks! Deepest team in the NBA by far, with two able starting lineups!

The Suns will get over the hump, because they will eventually play a healthy conference finals down the road (they have played the last 2 conference series without key players).

For the finals, i just hope for one thing...let the players play!
Way too many whistles on either side in game 6!
Posted: 11:01 PM   by eca1969
Thanks to the nice guys for getting to the championship game.
Coach Don Nelson deserves alot of credit and thanks to him also.I've
said all year long that I thought the Mavs had a great chance to win it all this season.I think that the Suns had the ability to give the Mavs a much tougher series than the Heat can. GO MAVS
Posted: 11:03 PM   by Anonymous
As another poster aldready said, there is nothing new in that. the term "Nice guys" (as opposed to trash talkers) has often been used to describe the Spurs.
And the same can be said of this year's Dallas I guess.
In fact it seems as if there is a long term trend emerging the very competitive western conference :

Nices guys play better ball.

Commitment to one's team,
Team play,
True respect(not just lip service) for the opponent,

have come to be recognized as the core elements driving the Spurs as the most succcesful franchise (in term of win %)of the last ten years.

Quite naturally (and smartly) a lot of teams are following suit : Dallas, but also Phoenix, even the Clips.

I know that a lot of people have call the Spurs (and "nice guys" in general) bland.
As if name calling, acrimony, personal antagonism was part of sports.
Sorry but I think that people who need that to watch sports simply don't like sports they like see people having an argument.
Frankly I find trash talking distasteful and boasting ridiculous (the "Sheed' "guarantee")
Go see "wrestling" (a show but not a sport) or the pathetic "build-up" to boxing matches (a dying sport).

I know that a lot of media types likes nothing more than to fuel these so-called "feuds" or "rivalries" because it gives them something to gossip about.
But it is frankly boring, and 99% of the time, pure hot air : two guys get excited during a series and all of a sudden its a "feud".
If the two coaches add their comments then its a "rivalry" ! Get out of here !
Give me Nowitzky and Nash shaking hands at the end of a hard fought game any time. It's all what sports are about

In the end "Nice Guys" teams ends up playing better basketball because :

1)It's easier to give your very best when working with people you genuinely like and trust

2)you don't make the mistake of underestimating opponents you respect .
Posted: 3:32 AM   by Anonymous
Go Suns! What a great run when many people wrote us off from even making the playoffs.

Mavs played great this series, and I thought the better team did end up winning. They're my pick for winning the finals.

Btw, Phx never made an excuse that fatigue was the reason why they lost the series. It played a factor, I don't think you can refute that. And that's all part of competing, learning to deal with injuries, fatigue, and questionable officiating. It's all part of the game. Fatigue played a factor in the loss, which Phx didn't prepare well enough for.

And yes, agree...Dirk gets A TON of calls. Maybe he is fouled each time, but he still gets A TON of calls.

Btw Mavs, hope your team wins this year...forthcoming seasons will be much different with a healthy Amare. Good luck!
Posted: 11:21 AM   by Anonymous
To everyone who discredits the Mavericks....
They won 60 games this season.
They have the only playoffs sweep.
They fought significant injuries all year long.
They destroyed the Heat twice this year.
And most significantly, they dethroned the NBA champions making them the team to beat. For 21 years (as in my whole life) I have been ridiculed (at least for the last 16) for defending that the Mavericks would be good every single year. We finally do it and still don't get any respect. It will just make the winning the title that much sweeter.
Posted: 12:00 PM   by Anonymous
As a Suns fan, I agree with your assessment that the Mavs are a bunch of good guys. I'll be rooting for them in the finals. I really think that it could be said that good guys prevailed in the Western Conference regardless of the who won - the Suns are a bunch of good guys as well. You could even make that case for anybody in the conference semis - even if watching the Spurs win it is old hat - they are quality people.

Some will argue that Raja Bell isn't a good guy because of his clotheslining of Kobe, but then you'd have to explain Jason Terry's little event.
Posted: 5:52 PM   by Anonymous

Remember the name!

Posted: 12:41 AM   by Anonymous
Sure a lot of complaints about Dirk getting a lot of calls. Mostly coming from Spurs and Suns fans of course. It's hard to figure anyone getting more calls than Duncan. Nash gets his fair share also. Dirk may be getting his share of calls now but he's taken more hard fouls over the years than anyone. Having Cuban as your owner doesn't exactly make your team the favorite of the refs. The Mav's players used to complain a lot about calls but this year it's been cut back - probably Avery's personality. Most complaints probably came from Duncan followed by Nash. After the game you would hear comments from Nash like: a few calls away from winning the game, but you have to give Dallas credit. Sorry Steve, but you're blaming the refs and not giving the Mavs credit. By the way, I love Nas as a player.
Posted: 3:42 AM   by Anonymous
i say i enjoyed reading your comments. Each team is talented, both were compose of good guys. But NBA is not about bein good guy, it's on talent, on versatility, on teamwork. Who can guard shaq so as who can guard dirk? the thing is this would be an exciting championship, better then last year.. Watch out for CLIPS next year!
Posted: 12:10 PM   by MattC
All this "if" from all these fans from different teams....guess what?? None of it matters that Amare was out and that Raja got injured in game 1, true champions win with the hand that they're dealt. The Mavs lost by 4 points in Auburn Hills right before the season ended and that was without Van Horn, Josh Howard, Adrian Griffin, and Marquis Daniels....no complaining about that loss from any Maverick. Give the WESTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS the respect they deserve!!!!! For years the Mavericks brought up the bottom of the barrel in the NBA and finally they have reached where every team wants to be in early June and people want to discredit that with downfalls of the teams they faced along the way....ridiculous!!!! In case anyone hasn't noticed, Shaq is not the Shaq of old anymore, still a dominant player but the Mavericks depth could not be matched by any team that set foot on the court with them this year, and Miami will be no different. This finals is special in that neither team has ever been here before and it shouldn't be ruined by jealous fans of teams that didn't get there....GO MAVS FOREVER!!!!
Posted: 6:25 PM   by Frustated Heat Fan!
It is a shame what the Miami Heat and the NBA did with the Miami fans that tried to buy tickets for the finals.

They announce tickets will be available for the general public at 2 PM at Ticketmaster (the official scalper) but there are no tickets available when you try to buy it at at their website.

Tell us in advance that there are no tickets available instead of making us sit down in front of a computer to try to buy it as fast as we can!

Shame on you Miami Heat and NBA!!

Congrats FIFA because at least you were fair enough to have a democratic drawing for the biggest event of all sports, the World Cup!
Posted: 2:09 PM   by Anonymous
Nice guys CAN finish first. And I'm not talkin about the Mavs. They're a great team, don't get me wrong, but Dwyane Wade is the REAL DEAL!! He's a gentlemen, is the furthest thing from a "gangsta." You may see it in his game, but his personality is just the opposite. He doesn't cuss and is as unselfish a player as there is. He's a true superstar, and he's the nice guy that's gonna win it