Mavericks: Michael Jordan
|Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James -- the NBA trade deadline is looming, and no one expects any landscape changing moves. Ben & Skin discuss. |
“For him to even know my name is crazy, to be honest,” said Nowitzki, who noted he thought several deserving players were left off of Jordan’s list. “For him to say that I could have been a good player then means a lot. It’s humbling. It’s been great. It’s been a crazy ride over 15 years. It’s great to get respect from the greatest of all time.”
It’s not just a nod to Nowitzki’s unique skill set. There has never been another 7-footer with Dirk’s ability to dominate from the perimeter, but that’s often been a knock against Nowitzki.
The "soft" stereotype got slapped on Nowitzki almost as soon as he got off the plane from Germany. It took him 13 years -- and one unbelievable championship run -- to get rid of it for good.
The respect from Jordan, widely considered the most ruthless competitor in NBA history, is a nod to Nowitzki’s unconventional, undeniable mental toughness, something Dirk developed during his career along with the ability to attack off the dribble and post up.
“To me, there’s obviously two types of tough,” said Nowitzki, who acknowledges that 7-footers who are solely spot-up shooters will get labeled as soft. “There is the rah-rah tough, the elbow and play physical and go in there and dunk on people. That was never my kind of tough. I was never that physical. I’m not blessed with a 40-inch vertical. So my toughness was [that] I wanted to be out there for the guys, I wanted to fight with the guys, I wanted to win, I wanted to be there for the team when the game’s on the line. I play hurt. I play sick. I always wanted to be there.
“That’s mentally tough that I developed over the years. I didn’t have that when I first got in the league, but I got better and better with experience and with a will to win a championship.”
Dirk’s game and mind frame developed so well over the years that he’s recognized by his childhood hero as a rare player who could have been great in any era.
It was just an honest answer to a fan’s question. That’s it.
Nothing has changed for Nowitzki in terms of how he views his basketball future once this contract expires. He has consistently said since he signed the four-year, $80 million deal that it could be his last NBA contract.
Nowitzki’s loyalty to the Mavs, and Cuban, hasn’t wavered. He made that clear later during his impromptu weekend Twitter Q&A when asked why he doesn’t try to jump to a so-called super team.
“I bleed blue,” Nowitzki replied.
Maybe the quality of the Mavs’ roster will influence Nowitzki’s decision on whether to continue his career into his late 30s. Maybe he’ll figure he needs to play for a legitimate contender to muster the competitive fire at that point in life.
Perhaps Nowitzki’s family life will be a major factor, too. He got married this summer. Maybe he’ll decide to become a stay-at-home dad.
But here’s betting that Dirk’s decision comes down to how his then-36-year-old body feels after 16 seasons of the NBA grind.
Nowitzki’s knee trouble early in last year’s lockout-shortened season was the first sign of wear and tear taking its toll. The Mavs hope and believe, however, that the knee soreness was a result of the sudden end to the lockout and compressed schedule, not necessarily a painful sign of things to come.
Nevertheless, Nowitzki is likely to have logged close to 50,000 NBA minutes, including playoffs, by the time his contract expires. Plus, that 7-foot frame made a ton of trips up and down the floor while playing for Germany in international competition.
On the other hand, Nowitzki’s game should age well. It isn’t as if he became one of the best power forwards of all-time because of awesome athleticism.
It’s not like Nowitzki will suddenly lose his shooting touch in his old age. He preferably wouldn’t have to create his own shot so often and carry the Mavs’ offense on his shoulders, but Nowitzki could be a scoring threat until his blond hair goes gray.
And Nowitzki has the benefit of working on a daily basis with Mavs athletic trainer Casey Smith, who is widely considered one of the best in the business and happens to be one of No. 41’s best friends.
While Nowitzki has never focused on his numbers, there’s something to be said for cracking the 30,000-point barrier, an exclusive club that includes only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain and should be joined by Kobe Bryant this season. Nowitzki will probably need two more pretty good seasons to get there after this deal is done.
