Dirk's game against the Nuggets last night was absolutely sublime. It was, as far as I'm concerned, his best game this season. 33 points on 19 shots, 3-4 from three--and every shot was an 8 on the difficulty scale. Hook shots, turn-arounds, fade-aways. Transition threes. The "Franklin".
Don't worry if you don't know what the Franklin is. Dirk does. And he's already scored on you with it.
The game rose to meet Dirk Nowitzki last night, and I was there to see it. Every time he stepped on the court, he handed the Mavs a huge lead, like a Christmas present. Every time he stepped off, that huge lead seemed to exist entirely to give him time to rest. When it got a little low, he'd hop back out and push it up again. In a 17 point win, he was + 23, 9 points better than the second-best Maverick.
Is it like that every night? No. Not even in his prime, not even in the playoffs. But it's like that an awful lot of late.Four straight games of 27+, 7th of the month. Third game this month over 60%.
But y'all non-Mavs fans don't know about that. Because you look at his 21-7 on the season, and you think he's slipped.
He hasn't. He struggled, to start the season. It was his knee. It was his conditioning. Hell, maybe it was the bliss from his long-deserved goal, finally achieved, just numbing him up a bit too much. But that's all in the past. That's Dirk-all-season. Dirk-now is all the way back.
And you don't get to play Dirk-all-season. You get to play Dirk now.
Our media world runs on narratives. Narratives like, "will LeBron ever win a title"?(Answer: he’s got a better chance than basically anybody, but I can’t see the future.")
Some of these narratives are super powerful. One of those, in the NBA, is waiting around for people to die. These narratives can be fended off, for some time, but as wolves they are too hungry, and when you slip they will leap.
When I say that the NBA is always waiting for people to die, I mean that the older teams, with the exception of the Lakers, have been counted out every year for the last two years, because it was supposed to be the year they were too old.
Case studies are easy to come by, for what I mean.
Test Case: Spurs are too old.
Experience: Spurs win West, everybody shuts up.
2nd Experience: Spurs lose in first round.
Result?: Spurs are too old.
Meanwhile, 35 year old Peyton Manning just signed with the Broncos for nine thousand million dollars and thirty years, and, wouldn't you know it, the Spurs are second in the West THIS year.
Where the Mavericks are concerned, there are two wolves. One is the too-old beast. The other one is Dirk.
I refuse to write again, until Dirk retires, about how underappreciated Dirk’s amazingly amazing offensive game is, literally the most unstoppable in the game. Underappreciated is not a word I want to use, because I do not want to be defensive. I have no need to be defensive. The Mavericks won the championship last year, and Dirk outplayed every young star in the NBA one-on-one.
For five seconds he got to be the best player in the world. Then, of course, the Mavs stumbled out of the gate, he had a knee injury that was poorly handled in the media (who got to hear that he’s out of shape, instead, and then that Barkley thought he was too old), and there was that wolf again.
It is the most predictable thing in the world. No one was ready for that Dirk, last year, the Dirk we've all known for years. When he didn't show up for the beginning of this season, there was palpable relief, because it meant they didn't have to change their minds. They didn't.
And really, who cares?
Here is what you and I have to accept and understand. People who do not live in Dallas, and are not Dallas fans, are not checking on the Mavericks all the time. They do not watch the Mavericks on TV unless they’re on TNT, which happens as much as it does for anyone else but still not all that often. They don’t look at our box scores.
If Dirk starts slow, and they hear about it, the wolf gets fed, and while ti may be the media’s fault that the wolf is there—seems like they could lay off for five minutes after the man won a championship—it’s not the fault of fans of other teams that they buy it. Why shouldn’t they? They’re not watching the Mavs. I’m not watching the Knicks, either, 'cept when they're on TNT. That’s the NBA.
Dirk is averaging his lowest points per game since 1999-2000. Why would a non-Mavericks fan care that that's the most weighted die of weighted die? I don't know what Andre Iguodala's up to, either. That's fine.
So I’ll just say this:
For Dirk to be, in the words of a friend and fellow blogger, no longer top 7 five minutes after he was top 1, or, less dramatically, top 3, he’d have to either be playing worse than he was playing last year, or 4-6 players would have to have moved past him.
Is it part one?
Well, let’s see:
March of 2010-2011: Dirk Nowitzki, 25 points, 52% from the floor, 35% from three.
March of 2011-2012: Dirk Nowitzki: 26 points, 50% from the floor, 51% from three.
Looks okay to me, guys. I'll leave part two, to the experts.