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Dirk Nowitzki is a lot of things – including tough
From the day Dirk Nowitzki was acquired by the Mavericks on draft day, one of the knocks on him was that he was soft. He’s been fighting that reputation ever since, which I think is a pretty unfair one.
He went ahead and proved that he is as tough as they come — and, as John Hollinger of ESPN Insider wrote, “a freak of nature” by bouncing back from a high ankle sprain after an unheard of 5 games off. That type of injury can take months to heal, not days.
Dirk wasn’t 100% against Golden State, but the way he made the surprise start really woke the Dallas basketball world up. The crowd was more electric than it’s been since the 2006 Finals run. And most importantly, the players had a swagger I hadn’t seen in a long time.
Dirk’s inspiration was the MVP of the game. Jason Terry played with hustle and energy we haven’t seen from him, and Josh Howard was being a good garbage collector inside. The Mavericks were just getting to more loose balls.
This season will come down to how well Josh Howard, Jason Kidd, and Jason Terry will play. Against Los Angeles tonight, Dirk was spectacular — but Howard, Kidd, and Terry all disappeared down the stretch. The Lakers were able to double and triple team Dirk, and Howard and Terry missed badly on some open shots. And Kidd wasn’t able to get out in the open court and orchestrate in space like he’s so adept at doing.
Dirk’s defense is better than it’s been: he’s getting a lot of key blocks coming helpside and he’s rebounding well. And Dirk’s toughness can’t be questioned. And he’s playing efficient, spirited basketball. But the team keeps losing close games. They need to figure out how to win these close games — when the open court game shuts down and things tighten up at the end, the Mavericks tighten up and take bad shots.
They’ve failed at getting to the free throw line late, and I think that will help them. Of course, referees are more reluctant to call that foul late in the game, but you’ve still got to drive the lane and try to draw that content to have a chance late.
I feel like this team is close to figuring it out. But they’re running out of time this season to get it figured out. The playoffs are around the corner — and if the Mavericks aren’t careful, it could happen without them. I don’t think that will be the case, but it’s possible.
I think Dirk will be able to get this thing on his back and carry them into the playoffs. He’s shown he’s tough enough.
Sat April 5th, 2008 12:05 am
Filed under Dallas Mavericks