The thing about beating the Mavericks is that it really is just kind of gratuitous. It doesn’t absolve the loss in Game 7 all those years ago (ten years!). Still the win brought us into battle with long time nemisis, and recent subject of criticism, Dirk Nowitzki.
In another life, were the Plinko disc to fall another direction, Dirk could have been a Spur. Don Nelson, a Popovich mentor, declared him the Next Bird and was ridiculed for it at first. Until Nowitzki Dirk’d the NBA and won an NBA MVP with a one-legged fadeaway.
If my wife is reading this (unlikely) she is upset that I’m doing anything but spewing sports hatred for Nowitzki, as he is — and always will be — our sports enemy. I’ve always been a basketball fan before a Spurs fan, however, and that part of me appreciates his game.
When the NBA wasn’t so wide-open, 3pt shooting was more gimmick than Advanced Stat, and Donny Nelson’s Mavericks were plucky, freewheeling and high-scoring the Mavs were fun yet unthreatening. Watching them take on the Adelman Sacramento Kings was akin to watching something like the ABA, if your grandfather was to be believed. Cuban’s charges were changing the culture and building a team around a 7-footer that preferred to launch threes in transition rather than attempt a Dream Shake.
Dallas was harmless to Tim and SA as long as Dirk was considered soft, and the Mavericks had no defense. Once those two things changed, we had something akin to a rivalry. Thanks to Marc Cuban’s gambling with roster moves, the Dirks have never challenged with the same consistency as Pop’s Spurs. Dirk still scores just as Duncan still remains fundamental. Now that he isn’t MVP-worthy, the questions about his game have returned.
One-trick pony or no, Dirk was a hell of a player for a while. I’ve always said that the pre-title criticism of Dirk reminded me of the ridiculous talk around Dave Robinson, himself a dominant force who shouldered more of the responsibility for a franchise’s failings than was deserved.
Watching a 7-footer shoot like him was fun as a basketball fan, and terrifying as as Spurs fan. I wish nothing but the best for him the rest of the way, except when he takes on our silver-and-black.