Dallas Mavericks: Anthony Davis
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.
So who are these supposed experts? Thirty-nine NBA rookies.
NBA.com surveyed the players this week at the annual rookie photo shoot. The survey asked the rookies to rate their peers in categories such as who will be the 2012-13 rookie of the year (Anthony Davis, New Orleans), who will have the best career (Davis again by a wide margin) and who's being most overlooked.
Crowder, the physical forward and second-round pick out of Marquette, and Cunningham, the athletic combo guard and first-round selection out of Oregon State, each received 5.9 percent of the vote for being most overlooked, as did Kim English (Detroit), John Jenkins (Atlanta) and Tyler Zeller (Cleveland). They were behind a group that garnered 8.8 percent of the vote and included Draymond Green (Golden State) Duncanville's and Baylor's Perry Jones (Oklahoma City), Andrew Nicholson (Orlando) and Tony Wroten (Memphis).
Mavs second-round pick Bernard James also received votes in this category.
Baylor's duo of Jones and slam-dunk artist Quincy Acy finished at the top of the voting (17.6 percent) for most athletic in the class. Cunningham is fourth, tied with the Andre Dummond (Detroit) at 11.8 percent.
Crowder and Cunningham finished tied for fifth in the category for best defender with three other players.
Cunningham also received votes for best playmaker and Crowder was in the mix, and this is an important category for locker-room impact, as funniest rookie.
The 39 rookies were also asked to name their favorite NBA player. There was no surprise in the top three with LeBron James getting 31.0 percent of the vote, Kobe Bryant garnering 18.0 percent and Kevin Durant getting 10.0 percent. Tied with 5.7 percent of the vote is Kevin Garnett and Dirk Nowitzki -- beating out the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade.
Jones got off to a 3-of-12 start from the floor and finished 5-of-16 for 12 points. He had five assists and five rebounds, but also five turnovers.
Rookie forward Jae Crowder continued his strong play at both ends of the floor with 20 points, eight rebounds -- four on the offensive end -- four steals and a blocked shot with just one turnover in 34 minutes. Rookie center Bernard James finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds for his second double-double of the summer.
No one else finished with more than seven points. Mavs first-round pick Jared Cunningham still has yet to suit up due to a hamstring injury sustained during pre-draft workouts.
The Mavs have two more games on the summer slate. Their next one starts at 9:30 p.m. Friday against No. 10 pick Austin Rivers and the Hornets, a game that will be shown on NBA TV. No. 1 draft pick Anthony Davis is not playing for New Orleans in Vegas. His agenda includes playing with the U.S. Olympic team.
For a box score and full schedule click here.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett at Mavericks media day to discuss his expectations for the upcoming season.
Play Podcast Mark Cuban joins Galloway and Company to discuss the Mavericks' new GM Gersson Rosas and much more.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss Mark Cuban's comments from Las Vegas about the Mavericks' offseason, how he sees the team without Dwight Howard and more.
Play Podcast Marc Stein joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why the Mavericks didn't want to match Cleveland's offer to Andrew Bynum, what's next for the Mavs and the possibility of Dirk Nowitzki ending his career elsewhere.
Play Podcast Jeff Platt fires quick-hitters at Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon in the weekly sports standoff about Andrew Bynum, the Mavs' current backcourt, a potential Nelson Cruz suspension and more.
Play Podcast ESPN Los Angeles' Ramona Shelburne joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why she thinks Andrew Bynum got a bad rap in Los Angeles and how he would fit in with the Mavericks.
Play Podcast Buy, sell or hold? If Dwight Howard goes to another team, what are the Mavs' options? The guys take a look at a list of potential fallback options.
Play Podcast ESPN's Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the latest news on the Mavericks' meeting with Dwight Howard.