ESPN/ABC announcers Mike Breen, Mark Jackson and Dr. Jack Ramsay discussed the NBA Finals in a conference call Friday. Here are a few excerpts:
Q: Jack Ramsay, how do you perceive the rest of the country perceives the Heat outside of Miami? I know you called their games for a long time. I’m not sure if you still live in the area. But I want to get a sense from you how you think the rest of the nation sees them compared to how they are seen locally.
Dr. Jack Ramsay: I think the rest of the country is growing to appreciate and in some quarters root for this team. They started off on the wrong foot and just aroused derision everywhere they went in the league. But they are so good. They are so dedicated. When you see, as Mike Breen said, their key players, LeBron James and D‑Wade, diving on the floor for loose balls, coming from the weak side and making incredible shot blocks, you have to acknowledge that. I think it’s happened for the Heat. 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.
Q: For Mark and Mike, you’ve gotten to see quite a lot of the Mavs lately. What has impressed you most about the way they’ve been playing, the way they’ve been winning?
Mark Jackson: I think the most impressive thing is how they have incredible poise. They’ve stayed calm in the face of tough runs. They totally believe in their system and in each other, and they find ways to win ballgames. I think ultimately when you’re talking about great basketball teams, you’re talking about teams that in spite of not playing their best, taking their game to another level and finding a way to win, and that’s been the most impressive thing for me about this Mavericks team.
Dr. Jack Ramsay: I’d like to add, Jason Kidd has been incredible. This guy, 38 years old, still runs the show on offense and is a surprisingly good defender. Did a great job against Kobe Bryant in the LA series in significant spots of games, and he doesn’t have the quick feet any longer, but he has great hands and great anticipation. The Mavs make a premium on defensive deflections of passes. In Game 4 against OKC, they had 19 deflections in that game. And these are all. Kidd had his share of those. Marion, Nowitzki even, everybody who plays is conscious of that. Kidd is still running the show there. He distributes the ball. He gets the ball to a player who needs a shot, needs to make a field goal. He’ll throw cross‑court to Terry giving up a shot of his own so Terry can get a free look from three-point land. This is a surprisingly tough team with veteran poise, as Mark said. That’s a key characteristic for them. And Tyson Chandler we haven’t mentioned is the defensive focus there and actually the spokesman of the team. He gets everybody going. He calls people out when they’re not getting their jobs done, and he defends the basket area.
Q. Mark Cuban has for a long time been one of the major faces of the franchise, and I’m wondering if you can compare the Mark Cuban of ’06 to the Mark Cuban of today?
Mike Breen: This might sound silly, but maybe as an owner you learn from experience, as well. And although I think a lot of this has to do with being superstitious; he was quiet early, they started winning, so he figured, all right, let me keep my mouth shut and not say a word. I just think right from the start, he’s brought so much passion, and willing to do everything and anything to make the players give them the proper tools, whether it’s a great locker room, a great plane, a good coach, spending money on free agents, give their whole team the proper tools to win. He’s been all about that right from the start. Obviously he gets emotional from the fans. I think he’s been able to control that a little bit better, and maybe he was tired of getting fined and losing money for shooting off his mouth sometimes. But to me he’s always been ‑‑ all he wants to do is win, and he wants to give the fans a great product. You know, so much of the publicity about him has always been the fines and the controversial comments, but I think most NBA fans would love to have their team have an owner like Mark Cuban.
Dr. Jack Ramsay: I think some of it has to do with his confidence in Rick Carlisle. He has, and should have, a high appreciation for Carlisle’s talents as a coach and the way that Carlisle uses his personnel and controls the tempo of games and just monitors it, and in a very low‑key fashion. It’s wonderful to watch. I talked with Mark after they had qualified for the championship round, and I mentioned to him, “I thought Rick did a terrific job.” He said, “Rick has out‑coached everyone he’s faced in the Playoffs so far.” He said, “That’s no surprise to me.” So there’s a confidence in the coach that maybe was not there with his previous coaches.