MIAMI (AP)—It’s the matchup that basketball fans might really want to see. Not Heat vs. Mavericks. LeBron vs. Dirk.
There’s a chance at some point in the NBA finals, which begin Tuesday when
Dallas visits Miami, that Heat forward LeBron James may find himself guarding
Mavs star Dirk Nowitzki. If it happens, James said he will accept the challenge.
“People see me as a really good defender and him as the best offensive
player,” James said. “So they automatically put me on him. Whatever it takes.
If I need to guard him throughout the course of the series, I will. It doesn’t
matter to me.”
The Heat will likely use an array of players on Nowitzki, including Chris
Bosh, Joel Anthony and Udonis Haslem, who fared particularly well against the
7-foot sharpshooter when Miami beat Dallas in the 2006 title series.
“I don’t think the same things that worked five years ago will work this
year,” Haslem said. “It’s going to be a team effort. … When he gets the
ball, everybody has to be at attention.” For his part, Nowitzki sounds like he’ll be prepared for whatever Miami
throws his way.
“They’re a very good team with three superstars who can really, really
defend,” Nowitzki said. “They’ve showed that in the playoffs so far. They’re
very good defensively. Yeah, it’s going to be a challenge. Hopefully we’re going
to be up for it.”
SAY TROPHY: After practice Saturday, Mavs players put on their blue road
jerseys—updated to add an NBA finals patch featuring the championship trophy—
and posed for pictures.
With the Larry O’Brien Trophy, the one presented to the NBA champions.
Among hockey players, there’s an unwritten rule about not touching the
Stanley Cup until you’ve won it. Mavs center Tyson Chandler was asked if he had
a similar superstition. “Nah, I’m going to touch it,” he said. “It’s not the real one anyway.”
The Heat will do the same sometime before Game 1 for photo montages that ABC
will likely use during game coverage. They did the same in 2006, though
Shaquille O’Neal was the most notable players who declined to tempt fate by
posing with the trophy.
THE DOCTOR SAYS: Dr. Jack Ramsay was a Heat broadcaster for nearly a decade,
and will work the Miami-Dallas NBA finals matchup for ESPN Radio. He knows the
Heat were unpopular for some after LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade
teamed up, but that might be changing a bit.
“The rest of the country is growing to appreciate and in some quarters root
for this team,” Ramsay said. “They started off on the wrong foot and just
aroused derision everywhere they went in the league. But they are so good. …
They have become not America’s team but they’re now likable, and everybody loves
a winner, and this team has been proved that it can be a winner.”
Asked about the same topic Saturday, James disagreed.
“We know we’re the bad guys, as everyone perceives us to be,” James said.
“We just go out and do our job and try to bring a championship back to Miami.”
OH, HAIL!: The Mavericks won’t be flying their usual team plane to Miami on
Sunday. Hail that pummeled the Dallas-Fort Worth area in recent days damaged
both jets owned by team owner Mark Cuban.
Of course, the Mavs won’t be flying commercial, either.
They’ve arranged for a private plane out of Phoenix that’s suitable for the
long legs of NBA players. The Suns are among the teams that have used it, team
spokeswoman Sarah Melton said.
Dallas is scheduled to depart for Miami on Sunday afternoon.
TICKET WATCH: Have $118,000 burning a hole in your wallet? Well, then, you can grab four courtside seats to Game 1 of the NBA finals.
Someone on the online reseller StubHub had that package of four seats listed
for the low, low price of $29,500 apiece on Saturday. Standing-room seats were
slightly more affordable, listed for $148 in some cases.
Another secondary market seller, TicketNetwork.com, said the average price
for a seat at Game 1 was going for around $1,150. The highest-priced item in its
available inventory Saturday was a suite for $42,413.
There’s still a chance for face-value seats, too: The Heat say it’s likely a
small amount of tickets for Game 1 may be released over the coming days.
4,000-MINUTE MAN?: If this series goes six or seven games, Heat forward
LeBron James may have a shot at joining a very small club.
James comes into the finals with 3,725 minutes played this season, counting
both the regular season and playoffs. At his current rate, he could pass the
4,000-minute plateau if the Miami-Dallas series goes six games, though he more
likely needs the seven-game distance.
The league hasn’t had a 4,000-minute player since Kobe Bryant logged 4,057
for the Los Angeles Lakers in 2007-08. James played 4,083 minutes in his other
season going to the finals, the 2006-07 campaign with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
NOTES: According to Bodog.com, the Heat were a 1.7-1 favorite to win the NBA
title at the start of the season, while Dallas was a 20-1 pick. The site also
lists Miami as the favorite in this matchup. … Since the start of the 2005-06
season, LeBron James has played in 376 wins, second-most in the NBA behind
Lakers point guard Derek Fisher (378). … If he plays in the first three games
of the finals, Mavericks sixth-man Jason Terry will be the first NBA player to
appear in 100 games this season. Four members of the Oklahoma City Thunder—
James Harden, Serge Ibaka, Eric Maynor and Russell Westbrook—appeared in 99.
… The Heat already tied a franchise record with 70 wins this season—not set
by the 2006 title team, but by the 2004-05 club that lost in the Eastern