By NBA TV's Rick Kamla


Kamla
DALLAS, June 10, 2006 -- It's always tough to find new angles and get good sound from the second off-day media availability because the series is basically talked to death in the 24 hours following Game 1. But your favorite freak managed to get his mic under the chins of several key players in the 2006 NBA Finals, and here's a taste of what went down on the floor of the AAC.

[Editor's note: The following quotes are paraphrased because it's impossible to scribble on a notepad when you're right-handed and holding the microphone in said right hand.]

GARY PAYTON
While standing to Payton's right in the crush, I had a déjà vu moment that took me back to the 2004 NBA Finals, when I was standing to Payton's right following the Lakers' Game 1 loss to the Pistons. I don't have a point beyond that, but déjà vu moments rarely hit a freak so squarely in the brain, so I thought I'd mention it.

Payton doesn't seem to think Game 2 is of the must-win variety.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
I asked Gary if hatred was healthy in the Playoffs and if the Heat had developed a hatred for the Mavericks yet. He quickly said "no", adding that hatred is too strong a word, he doesn't hate anyone, and that his Heat are in town for a couple of friendly games of basketball. I found it extremely ironic that one of the all-time smack talkers had such a soft return of service. Are we witnessing a kinder, gentler Glove? And if we are witnessing a kinder, gentler Glove, is that good news for the Heat?

Gary was also asked if Game 2 was a must-win and he told the Miami TV dude that it wasn't. He trotted out some tired cliché about the first team to win four games will win the series, saying that it didn't matter when you got the wins as long as you got them.

Based on history, Gary could not have been more incorrect in downplaying the significance of Game 2 to the Miami cause. Only twice in 59 previous NBA Finals has a team climbed out of an 0-2 hole to win the series. I realize I wasn't the dude being interviewed, but if you ask me, Game 2 is most definitely a must win for Gary's Heat.

UDONIS HASLEM
As you may have read in my first Living The Finals column, I could not have been more complimentary of Haslem for his defensive effort against Dirk Nowitzki, and I asked him if it takes more effort than usual when guarding a superstar like Dirk. At first, he said "yeah, it does." But then he corrected himself to say he "brings the same energy every night."

He also downplayed his defense on Dirk, saying it takes a total team effort to defend a player of his caliber. Whatever, U-D, U were Da Man in Game 1, and if your teammates had brought the same intensity and consistent defensive effort, the Heat would have prevailed in Game 1.

ANTOINE WALKER
Antoine was queried about the difference between being The Man in Boston and being a part of a supporting cast in Miami. I don't have a direct quote for you, but the vibe was basically that he liked being The Man. He bristled at the prospect of having the words "Antoine Walker" and "supporting cast" in the same sentence, saying "I'm not a member of a supporting cast. I'm a basketball player." Whatever that means.

Cyber-Toine is right, he is a basketball player, and a damn good one. But he is dead-wrong about not being a member of a supporting cast on this Miami team. And the sooner he comes to that realization, the sooner he'll stop jacking up nine three-pointers in a game.

DEVIN HARRIS
If you didn't know any better, you'd think the polite, honest, and well-spoken Harris went to Duke. Is it just me, or does Coach K insist that his players major in media relations? Anyway, Harris is truly a great dude and a future star in this league, as well as a good source for information.

When I intimated that nerves played a role in some of the lackluster play from him -- and others -- in Game 1, he agreed, saying that his mindset was going to be more confident and aggressive in Game 2. You gotta love the honesty of a player who admits that he was a little nervous for his first Finals game. Dirk said the same thing shortly after missing 10 of 14 shots in the Game 1 victory.

******

Make no mistake, freaks, the Mavericks won't have that deer-in-headlights look about them in Game 2. Dirk is probably going to double his 16 points in Game 1, Josh Howard won't miss 11 shots or turn it over five times and Stack won't shoot 4-of-11, either. What I'm trying to say is that the Heat missed a golden opportunity to win Game 1 and seize control of the series. They had the Mavs on the ropes in the second quarter, but could not deliver the knockout punch.

After the Mavericks win another war in Game 2, I'll be the one asking Payton in Miami whether Game 3 is of the must-win variety. I can't wait for his answer and I can't wait to wade in the waves off South Beach!