Mike Monroe: For Spurs fans, Finals offer no good choice

It’s hard to imagine a more compelling 2011 NBA Finals matchup than Mavericks vs. Heat, but most Spurs fans find the prospect of watching it more distasteful than guzzling a gallon of water straight from the San Antonio River.

In San Antonio, these finalists are easy to despise.

This is because one team is owned by a guy who tweaked civic pride by calling The River Walk “that ugly-ass, muddy-watered thing,” and the other is led by a player who ruined his image by letting his entourage hijack it on TV.

Nobody outside South Florida wants to see the Heat succeed, especially not in the very first season after LeBron James made “The Decision” to take his talents to South Beach.

But at least the Heat aren’t the Mavericks, and to Spurs fans, that means they aren’t owned by Mark Cuban.

Cuban never has played one second of a single NBA game, but many Spurs fans deem him evil incarnate.

This proves his marketing genius. As provocateur, the NBA never has seen his like.

This is why some Spurs fans swear they won’t watch a minute of the Finals. They can’t stomach the notion that either James or Cuban will get to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

This attitude is foolish.

This is a matchup with players who someday will be recalled among the game’s best ever.

And storylines? There are plenty.

Can the Mavericks gain redemption five years after the 2006 collapse that followed their 2-0 Finals lead over the Heat?

If James wins his very first title, will he or his sycophants lay claim to Michael Jordan’s widely accepted status as the greatest player in basketball history?

Will 38-year-old Jason Kidd and 33-year-old Dirk Nowitzki finally get the championship rings that will make their Hall of Fame careers complete?

Can Cuban really keep his mouth shut through the entire Finals?

The most compelling reason for fans from San Antonio to Timbuktu to watch the 2011 Finals: They are likely the last NBA games any of us will see for a very long time.

Even with viewership numbers for this playoff run breaking records and worldwide interest in NBA basketball surpassing even David Stern’s fondest imaginings, the league and its players’ union remain miles apart in negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement that would prevent a work stoppage.

The owners presented a second proposal to the National Basketball Players Association a few weeks ago, but players to whom I’ve spoken recently are unanimous in their distaste for what they say remains an utterly unreasonable demand that the players give back most of the past 20 years’ gains of collective bargaining.

This is reflected in the recent complaint of unfair labor practices the NBPA filed with the National Labor Relations Board.

With another round of negotiations tentatively scheduled for sometime during the Dallas portion of the Finals, the complaint was clear indication the union does not intend to give in without a fight, even if it means enduring a lockout most players are convinced is coming on July 1.

Small-market owners such as the Spurs’ Peter Holt, who chairs the owners’ negotiating committee, will point out that between them, the Mavericks and Heat will pay their players more than $151 million this season. They contend this proves that liberal salary cap exceptions must be replaced.

Should Cuban’s Mavericks win the title, how will he feel about the prospect his team may not get a chance to defend it before Kidd turns 40?

Even Cuban might be willing to sip from that ugly-ass, muddy-watered thing if it meant that wouldn’t happen.


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