Ring Chaser: Michael Finley, the Mavs, and the Spurs

Michael Finley won his first championship title in 2007 with a team that was once considered his foe.

Although Michael Finley was drafted in the mid-90s, he didn’t make his first playoff appearance until 2001.

But as soon as he got his first taste of the postseason, he couldn’t stop.

He was on the Dallas Mavericks at this time and they were good. They had the dynamic duo of Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash leading the charge under Don Nelson’s fast-paced offense.

They won a lot of games and were perennial playoff contenders.

Between 2000 and 2005, the least amount of games the Mavs won was 52.

However, despite always being near the top of the standings, they played in a tough conference and had troubles in the post-season.

During the early-to-mid-2000s, the Western Conference had multiple powerhouses in the Los Angeles Lakers, the San Antonio Spurs, and the Sacramento Kings, to name a few.

The Mavs never made the Finals despite their superb regular season records but did come close once.

Michael Finley and the Dallas Mavericks in the 2003 Western Conference Finals

It was 2002-03 and they were able to beat the Portland Trailblazers in the first round and the Kings in the second.

These were tough matches, as both went to seven games.

But the Mavs did come out victorious, leading them to face the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals.

And despite great performances from both Nowitzki (averaged 25 points, 11 rebounds, and 1.3 steals) and Finley (averaged 22 points, 6 rebounds, and 1.8 steals), the Spurs were just too good.

Tim Duncan’s fundamentals mixed with Gregg Popovich’s strategic game planning was too much for the Mavs to handle.

The Spurs ended up beating Dallas 4-2 and went on to win the championship title in the NBA Finals (this was also when Kevin Willis won his first ring).

Even though it was upsetting to lose, the Mavs kept grinding and continued to try their hand at an NBA title.

But the story repeated itself -they would do really well in the regular season but fail to make it to the Finals.

So, in the offseason of 2005, they made some changes.

They used the one-time amnesty provision and waived Finley, one of their staple guys since the beginning of the decade, to avoid luxury taxes. They also got a new coach and a new system, and some new players.

And these adjustments worked because they made it to the Finals this season (but that’s a story for another time).

Michael Finley Joined the San Antonio Spurs

Anywhoo, Finley was now a free agent. He was courted by many teams, such as the Phoenix Suns, Miami Heat, and Detroit Pistons.

But he chose to stay in Texas and moved across the street to play for the Spurs, the team that broke his heart many times in the playoffs.

After the signing was official, Coach Popovich told the media that Finley was a great addition to the team and that he was going to offer a lot of guidance to the young guys.

Via The Associated Press:

“We are extremely pleased to have a player of Michael’s caliber joining our franchise,” coach Gregg Popovich said. “He brings an All-Star level of talent to the floor and a high degree of character to the locker room.”

Finley wasn’t a starter for the Spurs in the 05-06 season. He only started in 18 games and it was an adjustment for him as he was a starter for the Mavs the previous season.

But he had an important role as he was their go-to 3-and-D guy.

He played 77 games and averaged 25.6 minutes per game. With that amount of time, he managed to average 10.1 points and 3.2 rebounds per game, helping the Spurs win a total of 63 games.

The Spurs Lose to the Mavs

However, despite playing well in the regular season, the Spurs couldn’t get past Finley’s former team, the Mavs, in the semi-finals.

They lost 3-4 and Dallas went on to the NBA Finals, where they were trounced by the Miami Heat.

As I could imagine, Finley was disappointed. He had a good chance to win a ring but was stymied by his former team.

But he didn’t give up.

He rejoined the Spurs the following season and resumed his role. The team, once again, played well in the regular season.

Michael Finley Wins First Ring

They recorded 58 wins and made their way back to the playoffs, where they ran over all of their opponents and made it to the NBA Finals.

In his first Finals appearance, Finley was tasked with helping Bruce Bowen slow down a young LeBron James -the leader and lifeblood of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Together, they held “King James” to 35.6 percent shooting and helped the Spurs sweep the Cavs.

Finley, 33, got his first ring and played an important role while doing so.

Joyous and ecstatic after the game, Finley cradled the game ball and told reporters in the post-game celebration that he might sleep with the ball that night.

Via The Star:

“I might just put it in the bed between me and my wife,” he said.

He returned to the Spurs the following season and stayed with them for a couple more seasons to try to get more rings. But that didn’t work out.

Michael Finley Gives One Last Shot

So, in 2009-10, he asked San Antonio’s brass to waive him or buy his contract out because he wanted to play elsewhere.

He didn’t like his role with them and wanted to join a different team.

The team obliged and let him go. On March 4, 2010, he joined the Boston Celtics.


“Unfortunately, for me, I couldn’t finish something that I had in San Antonio because the role was something that I really didn’t agree with,” said Finley. “But here [in Boston], hopefully the situation will be different, but you never know, it may be the same. But I’m happy with my situation now and I’m definitely going to make the most of it.”

Finley played 15 minutes a game with the Celtics and helped them reach the NBA Finals, where they faced off against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers.

However, despite putting up a good fight, the Celtics lost to the Lakers in seven games.

Michael Finley Retires

Following this season, Finley, who was 36 years old, felt he had given the game all he had.

He battled with the best of them and gave some of the best work.

He retired with one championship ring and two NBA All-Star uniforms.