There's now a capital D in Dirk Nowitzki
DALLAS -- The final fine of Phil Jackson’s legendary career was assessed because he publicly complained about officials letting Dirk Nowitzki get away with overly physical post defense.
|Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki shares his thoughts on how the team has performed throughout the playoffs, the way his game has evolved, and more. |
For those who haven’t heard, Dirk’s defense is no longer a joke and hasn’t been for the last half-decade. The man formerly mocked as Irk – no D – has developed from awful to adequate to an asset on the defensive end throughout the course of his Hall of Fame career.
The arrival of Tyson Chandler is the primary reason cited for the Mavs morphing into one of the league’s better defensive teams this season. Rightfully so, considering that Chandler’s inclusion on the second-team All-Defensive squad, an honor that ended a Dallas drought of more than two decades. Chandler finished third in the Defensive Player of the Year voting.
The Mavs described Chandler as the “heart and soul” of their defense. I don’t know which organ Nowitzki is, but believe it or not, it’s an essential one.
Coach Rick Carlisle has mentioned many times that the Mavs’ defense is most effective with Dirk on the floor. The stats back that up. Their defensive rating (points per 100 possessions) was 100.16 with Nowitzki on the floor during the regular season, compared to 100.96 with Chandler on the floor. (By comparison, the Chicago Bulls and Celtics had league-best 100.3 ratings.)
Carlisle points out that Nowitzki’s offensive prowess makes it much easier for the Mavs to get stops, because they can get their defense set when the opponent has to take the ball out of the basket. But Dirk deserves credit for developing into a smart, solid defender.
“He’s buying into what he thinks it takes to win,” Chandler said. “He’s giving a great defensive effort out there night in and night out. He’s putting himself in position to succeed in team defense.”
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireDirk Nowitzki deserves credit for the effort he's put forth on the defensive end.
This isn’t a sudden development. It started during Avery Johnson’s tenure, which is a credit to the Little General.
Defense definitely wasn’t a priority under Don Nelson. Johnson forced Dirk to focus on that end of the floor.
“Avery used to get on me pretty good, I’ve got to admit,” Dirk said. “We used to have film sessions that were ‘The Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki Horror Show.’ We would come in and he would just show clips of us two and kill us, kill us.”
Carlisle doesn’t hesitate to point out defensive mistakes made by Dirk during film sessions. It just isn’t necessary that often anymore.
“I’m not the greatest one-on-one defender there is in this league, but I like to think that I’m smart,” Nowitzki said. “I like to think that I’ve good vision on the court – who gets broken down? Where can I [give] smart help? I think I got better on pick-and-roll defense, where you have to get out and show and impact the ball and get back and help the guards out.
“But the addition of Tyson and [Brendan] Haywood behind me, that’s huge. To know you can show aggressive on the pick-and-roll, to know you can play somebody aggressive and if you get beat there’s someone there 100 percent of the time to get your back, that helps all of us on the defensive end.”
The combination of commitment, experience, scheme and the supporting cast has made Dirk a key cog in the Mavericks’ defensive machine, as funny as that sounds.
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