— AMI - Before the celebration, before the trophy rolled out and the champagne was sprayed, in fact a week before the NBA finals came to an end, Dallas Mavericks general manager Donnie Nelson furthered the plot, set the table for coach Rick Carlisle to deliver some sobering punch lines to the gut of the Miami Heat.
"I joke about this, but there's truth to it," Nelson said to reporters during a quiet moment days earlier at American Airlines Center in Dallas. "If you look at our team, we're like the movie 'The Castoffs' or something.
"Our superstar is a superstar, but go down the list."
He then did just that, moving past Dirk Nowitzki, listing the likes of J.J. Barea, Jason Kidd, DeShawn Stevenson and Tyson Chandler, who not only were up to the challenge of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh these past two weeks, but arguably better for extended stages.
"J.J. is too small. Jason Kidd is too old. Jason Terry is the Stevie Nash boobie prize," Nelson said, listing what other saw as flaws. "Tyson Chandler is whatever, returned or damaged goods. Yeah, you go down the list, and all of our guys. ... and D-Steve was a throw-in with our (Caron) Butler deal, that was really salary that made it work, they saw a long-term contract they wanted to get off their books, and we saw a guy who was 6-5 and tough as nails and needed to get dusted off a little bit."
There Nelson was, his team yet to take a lead in a Finals they eventually closed out 4-2, championing the underdog, something his coach would take to an even higher level following Sunday's clincher.
"I really think that's the story, in my opinion," Nelson said. "You got a lot of guys who have been through really tough situations — not drafted, castoffs, off-the-scrap-heap guys, no matter what you want to say.
"But we've kind of done a good job breathing some life back in, getting confidence in 'em. Rick's done a terrific job."
Nelson was almost done, but not done yet, opening the door that Carlisle would charge through several days later.
"The strength of this team is we don't really have any Supermen," the Mavs coach said. "We don't have anybody who will take off at the free-throw line and slam over people. We have to do it the old fashioned way: team defense."
Indeed, that's what it was all about in the Mavericks' series-clinching win, a victory the Mavericks were able to achieve on a night series MVP Nowitzki shot 9 of 27, because Terry added 27 points, Kidd offered eight assists, Chandler protected the middle and Stevenson converted three 3-pointers.
Then Carlisle ascended to the postgame podium, and after 11 months of Big Three and Super Teams dominated our airwaves, delivered his own message to the star gazing that dominated this now-concluded season.
It was a soliloquy about the pure, untainted game that he loves and that he saw slightly slip away on a hastily constructed stage last July in this very same building, complete with lasers and smoke.
"This is one of the unique teams in NBA history," Carlisle said of the Mavs, "because it wasn't about high-flying star power. Come on, how often do we have to hear about the LeBron James reality show and what he is or isn't doing? When are people going to talk about the purity of our game and what these guys accomplished? That's what's special."
Miami's Pat Riley and Micky Arison thought they had created America's team for the NBA, and perhaps, based on these playoff and regular-season ratings, they did.
But it was the Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees of America's teams, a team many watched to see fail, getting their ultimate reward Sunday.
Yes, there were the typical compliments toward the losing team, thanks to Riley for stopping by the Mavericks locker room and offering his congratulations.
But this also is a moment Carlisle had been waiting for. He had seen James and Wade mock Nowitzki's Game 3 fever, the two of them mocking the interview process over these two weeks.
So he unloaded, and this could not have been improvised.
"I'm so proud of what our team stood for," he said. "I kept having people come up to me the last three or four days, 'Hey, there's billions of people rooting for you guys. There's billions of people rooting for you guys.'
"And we could feel it. We could feel it. We knew it was very important that we won this series for those reasons. Because of what the game is about, and what the game should stand for."
As if his Mavericks hadn't done enough over these past two weeks to destroy LeBron's psyche, it was one final jab.
And it led to one final, less-than-impressive defensive stance from James.
"At the end of the day," James said, "all the people that were rooting on me to fail, at the end of the day, they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today. They have the same personal problems they had today. I'm going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want to do with me and my family and be happy with that.
"They can get a few days or a few months or whatever the case may be on being happy about not only myself, but the Miami Heat not accomplishing their goal, but they have to get back to the real world at some point."
That world, however, is Donnie Nelson's world, where The Castoffs can cast off into the night with a golden trophy.
"As they say," Nelson said, "the sum of the parts . . . that's what we’re all about."
Sunday, those parts added up to 105-95 and 4-2, numbers that couldn't have made the purists any happier.