Jason Kidd bolts to the New York Knicks

I’m not sure who is worse off after this move – fans of the Dallas Mavericks of fans of the New York Knicks?

Are the Knicks really better after signing an ancient point guard? It also sounds like they’re going to pay big money to keep Jeremy Lin. He’s a good player but will he be worth the salary? The Knicks are still a mess.

Meanwhile, the Dallas Mavericks that won a title last year are officially dismantled. They made a big push for Deron Williams, but that smart strategy didn’t pan out. Now Kidd is gone along with Jason Terry and most of the gang that surrounded Dirk for the title run. Now what?

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Heat start season with lame video and solid play

It’s easy to hate these guys when you watch this lame video. It’s almost as bad as the party they threw when the Big Three signed their contracts with the Heat last season. After choking last year against the Mavericks, you would think that a somewhat different tone would be in order.

But LeBron wants to have fun this year. He didn’t do so well as the villain, so the dopey kid is back and his teammates are joining in on the fun.

That aside, however, after two games it does look like LeBron is taking the game seriously this year. He and Wade and shying away from three-pointers and they’re focusing on transition baskets and post-up moves. It’s a shame it’s taken LeBron this long to figure it out, but I guess a humiliating meltdown in front of the world in the Finals will do that do you.

Now we shouldn’t get carried away after two games, as the Heat ran past two older teams. The Mavs have new players and haven’t had any time to work together. They have to win as a team like they did last year. Also, LeBron always looks good in the regular season. Sure, he’s working on developing better habits, but we’ve seen him lose focus during crunch time before.

This team is talented, and they’ll battle for the best record. But none of it matters. They have to win it all. Anything else is a failure.

Lamar Odom traded to the Mavs

Dallas Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitzski, right, goes up to block a shot off Los Angeles Lakers’ Lamar Odom in the second half of Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals on May 4, 2011. The Mavericks defeated the Lakers 93-81and lead the best-of-seven playoff series 2-0. UPI/Christine Cotter

The Dallas Mavericks acquired Lamar Odom from the Los Angeles Lakers, which will have ripple effects throughout the NBA as teams try to finalize rosters in this chaotic period following the NBA lockout. Above you see a photo of Odom battling Dirk Nowitzski last year in the NBA playoffs. Instead of working to get revenge for the Lakers, Odom will now be a crucial part of the Dallas effort to return to the NBA finals.

This trade signals the end of the bizarre saga surrounding the Chris Paul trade that was rejected by David Stern. That controversial decision has rocked the NBA, and now we’ll be hearing about it over and over again as New Orleans tries to unload Paul to another team. The Lakers decided to back out of the talks rather than submit a new trade from Chris Paul to the league, and in dealing Odom put an abrupt end to that scenario. Meanwhile, the Lakers now seem to be focusing their attention on acquiring Dwight Howard in a deal that would involve Andrew Bynum.

As for the Mavericks, this trade for Odom became possible when they decided to work a deal with the New York Knicks when it became clear they would be losing center Tyson Chandler to the Knicks. That gave the Mavs an $11 million trade exception which they then used to acquire Odom. Odom made it clear he didn’t want to leave LA, but the powers that be clearly decided to go in another direction.

Dallas has more moves to make as it reworks in roster in the wake of losing Chandler. Chandler was a very important piece of their championship puzzle, but he’s the kind of player that can be replaced. Dallas is now one of the teams that might get a shot at landing Dwight Howard as the Orlando Magic have permitted them along with the Lakers and the New Jersey Nets. There’s also buzz out there that Vince Carter will land in Dallas as well. Carter can still score, but he’s not the kind of player one thinks of to help a championship team. Maybe he’ll be better in a reduced role.

The Dwight Howard sweepstakes will be the next big story that will have ripple effects around the league. We’ll see how serious Dallas is in that contest.

Dirk Nowitzki sings at championship parade [video]

Dirk did David Hasselhoff proud with his rendition of Queen’s “We Are the Champions.”

Wrapping up the 2011 NBA Playoffs

Dallas Mavericks Dirk Nowitzki walks with his MVP trophy and a bottle of champagne after the Mavericks won the NBA Championship defeating the Miami Heat in Miami, June 12, 2011. At right an assistant is carrying the Larry O’Brien Championship trophy (R). REUTERS/Joe Skipper (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

In an attempt to put the final nail in the coffin that is the 2010-11 NBA season, it’s a good time to look back on the 2011 Playoffs and try to make sense of it all.

