When speaking to ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM’s Galloway and Company back in late July, Mark Cuban vehemently denounced naysayers of Dirk Nowitzki who said that the Mavs forward's time as an elite player was done. The doubters have fuel based on the fact that Nowitzki had his lowest scoring average since his rookie season in 1998-99 and had to battle back from knee surgery.
"Knock on wood, if we stay healthy, I think people are just missing Dirk in ways they shouldn't," Cuban said in late July. "Like I've been telling him, Karl Malone won an MVP at 35, and there's no reason why he can't be considered in an MVP conversation at 35.”
“He’s one of the best ball distributors in the game,” Cuban said of Calderon during the team’s introductory press conference last week. “He’s going to open up the court.”
The 31-year-old Calderon will be handed the keys to the flow offense. While he doesn’t carry a lot of playoff experience, he’s widely regarded as one of the most efficient point guards the league has, holding career averages of 10.1 points and 7.2 assists. He’s coming off a season where he split time between Toronto and Detroit and averaged 11.3 points, 7.1 assists and just 1.7 turnovers while shooting a league-best .461 percent from 3-point range.
Bringing an influx of basketball IQ to the roster with Calderon should make life easier for Nowitzki.
In Nowitzki’s sure-fire Hall of Fame career, he has been blessed with point guards such as Steve Nash and Jason Kidd. They were able to help him create easier opportunities. The Mavs saw last season that things don’t run as smooth on offense when they have issues at the point guard position.
“Our nemesis last year was close losses,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle pointed out. “At one point, I think we lost seven or eight overtime games in a row, which just hasn’t been the history here. At lot of that had to do with inexperience.”
With eight years of NBA experience and years of international play, Calderon is expected to be the stabilizing force for the lineup on offense.
“I’m going to try to get everyone involved. I’m going to try to get the ball in the right positions, to the guy who needs the ball. That’s what I do. I’m a team guy,” Calderon said. “We’ve got a lot of guys who can score the ball, so it’s going to be an easy job for me this year.”
Again, it all goes back to Nowitzki. If Calderon can make Nowitzki's life easier, it will likely also lead to open looks on the perimeter for the guard out of Spain. The spacing and gravity Nowitzki can create on the floor lends itself to having a shooter who can space the floor and make people pay.
Having the league’s best 3-point shooter from the previous year makes the on-court marriage between Calderon and Nowitzki sound good on paper. And Calderon is certainly saying the right things when it comes to the team’s approach.
“I think we’ve got a team that knows how to play basketball,” Calderon said while assessing the new-look squad. “There’s other teams that just rely on good players, but I think we can be a really good basketball team. And when we play as a team, it’s going to be easier to get to where we want to be, so I’m real excited.
"I think playing with these guys is going to make my job a little bit easier. I’m ready for it, and I really want to get started knowing these guys on the court and just have fun.”
Having fun would make life easier for everyone. Calderon’s play can go a long way toward prolonging Nowitzki’s career. It’s not a given that Nowitzki can replicate what Malone did at age 35, but he can still be a superstar.
If Nowitzki is able to get a vote for MVP in 2013-14, that will certainly bode well for the Mavs. It will also mean that Calderon delivered in more ways than one.