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Winderman: 2012 Mavericks are what Heat should have been in 2007

Mar 28, 2012, 12:55 PM EDT

Mavericks forward Marion, guard Kidd, guard Terry and forward Nowitzki stand with the Larry O'Brien Championship trophy before their NBA basketball game in Dallas, Texas Reuters

Heat-Mavericks wasn’t what it was cracked up to be on Christmas Day, and it won’t be on Thursday night either.

At least when cast as an NBA Finals rematch.

Oh, the Heat still start the same lineup they started in Game 6 in the 2011 NBA Finals, the night the Mavericks won the NBA championship at AmericanAirlines Arena, the venue for Thursday’s nationally televised game.

But from the start this season these Mavericks haven’t been those Mavericks. Not even close.

And that, to a degree, pits the rivals in a different sort of competition when it comes to one-hit wonders.

Neither the 2006 Heat (who defeated the Mavericks in those NBA Finals) nor the 2011 Mavericks were expected to win championships. Neither were viewed as potential dynasties once the confetti fell.

But the divergent paths could yet serve as a model for future one-hit wonders when it comes to when to say when.

Despite several shaky moments on the way to that 2006 championship, Pat Riley, known for his organizational loyalty, opted to return with his Heat roster relatively intact, with veterans Antoine Walker, James Posey and Gary Payton brought back. By the midpoint of that season, Walker and Posey were suspended for conditioning issues. By the end of that season, Gary Payton wasn’t merely saving his invectives for the opposition.

Contrast that to the forward-thinking approach of Mark Cuban, who allowed Heat Finals tormentors Tyson Chandler and J.J. Barea to depart in free agency, with DeShawn Stevenson also permitted to move on.

What we’re seeing now is what we saw at the end of 2006-07 with the Heat, a defending champion scrambling for playoff seeding. The Heat were swept in the first round in 2007 by the Bulls. The Mavericks, based on their potential opening-round seeding, could be facing the same fate.

But the Mavericks also are flush with potential salary-cap space, Deron Williams-level cap space.

Their championship prospects could wind up on an up-down-up curve.

The Heat post 2006? Not only didn’t they win a playoff game in 2007, but they ended 2007-08 with a league-worst 15-67 record, not to win another playoff series until last season’s run to the Finals, leaving them more up-down-down-down-down-up.

Thursday night, the not-nearly-the-same Mavericks return to AmericanAirlines Arena for the first time since exiting last June with the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

The shine this time isn’t nearly as bright.

But the future might be, something that couldn’t have been said about the post-championship, post-2006 Heat.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at @IraHeatBeat.

  1. steelerfanforlife - Mar 28, 2012 at 1:42 PM

    Oh the beauty of hindsight. It makes experts out of so many people!

    • pudgalvin - Mar 28, 2012 at 8:11 PM

      This article is more about foresight than hindsight.

  2. 1972wasalongtimeago - Mar 28, 2012 at 2:23 PM

    So now the 2007 Heat are getting ripped? How about the 1995 Heat? Kevin Willis was a dog that year. How about the disappointment that was Harold Miner and Willie Burton? Jeez. Can we just enjoy the irrational hatred for LeBron James please? Isn’t that enough for you people?

    • pudgalvin - Mar 28, 2012 at 8:14 PM

      Relax dude. I think a lot of people cheered for that Heat team to win. I know I did. Although, any time you can squeeze Kevin Willis, Harold Miner and Willie Burton into a post, you probably should jump at that opportunity.

  3. md23rewlz - Mar 28, 2012 at 3:10 PM

    This Dallas team isn’t really THAT different than last year’s. They have been slightly less consistent, but it’s not like last year’s team screamed title or anything in March. The reality with the Mavericks is that almost all of their teams in the last decade have been more or less the same, with an alteration here and there. That they caught fire in the playoffs last year is the result of a million different factors–everything from the Lakers being on the way down to the Thunder not being quite up to the team clicking on offense in a way they didn’t during the regular season.

    • savvybynature - Mar 29, 2012 at 12:40 AM

      Tyson Chandler is very underrated imo. He’s been the biggest difference maker on the Knicks this year, not Melo, Amare or Lin. Defense doesn’t get a spot in the box score, but the kind of interior defense he provides is huge. He’s a top 5 big man or close imo (I only have Howard, Love and the Gasols ahead of him, maybe Bynum but while his offense is better his defense is worse I think).

      • wlubake - Mar 29, 2012 at 1:04 AM

        Chandler is certainly underrated, though his contract in NY would say otherwise. That said, this Mavs team is actually better on defense than they were last year with Chandler. So his loss hasn’t been felt that hard.

        It is more about the team getting offensive consistency, which seems to be evading them. Dirk is back to being Dirk and Jet has come on lately (both were not themselves for most of this season). If Beaubois and Odom can give consistent offense in double digits (that may be only a dream for Odom), this is a team that can compete come playoff time.

    • drunkenjunk - Mar 29, 2012 at 8:34 AM

      You’re making it seem like everyone else just gave it to them.

  4. pistolpete0903 - Mar 29, 2012 at 8:05 PM

    Does the regular season match really matter; especially for non-conference rivals?

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