Let’s start with…

DIRK’S LEGACY

Easily the biggest winner of these Playoffs, Dirk has shrugged off charges that he was soft and/or a choker by leading the Mavs on one of the most epic postseason runs in recent history. Firing up the NBA StatsCube, we’ll find that Dirk averaged 47.5 points per 36 minutes in the clutch (game within five points with under five minutes to play). Not only did he score a ton, but he did it efficiently, shooting 54% from the field, 97% from the free throw line and 60% (!!) from long range. Even in Game 6, after a miserable 1-for-12 first half, Nowitzki had the mental toughness to go out and score 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the final 7:22. He’s never going to win as many championships as Larry Bird, but dynasties are a rarity these days (which favors Bird, historically speaking), so now the Bird/Nowtizki comparisons are legit.

CUBAN

Yes, he’s irritating. Most billionaires are. He made his fortune during the internet bubble and had enough sense to get out when the getting was good. He parlayed that into an NBA team, and is definitely a loudmouth outspoken, but in an age when team owners don’t always show a commitment to winning, Cuban has been more than willing to spend in his chase for a ring and in collecting all these aging All-Stars, he finally found a combination with enough grit, determination and defense to put his franchise player in a position to close the deal. Love him or hate him, he’s entertaining, and in a matchup with the Heat, he was most definitely the lesser of two evils. (And give him credit, when interviewed after the Game 6 win, he was quick to defer the spotlight. Classy move.)

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban (R) celebrates with his family after the Mavericks beat the Miami Heat in Game 6 to win the NBA Finals basketball series in Miami, June 12, 2011. REUTERS/Hans Deryk (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

KIDD, MARION

Jason Kidd didn’t do much stat-wise in the Finals, and seemed to turn the ball over a lot, but he hit a huge three towards the end of Game 5 and played tough defense on LeBron and Wade for the entire series. After leading the Nets to back-to-back Finals in the early ’00s, he finally got another chance at a ring, and played an important role, even at 38-years-old.

The Mavs got a similar contribution from Shawn Marion, who many left for dead after stints in Miami and Toronto. He helped score when Dirk was getting his rest and played inspired defense on LeBron and Wade at different points in the series. Dallas would not have won the title without The Matrix, especially once Caron Butler went down during the season.

THE JET

Other than Dirk, I can’t see a bigger winner (legacy-wise) in these Finals than Jason Terry. He jumped from also-ran status to clutch Finals performer — one who most definitely backed up his smack talk. He outplayed LeBron down the stretch and didn’t miss a free throw in the clutch in the entire Playoffs. When we look back on these Playoffs a decade from now, we’ll remember Dirk, the Jet, and the Heat’s disappointing performance.

THE BIG THREE

There’s plenty of time for LeBron to redefine his legacy, but this was not a good start. He was mediocre to bad in the fourth quarter for most of the series, and it sure doesn’t seem like this leopard is going to change his spots after tweeting that God decided that it just wasn’t his time to win a title. Um, okay. That doesn’t sound like a guy who is going to hone his post game (like MJ or Kobe) or spend all summer with a shooting coach to make his jumper more consistent.

As for Wade, he doesn’t get off scot-free after fumbling away a chance to tie Game 5 and dribbling the ball off his foot late in Game 6, but he already has a ring, so his legacy has a higher floor than LeBron. And it’s not like the guy didn’t produce — he averaged 27-7-5 and shot 55% from the field in the Finals.

Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (L) and teammate LeBron James wait to leave the stadium after losing the NBA Championship to the Dallas Mavericks in Miami, June 12, 2011. REUTERS/Joe Skipper (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Lastly, let the record show that Chris Bosh played his best ball of the Finals when the chips were down. In the last three games, he averaged 21-8 on 55% shooting, and even hit the winning jumper in Game 3 after a rough shooting night. Bosh was something of a punchline during the season, but he came up big against the Bulls (23-8, 60% shooting) and did some damage in the Finals.

Where does Miami go from here? While some are arguing that Pat Riley should trade LeBron for Dwight Howard, this is certainly not the last we’ve seen of this trio. They made it to the Finals in their first try, and did it with a substandard supporting cast. I expect changes to be made, but I’d be shocked if any of the stars are moved.

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