DIRK AT KOBE
The advanced billing in understandable: Dirk Nowitzki's Dallas Mavericks vs. Kobe Bryant's Los Angeles Lakers, a 17-year-long battle, tonight to be sent off into the sunset ... er, dark, stagy mood lighting of Staples ... never to be seen again.
But the "real'' Kobe is already beyond sunset. And the greatness of Dirk, we say hopefully, is going nowhere.
Two future Hall-of-Famers with incredible resumes and iconic statures and boasting of being the NBA's top two active scorers? Look for Dallas coach Rick Carlisle to reiterate often today and tonight the line he used back at the AAC on Nov. 13, a Mavs' 90-82 victory and has already been repeated by him once today already: “We’ll never see this again. This is a historic moment for our league and for our team.”
That was also true two weeks before, on Nov. 1 at LA, when the Mavs won 103-93. Kobe, for all his villainous life-long brilliance, in those two games was a virtual non-factor, scoring 15 and 19 points, respectively. In that first meeting he was just 3-of-15, with Wesley Matthews hounding Bryant into an all-too-famliar sub-Mamba territory.
That's a far cry from Bryant ranking third on the NBA's all-time list with 33,084, a far cry from once posting outputs of 62 and 52 points against Dallas, a far from from a decade-plus span during which Mark Cuban's Mavs found themselves wildly trying to find answers to be superior to the Shaq-Kobe Lakers ... and so rarely were, LA during one stretch winning 34 of 49 meetings.
That tide began turning during the 2011 Playoffs, when Dallas swept Phil Jackson into coaching retirement, exposing and embarrassing Kobe's bunch -- the two-time defending champs -- on the way to a Dallas championship and it's continued since, the Mavs now sitting on a nine-game win streak in the series largely because while Father Time catches us all, Father Time seems to be sitting back and enjoying Dirk's all-time scoring chase (he ranks sixth at 28,863) and his stature as the Mavs' best player and best hope ...
Dirk is working through "right-knee effusion'' that we hope isn't a code name for something much worse. (Zaza Pachulia and Devin Harris are also banged up and they are not certain to play tonight in the 8:30 DFW-time tipoff. Get in the DB.com Boards talk here.) Successfully working through it should end 25-21 Dallas' two-game loss streak (to OKC and to Houston), especially with help from Chandler Parsons, who in his last three games is averaging 29 points per.
LA is 9-37 and Kobe is reportedly chewing out teammates as they've hit the skids in such dramatic fashion that they're likely to give up 113 points on a given night. He's always done that, but there was a time when his teammates were good enough to respond. There was also a time when Kobe was good enough to overcome whatever obstacles existed. If you are a long-time Love-to-Hater of Bryant, you relish this decline and bask in the fact that Kobe isn't Kobe and that the Lakers aren't the Lakers.
The gentlemanly Dirk has another perspective, saying (sincrerely) of Kobe, "It's always great to see him. He's a legend."
We have another perspective: It's now always great to see the Lakers ... because the Mavs need a win.
DOWN ON THE FARM
The emergence of Salah Mejri as a candidate to get minutes on the back of the Dallas rotation doesn't happen without the developmental work being done by him and the staff of the D-League Texas Legends, where Salah, Justin Anderson and Jeremy Evans work up a sweat on assignment. What's cooking in the D-League this week? Check it out here.
THE FINAL WORD
"I think Kevin Durant said it best. For our generation, Kobe Bryant was our Michael Jordan." - Dirk.