First Impressions: 'Starry' Mavs Win At Nugs
There are three ways to consider the All-Star candidacy of Mavs MVP Dirk Nowitzki.
First is that his performance this season renders him simply unworthy of earning an 11th consecutive berth; that is actually the view of Nowitzki himself.
Second is that The UberMan is an icon and a champion and should be "grandfathered'' into the marquee event scheduled for Feb. 26 in Orlando; that is the view of teammate Jason Terry.
And third is my view, as expressed on the Mavs-Nuggets pregame show on Fox Sports Southwest on Wednesday on the eve of the final selection process for Western Conference reserves: That it doesn't matter.
Dissected in order:
First: "Averaging whatever, 15, 16 points, I don't think you should be an All-Star," Dirk Nowitzki says. "But we'll just have to wait and see. I think there is a lot of great young talent in this league that deserves to go."
Dirk is ...er, was ... certainly experiencing a subpar statistical season by his lofty standards. It can be argued that in this wacky condensed season, the numbers represent what Dallas owner Mark Cuban calls "dirty data.'' But Nowitzki's two grand hallmarks are high and efficient scoring and leadership of a terrific team, and as the West coaches contemplate their votes, they may conclude that Dirk's fallen short in both areas.
And yet ...
Dirk scored 25 points against the Nuggets to pass Adrian Dantley for 21st on the NBA's all-time scoring list. He also had nine rebounds and three assists as Dallas busted a three-game losing streak. And even during the team's struggles, The UberMan's personal three-game streak has him at 26.3 points on a dazzling 61.5-percent shooting.
"An All-Star performance,'' Carlisle said of Dirk's Denver effort, "didn't you think?"
Maybe coaches will see the now-healthy Dirk as worthy. But they will likely have not only starters Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin ahead of him, but also the "great young talent'' of Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge there, too. That leaves Nowitzki as a candidate for one of two "wildcard'' spots.
Second: "Some guys are grandfathered in,'' Terry says. "You've seen that throughout the history of the NBA. Guys like Tim Duncan … just because he's a perennial All-Star. Shaq, same thing."
There's another "grandfatherly'' issue here: It would be an NBA oddity for a reigning NBA champion to not have representation on the ensuing season's All-Star team. Now, maybe that would be fitting for the Mavs (an unusual champion in this SuperTeam Era) and maybe that would be fitting for this oddity of a season, too.
But aren't the Mavs build on balance and unselfishness, even with the future Hall-of-Famer as the hub of the wheel? The win at Denver allows 15-11 Dallas to jump from No. 8 to No. 4 in the West, as as pivotal as Dirk was, it wouldn't have happened without Roddy B (all his 13 points in the first half), Shawn Marion (17 points) and Vince Carter (17 more, and a go-to guy throughout.)
"This win was about approach and attitude,'' said Carlisle, who also nodded to the Dallas depth as he praised the work of third-string center Brandan Wright and Kidd replacement Delonte West. Kidd, by the way, plans to practice tommorow. But meanwhile, Jet didn't finish the game due to a hip problem.
Approach. Attitude. "Be Ready.'' Those things are bigger than any one guy. Even this one guy.
Third: The seven reserves for the 2012 Western and Eastern conference squads will be announced Thursday night. I think it's unlikely but possible that in this changing-of-the-forwards season, Dirk might join legends Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan on the outside looking in.
Says Jason Terry: "That would be crazy.''
Says Mike Fisher: That would be great.
There was a time – certainly before 2006, when Dirk led Dallas to an NBA Finals appearance, and maybe since then, too – when Mavs fans, players and Cuban himself craved recognition for roster members. The organization once launched a billboard campaign for Michael Finley and used to make big pushes for guys like Josh Howard. Some of that still goes on, witness Cuban's insistence that the league notice Shawn Marion's work as an All-NBA Defense candidate.
But there would be a great benefit if Dirk is snubbed. Inspiration to prove voters wrong? Nah.
Rest. Productive work. And more rest. Kind of like the last four days which led up to this important victory, Dallas' sharpest of the season.
Nowitzki has nothing to prove but more to accomplish. A weekend in Orlando would only really deter him from his vastly more important goals.
In the Mavs practice gym this week, Terry was chirping about his All-Star plans. He'd like to be invited back into the 3-Point Shootout competition – so much so that he half-jokingly pledged to get an All-Star Weekend tattoo to match the Larry O'Brien Trophy tat on his right biceps. But either way, Jet is going to Orlando, flying on a private plane while working with Reebok.
And I heard him tell Dirk that he'd like to take Nowitzki with him.
"C'mon, Dirk,'' Jet said, yelling out to the last man on the Mavs practice court. "I'm driving.''
Nowitzki laughed and kept working and kept shooting. And that's what I think Dirk Nowitzki should do during All-Star Weekend, too. Laugh off the inconsequential. Keep working. Keep shooting.
That's what's important. As Carlisle said after this win, "He's getting back into the groove offensively and he's looking like his old self as he moves around the court. So lots of positives.''
And if Nowitzki or Terry or Cuban or any Dallas Mavericks fans feel discomfort over the lack of All-Star representation, then can easily comfort themselves by staring at their banner, rubbing their rings and hugging their Larry.
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