Opening Tip: Should Dirk be an All-Star?

January, 28, 2014
Jan 28
8:00
AM CT
DALLAS -- A midseason trip to relax on a Mexican beach isn’t a bad option.

Dirk Nowitzki won’t hold a grudge if the coaches' vote sends him to stick his toes in the sand for a second straight year, a break from the big German's routine after making 11 consecutive All-Star appearances. However, Nowitzki would be honored to represent the Dallas Mavericks in the All-Star Game for perhaps the final time and believes his performance merits such recognition.

"It always means something to be among the best 12, 13 players in the West," Nowitzki said. "It's always been an honor, and I've always had fun going there and representing the Mavericks the right way. But I did have some fun at the beach last year. I got away a little bit.

"Either way, either way. I'd be happy to go, obviously, and always represent the Mavericks. If not, then I'll find something else to do."

The coaches' votes are due Tuesday. The All-Star reserves will be announced Thursday, and an addition or two to the West roster could be made later depending on the health of starter Kobe Bryant and probable reserve Chris Paul.

There's no question that Nowitzki's numbers justify sending him to New Orleans.

This is a better, healthier version of Nowitzki than we've seen the past two years. He ranks ninth in the NBA in Player Efficiency Rating and is the primary reason the Mavs are in the playoff picture. Nowitzki, No. 13 on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, also ranks 13th among the league's scorers this season with 21.1 points per game.

There have been only five players in NBA history who averaged at least 21 points per game at age 35 or older. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Elgin Baylor, Alex English and Michael Jordan were All-Stars in each of those seasons.

But it's not a matter of determining whether Dirk is deserving of being an All-Star again. The conference's coaches must decide which deserving West frontcourt players will be snubbed.

Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant, Minnesota's Kevin Love and the Clippers' Blake Griffin were voted in as the starters by fans. Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge and Houston's Dwight Howard are basically locks for two of the frontcourt reserve spots. That leaves Nowitzki, New Orleans' Anthony Davis, San Antonio's Tim Duncan and Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins as the top candidates for the last frontcourt bid and likely one of the two wild-card spots.

Nowitzki would be honest if he didn't think he deserved to be selected, as he was before the coaches essentially voted to give him a lifetime achievement All-Star bid two years ago during the lockout season. He's confident he has a strong case, although he understands that puts him with a lot of company in the deep West.

"This year, I'm right up there," Nowitzki said. "We understand that there's always going to be guys that deserve it and don't make it, so that's just the nature of the game. The power forward spot in the West has always been loaded, and somebody is going to feel like they got snubbed, but it's just part of the game.”

Of this crop of candidates, Cousins is the most likely to be snubbed despite having the biggest numbers of the bunch, averaging 22.6 points and 11.6 rebounds. His red flags are the Kings' 15-29 record and a reputation for immaturity.

Davis' Pelicans are seven games under .500, but he’d be the unibrowed face of All-Star Weekend as the lone rep from the host town. Plus, he's on pace to be the first 20-point, 10-rebound, three-block guy since 1999-2000 -- and the youngest player ever to put up that average line for a season.

Duncan’s numbers are down a bit (14.8 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.0 blocks). However, the 14-time All-Star could get the same kind of career achievement credits as Nowitzki, and there will be strong sentiment for the 33-11 Spurs to be represented by two players, Duncan and Tony Parker.

The decision won't be quite as difficult for Dallas coach Rick Carlisle. He's not allowed to vote for Nowitzki, but he believes the majority of the coaches in the conference will.

"I've looked at it pretty close and he'll make it,” Carlisle said. “I just have a feeling that he will. And if he doesn't, it's great because he'll have rest. But I do think, if you look at his stats and the load he's carrying, the production and minutes -- if he was playing the minutes some of those guys are playing, he'd be a 25-point scorer. So, we'll see."

We might see Nowitzki wearing an All-Star uniform, perhaps for the last time. If not, we'll probably see him with a suntan after the break.

Neither scenario sounds bad to Nowitzki.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Monta Ellis
PTS AST STL MIN
20.7 4.6 1.7 34.1
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsT. Chandler 11.9
AssistsR. Rondo 8.8
StealsR. Rondo 1.8
BlocksT. Chandler 1.4