With Dallas falling to the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night, the Mavericks are now five games under .500. Dallas should continue to hang around the fringes of the playoff race, but they’re an extreme long shot.
Understanding that, perhaps it’s time to revisit Dirk Nowitzki’s playing time in what is unofficially his final season. Though the Big German has yet to say anything either way, playing just 10 minutes per game and averaging just 3.7 points while getting the occasional DNP based on match up isn’t going to entice Dirk to stick around for a historic 22nd season.
It’s strange to see a player who always needed a few minutes to find his bearing on the floor receive so little time. And earlier this week former Moneyball writer Andrew Tobolowsky nailed the issue clearly:
Y'know, I'm not going to say much about Dirk because I don't really want to talk about it but it is weird how they're using him. Feels like if he's healthy enough to play ten minutes, he should play twenty, and if he's not healthy enough for twenty, he shouldn't play any— AndyTobo (@andytobo) January 14, 2019
“If he’s healthy enough to play ten minutes, he should play twenty, and if he’s not healthy enough for twenty, he shouldn't play any.” This is exactly how I feel, particularly now that the playoffs might be a dream.
The basketball reasons and rotation reasons to keep Dirk’s minutes at a minimum make sense to some degree, but it’s a hard sell to convince me that Dirk Nowitzki should take a back seat to Dwight Powell. With the Mavericks both unlikely to make the playoffs and keep their draft pick for this season, they should pivot to focusing on the things of importance, both to team development and to the Maverick fans.
Those things are simple:
- Continued development from Luka Doncic, Jalen Brunson, and Dorian Finney-Smith
- A return of Dennis Smith (or a resolution of the situation)
- Dirk Nowitzki passing Wilt Chamberlain on the NBA all time scoring list
With 181 points to go and just 37 games left to do it, Dirk would need to score 4.9 points per game the rest of the way, and that’s assuming he plays every game, which he will not. Eight days ago, Rick Carlisle told the Dallas Morning News “He’s got the same goal that all of us have. He wants to help the team. He also wants to win”. Now hear me out: what if playing the best player in franchise history more minutes helps the team and the Mavericks win?
J.J. Barea’s injury has forced Carlisle to get creative with his predictable rotations and the insertion of Dirk into a larger role should be their next move. The bench unit dips into unwatchable territory and a few more isolations for Dirk could be what ails both Nowitzki and the Mavericks.
Yeah, it’s a long shot. Yes, opposing teams will look to pick on Dirk defensively. But what does Dallas have to lose? With Doncic now playing a few more minutes with second unit players, we’ll get the chance to see Luka and Dirk hook up for scoring opportunities more often.
Dirk deserves more minutes. Dirk deserves a chance to pass Wilt Chamberlain. We deserve more Dirk. Let’s give it a shot soon, shall we?