It was all planned out: The Dallas Mavericks were going to beat the Houston Rockets, continue their winning streak and Dirk Nowitzki was going to ride on a white horse back to Dallas as the noble hero that he is.
Well, yeah. About that ...
But this is meant to be a happy time, nonetheless. Dirk moved up to ninth place on the NBA's all-time scoring list against the Sacramento Kings on Nov. 12. He is having the most efficient season of his career, especially if you take out his struggles against the Rockets on Saturday.
Dirk is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. The only question left regarding his career is, how far will he move up on the scoring list?
1) First thoughts on Dirk moving on up the scoring list. I think we've gotten to the point where just when we think we've seen everything from him, he just continues to amaze.
Kirk: He's just so steady it's nearly boring. It's still too early in the season to make judgements but his usage and efficiency are pretty fun. That he's not being asked to do as much right now is going to help his scoring later in the year. I'm trying really hard to not think about where he's going to finish because it's really hard to imagine him not playing with how he looks right now. I hope he's still having fun because I certainly am.
Tim: Look, lots of people out there have a 'favorite athlete,' but if it's not Dirk Nowitzki, they're all wrong. He's been incredible for a long, long time.
Doyle: Dirk is such a special player. That's somewhat cliche but he really is. He transformed a position and is now the archetype. Never did I think this skinny kid from Germany would transform the game and climb the scoring list like he has. I'm not sure how high he will eventually end up but being 9th all time currently is impressive and that's an understatement.
2) One thing that stood out to me during the Sacramento game was Dirk still has the ability to take over. If not for him getting going in the second quarter, Dallas probably doesn't win. Simple question: Why do people still count out Dirk?
Tim: It's been a problem throughout Dirk's career because he's not in one of the two main media markets and he's not a highlight player. I'm not too worried about it. Around the league, no one counts Dirk out. He's still, at the age of 36, one of the scariest matchups in the league no matter who you ask.
Doyle: It's the same reason that so many players are counted out every season: age. Dirk is 36 now and has been in the league for 17 seasons. That takes its toll on the body. Luckily, Dirk has never been injury prone and has kept in shape so his decline hasn't been dramatic.
Kirk: He shouldn't be able to hurt teams like he does. Think about it... he rarely puts the ball on the floor anymore. Nearly all of his damage comes from spot ups, getting the ball out of a pick and roll, or out of a post up/face up where all he does is lean back. It's so simple, but it's also devastating. I don't think people count him out as much as they do forget how lethal he still is. It's pretty unfair.
3) We know how efficient Dirk was last year offensively, but he's on pace to do even better this year. If he keeps this up, and Dallas keeps winning, is he an All-Star in a Western Conference that has a plethora of talent in the front court?
Doyle: I know that he has said that he would rather just send some time at a beach than attend another All Star game. Hopefully, he gets his wish. However, he is certainly playing like he deserves a nod but he might just be the odd man out with all the ridiculous young forwards in the West.
Kirk: My initial reaction is no, but checking around Twitter with non-Mavs gans the answer is apparently yes. His numbers will still be impressive, but he's also a legacy All Star. Let's say we get to Feb. and Dallas is 3rd, 4th or 5th in the West. Will the coaches not vote on a single Dallas player to join the team? Unlikely. There's one group (coaches) who still have vast respect for Dirk. If he's putting up 20 points on 50 percent-plus shooting ... he's in.
Tim: Before the season, I played around with the idea that Dallas wouldn't have any All Stars. I think, with the numbers the offense is putting up and the respect for Dirk around the league, it'd be hard to leave off a Maverick and Dirk is naturally would be the one to earn it. It'll be an interesting question as it draws sooner and even tough the All-Star Break is a week now, I'm sure Dirk himself probably may be okay with sitting this one out.
4) If he stays healthy and continues to average about 20 points per game the rest of the way, Dirk could move up to 7th by the end of the year. By next year, he will pass Shaq for 6th. Where does he finish his career on the list?
Kirk: Oh gosh. See a lot of this depends on how Dirk's feeling. I think 6th sounds about right, but people much smarter than me seem to think he has an outside shot at 5th, which is currently held by Wilt Chamberlain. The issue is that's 4,500 points. That is a LOT of points. Let's just hope he stays healthy, happy, and ready to play basketball.
Tim: It looks like Dirk would have to play at least one additional season to break into the top five of all time, and while I hate to say this so much, I think he'll be done at 40 when this final contract is up. So yeah, I have him sixth all time until LeBron passes him a few years later, and in the top ten for at least a few decades. Just incredible no matter how you look at it.
Doyle: I think it's conceivable that he ends up 5th. It's going to be almost impossible to crack the top four.