This is what Indiana Pacers fans have to celebrate these days: Lebron not winning and former Pacers coach Rick Carlisle and former Pacers player (one season) Peja Stojakovic winning the NBA Championship with the Dallas Mavericks!!
Rick Carlisle has always been one of my favorite coaches in the NBA. He was Larry Bird’s assistant when they led the Pacers to their only finals appearance in 2000. They should have given him the head job when Larry Legend departed but instead they handed it over to Isiah Thomas, and of course, we all know what happened to the franchise after that. Rick was re-hired as head coach in 2003-2004 after Isiah was fired, but the damage to the culture had already been done. After the brawl and a horrible resulting record, Rich was unfairly shown the door (though it was never clear whether he quit or was fired).
Now with the Mavericks, Carlisle has finally proved that he is a top notch coach, outperforming Heat coach Spolestra with his defensive schemes and rotations. The Heat could never figure it out and that’s a big reason why they lost despite being heavy favorites.
Peja, on the other hand, never wanted to be a Pacer, but ended up being traded from Sacramento for Ron Artest after all those debacles Pacers fans would prefer to not remember. He filled in admirably for 40 games in the 2005-2006 season, averaging 19.5 points per game while shooting over 46% from the field, over 40% from three-point range and over 90% from the free throw line.
The Peja of now is obviously a different player, but he still had a few big games for the Mavs in the playoffs to get them through to the finals, where he did nothing except look sad on the bench. Nonetheless, a ring is a ring.
The huge positive that comes out of the Mavs winning the title instead of the Heat is that Lebron’s head won’t explode from getting too big and it will delay this supposed Heat dynasty (not 1, not 2, not 3, not 4….etc) for at least another year. Seriously though, what it does show is that a TEAM can still win if they play the right way with the right personnel. Okay, the Mavs have one of the highest payrolls in the league, but they only one have true star. It is at least something the Pacers, who will never attract the big stars like Miami, can aspire to.