Commentary

Commissioner Stern! Please!

Updated: June 9, 2011, 6:41 PM ET
By Rick Reilly | ESPN.com

Udonis HaslemAP Photo/Lynne SladkyUdonis Haslem has been praised for his defense during the 2011 NBA Finals. But fans might be distracted by a different staple of the 6-foot-10 power forward's game.

Now it's time to play … Answers to Questions About The NBA Finals You Didn't Really Ask!

Q. What is the deal with all the gross mouthpieces hanging out all the time? They're slobbery and disgusting and they scare my dog.

A. Couldn't agree more. The Heat's Udonis Haslem is constantly chewing on his, saliva dripping off it. It's unsettling. Haslem's usual mouthpiece is overly large and it's jet black, so it looks like an alien emerging from his innards. Remember the scene from "The Green Mile" where thousands of flies emerge from Michael Clarke Duncan's piehole? It looks like that.

Somehow, mouthpiece-gnawing became the new cool NBA must-do habit. Guys just won't or can't keep them in. Blake Griffin, are you listening? They constantly slide them in and out, even while the ball is in play. Allen Iverson actually used to shoot free throws with his hanging out. LeBron James takes his out during timeouts sometimes and sticks it in his headband, goo cascading off onto his shoulder.

Commissioner Stern! Please!

Q. Do you have a nickname for Dirk Nowitzki in light of his accomplishing something nobody in history has done before -- win NBA Finals games with both his left hand and right?

A. No, but reader Philip Poon does. "AmbiDirkstrous."

Q. How is Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra a lot like his boss, Heat president Pat Riley?

A. Glad you asked. Spoelstra is Riley 30 years ago. Like Riley, Spoelstra is a slick young man who was thrown into a head-coaching job with zero head-coaching experience. (Riley had been a Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach for only two seasons when Magic Johnson got Paul Westhead fired.) Like Riley, Spoelstra took over a team full of intimidating superstars. For Riley, their names were Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy. For Spoelstra, they are LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Like Riley, the experts said Spoelstra was in over his head and would be pink-slipped in short course. Like Riley, Spoelstra proved them wrong.

Q. If Riley wins this as the Heat GM, would he be the first man in NBA history to win rings as a player (1972), a coach (1982, 1985, 1987, 1988, 2006) and a GM?

A. If he were the Heat's GM, he'd have been the third person to do it, along with Bill Sharman and Red Holzman. But he's the Heat's president, and I'm much too tired to look that up.

Are you as sick of the hey-let's-have-everybody-in-the-arena-wear-the-same-stupid-free-T-shirt trend as I am?

Q. Are you as sick of the hey-let's-have-everybody-in-the-arena-wear-the-same-stupid-free-T-shirt trend as I am?

A. Don't get me started. This is the NBA, not Michigan State. We are grownups with jobs, not high school kids selling magazines on the street. It makes every arena look like Arts and Crafts Day at the assisted living home.

It's a cliché. It's about as original as holding up a "D" and a fence at NFL games. Nearly every town does it now: Oklahoma City (blue), Dallas (blue), Miami (white), Washington (white), Phoenix (orange), Atlanta (white), Golden State (yellow), Toronto (white), Utah (blue, white), New Orleans (blue, white, yellow), Detroit (white), San Antonio (white), Cleveland (yellow), and Orlando (white and blue).

They tried it in Los Angeles, except almost nobody put it on. Proof positive that wearing the same garment as 20,000 other people is not cool.

Why won't Miami be cool? This is a city known internationally for having (a) beautiful women and (b) beautiful clothes. What is gained when a gorgeous woman in a $2,000 Versace is made to cover it all up with a $10 T-shirt?

Commissioner Stern! Please!

Q. Why am I seeing Brian Cardinal on my TV?

A. I have no idea. I thought he was in the annuities business now. The former Purdue forward has played eight minutes in this series for Dallas, gotten one rebound, taken one shot, scored zero points, and committed three fouls. The thing he's done best, however, is look exactly like Comedy Central's Rob Corddry.

Q. Is it true Wade and Dallas' Shawn Marion are close?

A. In a way, yes. They live very near each other in a gated development of the River West section of Chicago. In fact, Wade bought his townhouse there after visiting Marion at his. The 'hood smells deliciously of chocolate all the time, owing to the chocolate factory next door. Also, Wade is godfather to the daughter of injured Mavs swingman Caron Butler. I doubt this comes up much during games, however.

Q. You wrote a column listing 20 reasons to pull for Dallas in these Finals. Has anybody rebutted it?

A. Yes, Miami-based humorist Dave Barry, who is short and therefore knows nothing about basketball. He went on the "Paul and Young Ron" radio show in Miami (105.9 FM) and delivered his reasons for pulling for Miami instead:

1. Dallas sucks.

2. Our billionaire owner is classier than their billionaire owner.

3. Dirk Nowitzki pronounces his name wrong.

4. Yes, we had a big celebration for no reason. We celebrate all the time for no good reason. That's why Miami is a fun city and Dallas sucks.

5. If we have a party that good when we haven't done anything, imagine the party we're going to have when we win the championship!

6. Cleveland wants Dallas to win. Do you really want to be on the same side as Cleveland?

7. Dallas sucks.

Q. So who wins the debate?

A. Me, 20-7.


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Rick Reilly is the 11-time National Sportswriter of the Year. He contributes essays and commentary to "SportsCenter" and ESPN/ABC golf and tennis coverage. He's also the host of "Homecoming," ESPN's unique, one-hour interview show set in the hometowns of legendary athletes. For more Rick, check out the archive.


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