From Elite to Embarrassing

Only a few guys on the planet had a worse Father's Day than Phil Mickelson, and they were all Dallas Mavericks. The Mavs left for Miami a week ago with a 2-0 NBA Finals lead and parade plans tucked in their duffle bags. They'll return home today 48 minutes from one of sports' all-time choke jobs and with their dignity and class dissolved, if not altogether disintegrated. In losing three consecutive games to the Miami Heat, the Mavs made bushel barrels of mistakes both physical and mental. In Sunday's crushing 101-100 defeat, for example, Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard missed crunch-time free throws, and Howard compounded his blunders by inexplicably calling the worst basketball timeout since Chris Webber's in the 1993 NCAA title game.

None of the devastating disappointment, however, merited Dallas' post-game reaction. Nowitzki kicking a stationary bike and some TV lighting equipment is one thing, but the jerky actions of coach Avery Johnson and owner Mark Cuban were downright embarrassing. Asked if it was the worst loss of Cuban's life, the owner responded with, "Ask me a real fucking question." Nice. But his coach went even deeper and darker in an exchange with jovial Dallas Morning News beat writer Eddie Sefko:

    Sefko: What was your impression of Dwyane Wade's drive in the final seconds?

    Johnson: Um, you tell me. What were your impressions?

    Sefko: Nobody cares what I think.

    Johnson: No, you tell us.

    Sefko: OK, my impression was he got free throws.

    Johnson: No, that's the political answer. I ask you again, what was your impression?

    Sefko: (Silence.)

    Johnson: We're waiting.

    Sefko: (Silence.)

    Johnson: C'mon, give us your honest answer. We've got people all over wanting to hear it. From Israel, Minnesota, Chicago, Dallas...Germany.

    Sefko: I'm done. I'll follow up with another question.

    Johnson: OK. Don't stutter.

Mayne now you realize why Shaquille O'Neal and the Heat gladly paid the $35,000 in fines for not talking to the media after Game 2: because they might have said something they'd regret the rest of their careers. It's still not to late for the Mavs to win the championship. But it is too late for them to win it with class. --Richie Whitt

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