If his body is still able, it’s hard to envision Nowitzki not being willing to continue cashing Cuban’s checks and knocking down jumpers in a Mavs uniform.
No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers
Move along, nothing here to see. Yeah, right. Luxury tax be damned, the Lakers are must-see TV this season with their retooled roster that reads like an All-Star team or an Olympic squad or, if you will, a future Hall of Fame roll call. General manager Mitch Kupchak, who in 2008 acquired Pau Gasol from Memphis -- a deal long-ridiculed as thievery although the Grizzlies did get Marc Gasol -- finagled Steve Nash for draft picks. He then landed the most dominant defensive big man in the league, Dwight Howard, who has also averaged 20 points or more in four of the last six seasons. So the Lakers will roll out a starting five of Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol and Howard. The Lakers were a middle-of-the-pack defensive team last year and that should begin to change the moment Howard returns from back surgery. Offensively, this should be a lot of fun with Nash running the show and making life super easy for Kobe, Pau and Howard. Move over Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, a new Lob City might be taking up residence at Staples Center.
@Lakers 73, Mavs 70
Lakers 96, @Mavs 91
Lakers 109, @Mavs 93
@Lakers 112, Mavs 108 (OT)
This season's games
Oct. 30: @ Lakers
Nov. 24: vs. Lakers
Feb. 24: vs. Lakers
Apr. 2: @ Lakers
Obviously, the marquee moves the Lakers made with Nash and Howard have everyone talking. But it's the ancillary acquisitions to bolster the bench that pushed me to hand L.A. my No. 1 ranking ahead of West champion Oklahoma City. Bringing in veteran forward Antawn Jamison and 3-point specialist Jodie Meeks to join guard Steve Blake and energetic young forward Jordan Hill gives the Lakers' second unit proven scoring and some muscle. There's lots of talk that the Lakers could challenge the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls' record 72 wins, but considering Howard will probably miss the beginning of the season recuperating from back surgery, the age of key stars such as Nash and Kobe and time needed to jell, that feat doesn't seem terribly likely. That's not the goal anyway. The end-game is fitting Kobe for a sixth ring to match Michael Jordan and getting Nash and Howard their first. The intriguing aspect is how second-year Lakers coach Mike Brown will handle this gift of talent and how he'll adjust offensively. For instance, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, as time went on with Jason Kidd, relinquished most of the play-calling and allowed the offensive to "flow" from Kidd. Nash's presence as the primary ball handler will also be a major adjustment for Bryant, who can take on the role of a more traditional shooting guard playing off the ball. It should greatly benefit Bryant, who turned 34 on Thursday.
How the Mavs match up
The Mavs will get an early look when they open the season in L.A. in what should be quite a Hollywood scene. This Lakers squad brings just about everything: Star power, size, skill, strength, savvy and doses of athleticism that will be difficult for any team to match. Howard probably won't be ready to go just yet, but Nash will be primed for a big opener with his new club. As big a problem as Andrew Bynum was for the Mavs to handle defensively and on the boards (he averaged 17.0 points and 13.0 rebounds last season vs. Mavs) and as difficult as Howard will be, Gasol was a killer last season. Dirk Nowitzki is often saddled with guarding Gasol, arguably the most skilled 7-foot low-post player in the league. Gasol averaged 19.8 points and 8.5 boards in four games against Dallas and shot 55.9 percent from the field. Against teams Gasol played more than two times last season, he shot a higher percentage against only Houston and Minnesota. Chris Kaman will probably get Gasol in the opener, but when Howard's in the lineup, Kaman will have that nasty assignment with Nowitzki on Gasol. Shawn Marion will be happy to get help from newcomers Dahntay Jones and O.J. Mayo when it comes to guarding Bryant. Any way you slice it, this is going to be a tough matchup -- and the Mavs are lucky enough to try it four times this season.
No. 5: Denver Nuggets
No. 4 San Antonio Spurs
No. 3 Los Angeles Clippers
No. 2 Oklahoma City Thunder
What is it with the Charlotte Bobcats and overpaid Dallas Mavericks centers?
