When Michael Finley first found out he would be traded to the Dallas Mavericks in 1996, it came at the most surprising time. Finley, who was still with the Pheonix Suns, was watching a Mavs game when the broadcast mentioned that the team was trading Jason Kidd.
Not knowing that he was initially part of the deal, Finley was shocked to hear about Kidd’s departure. What surprised him, even more, was Suns' general manager Danny Ainge calling him to tell Finley he was a part of the trade package. Finley then flew to Dallas the following day, where he played for nine years and had the best stint of his 19-year-career.
A bittersweet Maverick tenure
Finley instantly became a significant role player for Dallas’s run-and-gun offense in his nine-year stay, where he averaged the most points (20.6 per game) and minutes (39.9 per game) in his career. This was also when he was selected to play in the All-Star game for two years in a row (in 2000 and 2001), which he said was a massive milestone in his career.
However, despite playing his best basketball alongside Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash, the Mavericks never got past the Western Conference Finals. The Mavs showed a lot of potential led by their trio but never got over the hump. After five straight disappointing playoff exits, the Mavs decided to waive Finley due to luxury tax concerns.
Finley was left hanging at that time and, until this very day, continues to wonder what would’ve happened if the Mavs stuck with their core of him, Nash, and Nowitzki.
“I knew what we had in Dallas. We all played the game at the highest level, and all retired pretty successfully. We all have that ‘what if’ moment. My ‘what if’ was what if we stay together in Dallas? What could’ve happened? That’s one of the things I think about all the time. What would’ve happened? I don’t think they (Nash and Nowitzki) would’ve three MVPs among them, but I think we would’ve won multiple championships,” Finley said on the Knuckleheads podcast.
For as good as the trio of Finley, Nash and Nowitzki were, at the end of the day, the Mavericks won a championship in 2011 without this core. That’s probably something the Mavs won’t regret. The franchise’s only title wouldn’t have been possible if the front office didn’t waive Finley or re-sign Nash. Instead, the Mavs gambled by building a roster around their German superstar, who eventually brought them to the promised land.
It’s fun to look back and think about the “what ifs,” but for the Mavs, the 2011 title will help them sleep at night with no regrets.