There was a lot of talk after last year's NBA Finals about the the Dallas Mavericks' zone and head coach Rick Carlisle's possibly out-coaching his younger counterpart, Erik Spoelstra.
As talented and motivated as he is, Heat star LeBron James certainly could not figure out the Dallas zone. He was lost and baffled in the 2011 Finals; that's no secret by now.
What was less obvious is that Dallas, set to kick off the season with a rematch against Miami today, put in place a highly elaborated and unpredictable defensive scheme to defeat the Miami Heat last season.
It was not just a classic 3-2 zone. Or a 2-3 perimeter coverage.
It was very fluid and mixed, with man-to-man matchups at times, designed to keep Coach Spoelstra and even Pat Riley himself, legendary NBA coach extraordinaire, scratching their heads after five playoffs games.
Not to mention poor LeBron James.
What the Dallas Mavericks did to Miami's formidable Heat team defensively last season was virtually undecipherable—much more intelligent than your average "zone" defense.
Of course, there was also the fact that Dirk Nowitzki played out of his mind and was was simply un-guardable. The seven-footer wouldn't even miss a free throw attempt, which is very rare for such big men in this league.
He was on a mission.
As were veterans like Jason Kidd, who did a formidable defensive job even on Mr. D. Wade, and Jason Terry, who had the nerve to tattoo the NBA Finals trophy on his right biceps.
And, as we all remember, he made it abundantly clear to LeBron James, "The Chosen One," on and off the court, that it was not going to be a walk in the park.
Other key guys, of course, were veterans like Tyson Chandler and DeShawn Stevenson.
They had all bases covered, especially where this Heat team was weak: at point guard and center.
We all expect Miami to beat Dallas today; the Mavericks no longer have Chandler and are in patch-up mode, working in new players like Lamar Odom.
The Heat will win with a vengeance after the Mavericks add insult to injury by raising their championship banner on Christmas Day.
But the Heat better start figuring out Dallas' complex defensive schemes sooner, rather than later.