They took DeSagana Diop off the Mavs' hands just months after Dallas lavished the Senegal native with the full mid-level exception. Then Charlotte traded Tyson Chandler for Erick Dampier and his fully non-guaranteed contract. On Saturday, the Bobcats acquired Brendan Haywood through the amnesty waiver process, ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported, citing sources with knowledge of the move.
Dallas used its amnesty rights on the former North Carolina Tar Heels player on Thursday, shortly after agreeing to a one-year, $8 million deal with center Chris Kaman. Haywood, who lives in Charlotte during the offseason, is owed $27.2 million over the next three seasons, including $8.3 million this season, all of which will be paid to Haywood but wiped off the Mavs' books in terms of salary cap and luxury tax ramifications.
The Bobcats' winning bid for Haywood was $2.05 million, according to NBA.com, meaning Charlotte will be responsible for that amount of Haywood's salary, with the Mavs picking up the balance. It's just $50,000 less than the bid the Mavs submitted earlier this week to win the services of power forward Elton Brand.
Haywood, 32, will join Diop in Charlotte on Michael Jordan's wayward club that set an NBA record for lowest winning percentage (.106) last season.
It was an up-and-down tenure in Dallas for Haywood. He was part of the 2010 deadline trade that brought him, Caron Butler and DeShawn Stevenson over from Washington for Josh Howard and others. The deal ultimately paid off in a championship with, interestingly enough, Stevenson becoming the key piece of the deal in terms of the 2011 title.
Haywood's performances were erratic. At times he flashed signs of being a double-double machine and other times appeared as if he would rather be on a beach somewhere. Never a true offensive threat, his defensive abilities deteriorated as this season progressed, and he averaged just 15 minutes a game in the playoff sweep to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Haywood figured to become an amnesty victim if the Mavs were successful in luring top free-agent target Deron Williams. When that didn't happen, Haywood figured to be staying. That the Mavs used their amnesty on his contract goes to show just how fed up they had become with the passive 7-footer.
Now it's off to Charlotte, where Haywood will certainly feel the comforts of home.
It took Mark Cuban and Dirk Nowitzki nearly a dozen years to raise the Dallas Mavericks from the ashes of the 1990s to the pinnacle of the NBA as champions.
Just 13 months later, a nearly complete dismantling of the title team has created one of the swiftest falls from grace in league history. In 1998-99, the Chicago Bulls, having moved on from Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson, followed a second three-peat with a 13-37 record in the lockout-shortened season.
The Mavs' downward spiral is most similar to that, ironically, of the 2006 Miami Heat, the Dwyane Wade-led team that rallied from an 0-2 hole to beat Avery Johnson's squad. The next year the Heat finished a mediocre 44-38 and were swept out of the first round of the playoffs. The Mavs ended this lockout-shortened, 66-game schedule at 36-30 and were swept in the first round by the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The following year, the Heat won 15 games. It would be a stretch to think the Mavs will crater to such depths next season, but with a roster now in full rebuild mode -- and one that will not include Jason Terry or Jason Kidd or Deron Williams, for that matter -- Dallas could face a long, hard climb to extend the franchise's record 12-year playoff run.
So where has everybody gone from the title team that partied deep into the South Beach morning last June?
Let's take a look.
Still around: Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Brendan Haywood, Rodrigue Beauobois, Dominique Jones
Coming back?: Ian Mahinmi (unsigned free agent), Brian Cardinal (unsigned free agent)
Long gone: Tyson Chandler (signed as free agent in 2011 with New York), J.J. Barea (signed as free agent in 2011 with Minnesota); Caron Butler (signed as free agent in 2011 with L.A. Clippers), Corey Brewer (traded in 2011 to Denver), DeShawn Stevenson (signed as free agent in 2011 with New Jersey, traded to Atlanta), Peja Stojakovic (retired)
All but gone: Jason Terry (agreed to terms this week with Boston), Jason Kidd (agreed to terms this week with New York).
