Spurs' Finley quietly rises above fray
Web Posted: 05/13/2006 12:00 AM CDT
Express-News Staff Writer
DALLAS — The defining moment of the first two games of the Western Conference semifinal series between the Spurs and the Dallas Mavericks occurred with 7:34 remaining in Tuesday's Game2 at the AT&T Center.
The Spurs' Michael Finley drove to the basket for what appeared to be a dunk, only to be met in the air by the Mavs' Jerry Stackhouse. Stackhouse got his hand on the ball and blocked the attempt so forcefully that Finley, 33, and a veteran of 11 seasons, ended up flat on his back under the basket.
Stackhouse, his team leading by 18, stood over Finley and glared at him, earning a technical foul.
Finley endured the taunt with typical stoicism.
When a team has unceremoniously waived you after giving it nine great seasons, what's one more insult?
Finley returns today to the city where he starred for its NBA team. He was a two-time All-Star and scored 12,389 points for the Mavericks, which makes him the No.4 scorer in franchise history.
He is ready for a playoff game he knows could be critical to a personal quest he insists has no added motivation other than that which drives every player — an NBA title. "There's no personal vendetta to beat Dallas," Finley said. "I just want to be the last team standing at the end."
The Mavericks also insist there was nothing personal about their decision to waive Finley last summer as part of the league's one-time amnesty clause. It was strictly business for a team that was paying the NBA's luxury tax, a dollar-for-dollar penalty applied to payroll amounts that exceeded a tax threshold of roughly $61million last season.
Even Finley knew the move made business sense for the Mavericks.
It was still emotionally difficult for both sides, and Finley believes the Mavericks did not behave entirely honorably. "Before the amnesty thing came up ... I was planning to end my career (in Dallas)," Finley said. "But when my name came up and I started hearing things from the front office I thought were unfair for me, then it would have been tough for me to come back, even if I hadn't been waived."
Asked to elaborate on what had angered him to the point he wanted out of Dallas, Finley refused. Perceived insult, he admitted, came only via hearsay from other NBA teams. "This is not the time to talk about (what I heard)," Finley said. "Just some things I felt were not fair toward me."
Stackhouse's emergence as a reliable scorer for the Mavericks made the club's decision to dump Finley easier for the basketball staff to accept, which only served to make Stackhouse's taunt in Tuesday's game doubly insulting.
Once one of the Mavericks' team captains, Finley got the backing of his new team captain when it came to dealing with Stackhouse's Game 2 taunt. "We're going to do our best to get up and win these games and get the series," said Tim Duncan, who called Stackhouse's actions Tuesday "fake hype."
"We'll see who's glaring at the end." Link