Blog Entry

What's At Stake: Dirk Nowitzki

Posted on: May 16, 2011 7:41 pm
What's at stake for Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki in the Western Conference finals? Posted by Ben Golliver.

There's plenty at stake over the next month for Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki, but not much of it it comes in the Western Conference finals. This series is big, but it's mostly a stepping stone.

Nowitzki's list of accomplishments is a mile long and growing, his place as a first-ballot Hall of Famer is secure. 10 All-Star teams. 11 All-NBA selections. An MVP award. He might still be overlooked and underrated by the general public after all that, but nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to his peers. "Unguardable." "Toughest cover in the league." "The best shooting big man ever." Those are just a few of the tags hung on Nowitzki by the players and coaches tasked with stopping him.

Obviously, the major tag that has eluded Nowitzki is "NBA Champion." 

To reach the NBA Finals for the second time in his career, Nowitzki will need to get through the Oklahoma City Thunder, a tough but certainly not insurmountable task. The Mavericks are more experienced, more tested, more rested and owners of home court advantage. Las Vegas and a vast majority of NBA experts agree: Dirk's Dallas squad is the clear favorite. In this light, Nowitzki has more to lose in the Western Conference finals than he has to gain.

Much like LeBron James, Nowitzki seems on the cusp of reorienting his reputation. Derided as a soft big man on a team that excelled in the regular season and flaked out in the playoffs, Dallas' storm through the Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Lakers has begun to rewrite that narrative. Against L.A., he was unquestionably the best player on the court. In averaging 25.3 points and 9.3 rebounds in four straight wins, Nowitzki was better even than Kobe Bryant, the league's premier name for the last decade. His turnaround jumpers and to-the-basket leaners were equally indefensible, and his work on the defensive boards contributed to L.A.'s offensive struggles and overall frustration. His play-making and understanding of the team offense were divine. What Nowitzki lacks in traditional highlight reel fodder he makes up for in intelligent basketball plays.

If the Thunder pull the upset, though, Nowitzki returns to being merely excellent rather than transcendent. He goes back to being "one of the best of his time" rather than "one of the best of all time." The questions about his defense and toughness eventually creep back up. He'd be right back where he started this season, more or less. A consistently amazing force that never got over the top. Time doesn't treat players stuck in that situation nearly as well as it treats champions, and surely Nowitzki is aware of that.

Sadly, putting down the Thunder won't score Nowitzki a lot of new points either. Oklahoma City's big men -- Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison etc. -- are historically anonymous and not all that well equipped to defend him. This won't be a series featuring reputation enhancing one-on-one, back-and-forth action. There's nothing he can do against Oklahoma City that he hasn't already done for a decade. This is a man that has averaged more than 25 points per game over 11 playoff runs. If there's a way to score on you, a way to beat you, Nowitzki has done it. He just hasn't done it four times in seven games on the biggest stage.

And that's what is at stake for Nowitzki against Oklahoma City: one gigantic opportunity. A second crack at an NBA title. Considering the circumstances surrounding his first title shot, that second chance would be career redefining. In 2006, Nowitzki and the Mavericks climbed out to a 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals over the Miami Heat, only to collapse in four straight games amid controversial calls and a parade of Dwyane Wade free throws. Winning a title this season wouldn't erase those memories but it would certainly recast Nowitzki as a world champion before all else.

Given that Dallas has the oldest team in the NBA, a similar opportunity in the future is no guarantee. At age 32, with the aging cast surrounding him, what's at stake for Nowitzki over the next month is his legacy. In that, the Western Conference finals is just the prelude.

Since: Aug 17, 2006
Posted on: May 18, 2011 12:42 am

What's At Stake: Dirk Nowitzki

TallWhiteNinja, I agree.  Dirk is my favorite player to watch in the NBA, and Dallas has been my favorite team since the SuperSonics traded away my then favorite player, Shawn Kemp.  Ironically, the Mavs are essentially playing the Sonics, who have my 2nd favorite college player of all-time, Nick Collison.

Dirk is just so fun to watch though, he has the second smoothest shot in the NBA (after release) other than Ray Allen.  The form may be unorthodox, but the results speak for themselves.  This guy deserves a title.  I'd love to see a legitimate title (not ref-given or ref-taken, as happens so often in the NBA), but I'm not picky, a title is a title.

Since: May 17, 2011
Posted on: May 17, 2011 1:51 pm

What's At Stake: Dirk Nowitzki


Since: Jan 22, 2007
Posted on: May 17, 2011 3:53 am

What's At Stake: Dirk Nowitzki

I'm not really a fan of much of anything involving the current NBA, but I have always been a fan of Dirk's, even when I stopped trying to follow the NBA (and by extension, him and the Mavericks).  Here's hoping he can pull it off.

Since: May 5, 2011
Posted on: May 16, 2011 11:26 pm

What's At Stake: Dirk Nowitzki

Here's a headline; Dirk averages 28 and 10 as the Mavs beat OKC in 5.  Mavs face Chicago in NBA Finals.

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