“Oh, I’m out, for sure,” Beaubois said when asked what would have happened if he botched the showboat act.
As long as Beaubois is competing, Carlisle can deal with the occasional flash. And Beaubois competed up to Carlisle’s standards during the second half of Thursday’s win over the Charlotte Bobcats, scoring eight of his 14 points and grabbing all four of his rebounds in the fourth quarter.
Carlisle demands intense defense and aggressive offense from Beaubois. Give the coach that and he’ll be cool with playing to the crowd a little bit.
“I had no problem with that because he was playing with great intensity at both ends,” Carlisle said. “He was competing hard at both ends. In the first half, he was out there, but he wasn’t a factor. He had no presence. I talked to him about that at halftime, and in the second half, he got in his stance and he made things happen.
“It’s one of the habits that he’s got to continue to develop, and that is the habit of keeping the motor going. It doesn’t come natural to some guys, and so it’s got to be things that keep you on, and we’ll stay on him about it.”
A few more notes from Thursday’s win:
1. Oh no, DoJo: The Mavs came dangerously close to blowing a 17-point lead in the final four minutes. Carlisle thought a 10-point lead was safe with 1:40 remaining an dpulled Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry from the game, but they were back in their five points and 61 seconds later. Reserve guard Dominique Jones especially stunk it up during garbage time, committing a careless turnover and compounding the mistake with a foul seconds later.
“I made the mistake of subbing too early,” Carlisle said. “I shouldn’t have put Jones in there. He went in there and half-stepped it.”
2. Matrix plays in pain: Shawn Marion’s left knee didn’t feel good despite taking Wednesday’s practice off. “Hell no,” Marion said. “I’m good, though. I’ll fight through it.”
Marion is the only Maverick who has played every game this season, but he didn’t play particularly well against the Bobcats. He had four points on 2-of-8 shooting, six rebounds and four assists in 27 minutes. Carlisle said that the Mavs wouldn’t let Marion play if there was any question about whether he would benefit from sitting out a game or two.
3. Dallas dumping grounds: The presence of three ex-Mavericks at the end of the Bobcats’ bench is evidence of what a miserably managed franchise Michael Jordan’s Bobcats are. DeSagana Diop, Matt Carroll and Eduardo Najera will combine to make $13.6 million this season. They combined to score four points and grab three rebounds in the Bobcats’ loss to the Mavs, with Carroll and Diop never taking off their warm-ups.
The Mavs shipped Diop to Charlotte months after making a massive mistake by giving him the full midlevel exception in 2008, getting Carroll and rental reserve center Ryan Hollins in exchange. Diop will make $7.3 million next season.
Mavs owner Mark Cuban somehow convinced Jordan to take the contracts of Carroll and Najera off the Mavs’ hands in what was supposed to be a Tyson Chandler salary dump. Najera comes off the books this summer, but Carroll is due another $3.5 million next season.
Let's put into perspective just how rare a point-per-minute feat that was.
*There are only two active players who can claim to have scored 40 points while playing 30 or fewer minutes. The last player to do that was Rodrigue Beaubois, who lit up the Warriors for 40 points in 29:52 off the bench as a rookie two seasons ago. J.R. Smith did it twice while with Denver.
*You have to go all the way back to 1994 to find a 40-point performance in fewer minutes. Indiana center Rik Smits had 40 points in 27 minutes against the Sixers.
*There have been only 14 40-point, 30-or-fewer-minute performances since 1986-87, according to basketball-reference.com's database. The players to pull off the feat in reverse chronological order: Nowitzki, Beaubois, Smith (twice), Gilbert Arenas, Stephon Marbury, Gary Payton, Smits, Walt Williams, Terry Porter, Michael Jordan, Sleepy Floyd, Patrick Ewing and Larry Bird.
“I don’t think so,” Carter said, laughing. “I don’t know. I’d have to have an epiphany.”
