Thirty-four months have elapsed since the 2006 NBA Finals, just shy of the three-year statute of limitations at which we in the sports world click-and-drag the "recent past" folder into the one marked "ancient history." So now's the time to look back at that championship series between the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks, two teams that have packed an awful lot of living into the period since.
Why 2006? Well, things haven't changed all that much for the teams that competed in the two Finals that followed. The 2007 participants are still factors heading into this year's postseason; Cleveland's back as a bigger, stronger, better and more serious contender, while San Antonio's limping along as a proud warhorse underestimated at any opponent's peril. The 2008 series, meanwhile, feels like it took place weeks ago rather than months, with both the Celtics and the Lakers eager for a rematch -- and the NBA and TV network honchos praying for same.
The 2005 Finals clash between San Antonio and Detroit, by comparison, seems almost sepia-toned now by the dog-years pace of sports. That series took place pre-Hurricane Katrina, we hadn't yet been subjected to
That makes the 2006 Finals our Goldilocks edition, just right for revisiting in the context of 2009. It was, first and foremost, something of a respite from all those Lakers and Pistons and Spurs teams that had populated, even dominated, the proceedings in the preceding years. Both franchises were making their first and so far only trip to the Finals. Dallas was two years removed from the
Now move ahead 34 months, when both the Heat and Mavs are wrapping up interesting, if not exactly upper-echelon, seasons. Both have overachieved in light of some October predictions that had Dallas slipping out of the playoffs entirely and Miami staying a lot closer to its last-place finish last spring. There could be something to learn from seeing where these squads were then and gauging where they're headed now.
Here, broken into some key categories, is a glimpse at how the teams got from here to there, or rather, there to here:
Nowitzki has been an under-the-radar stud, averaging 25.7 points this season, his highest total since 2005-06 and, at age 30, the third best of his career. Since a three-game stretch in late February in which he totaled just 40 points, Nowitzki has averaged 27.8 points while helping Dallas to a 13-8 mark. Wade, however, has put together easily the best of his six NBA seasons and, if not for
Just going by development and growth together, Dallas boasts the more veteran and cohesive roster; five players -- Nowitzki, Howard,
The Heat can claim two of these, after swapping Shaquille O'Neal for
Beasley, thanks to the short hand that might be applied later in, and after, his career, could end up with quite the reputation as an impact rookie. After all, the last time an NBA team went from 15 victories to a playoff berth was in 1968-69, when the San Diego Rockets added newcomer
Unless they move up in the final week of the season, the Mavs are facing a No. 1-vs.-No. 8 first-round clash with the Lakers, a matchup only those on
So there it is, a breakdown according to seven categories, with Dallas eking out a 4-3 victory. There are those who will say the 2006 Finals might have ended up that way, too, if only, y'know, the Mavs hadn't blown that 89-76 lead halfway through the fourth quarter in Game 3 ... and Wade hadn't shot 73 free throws over the series' final four games ... and the whole thing actually had gone to a seventh game.
Seems like a long time ago. Seems like yesterday.