You can count on Carter watching Saturday’s dunk contest that features four first-time participants: Minnesota’s Derrick Williams, Indiana’s Paul George, Utah’s Jeremy Evans and Houston’s Chase Budinger. He doesn’t like the changed format -- “endurance dunking,” he calls it -- but Carter will always be a dunk aficionado.
“I used to tape all the dunk contests and watch them over and over and analyze them,” Carter said. “I like to see just like a judge in gymnastics. I say gymnastics because I’ve been to a lot of my daughter’s gymnastics meets. They always look at body control, all the technical stuff, and that’s how I’ve always been with the dunk contest.”
Carter lists Julius Erving, Dominique Wilkins, Michael Jordan and J.R. Rider as his favorite dunk showmen. You can see their influence in his spectacular routine during the 2000 contest.
He borrowed from Dr. J and Jordan with a variation of the free-throw line jam, taking off from a step inside the line but throwing it down with two hands. He also did a Jordan-esque side-leaning tomahawk, adding flair by hanging from the rim with his elbow.
Carter enhanced Rider’s between-the-legs jam by doing it after catch a bounce pass from teammate Tracy McGrady. And he delved into Dominque’s genre with two nasty windmills -- one a 360, the other a 180 after taking off from behind the basket.
In Carter’s opinion, it’s the details that make a contest dunk.
“I like to see guys do the windmill,” Carter said. “I always wanted to do a windmill with the arm straight, straight down. Not half-cocked. If you half-cock it, your arm is bent.”
Of course, it helps to have a 40-plus inch vertical.
The theft led to a Dirk Nowitzki jumper that was part of 10 consecutive points scored by the big German. He finished the half with 21 points and 10 rebounds.
Sounds like all fun and games, but as poorly as the massively undermanned Celtics are playing, Dallas might think it should be leading by more than 10. Boston, playing without starters Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett, plus reserve forward Brandon Bass, are shooting 40.5 percent. The Mavs aren't doing much better at 40.9 percent, which means no one besides Dirk is doing much on the offensive end.
OK, Jason Terry is 3-of-4 with two 3s for eight points.
But, to the point, Dirk is 8-of-18 from the floor and the rest of the team is 10-of-26 for 23 points.
Paul Pierce leads Boston with 11 points. Allen and Texas-ex Avery Bradley have eight points each.
Kidd has had at least one steal in each of the last eight games he's played (excluding the Jan. 27 game when he injured his right calf and left after just two minutes). In the last three games, Kidd has eight steals, including three Sunday in the loss to the Knicks, tying him with Jordan with 2,514 career steals.
So many of Kidd's thefts are a result of pure anticipation and pure instinct, understanding where an opposing player wants to go with the basketball and then almost ambushing the play.
"Jason reminds me of Larry Bird that way," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "He has a unique anticipation, it’s almost savant-like. He kind of senses things before they happen, I mean he senses when a guy’s going to throw the ball into the post before the guy even knows he’s going to throw the ball into the post. And then Jason, he gets around and is able to knock it away and goes the other way. Bird was the same way, so he’s an all-time great, one of the best ever."
Dirk Nowitzki could reach two milestones tonight:
* He needs just seven points to pass Celtics great Robert Parish and claiming No. 20 on the NBA's all-time scoring list. Nowitzki's season-high 34 points on Sunday gives him 23,328 career points.
* He also still needs one block to reach 1,000 for his career.
*With 15 points in the 102-84 win, Vince Carter passed David Robinson (20,790 points) for 33rd place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
*Dallas scored the first five points in the win and never relinquished that lead. It’s the third time already this season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, that the Mavericks never trailed or were even tied. The Mavs had only one such game during the 2010-11 regular season and only one during its postseason run to the championship (Game 3’s 93-87 victory over Oklahoma City in the West finals.)
*The Mavericks have held their last nine opponents under 100 points and rank No. 5 in the league in scoring defense at 91.3 points per game allowed. Even without Tyson Chandler, Dallas ranks fourth in the league in defensive efficiency, allowing just 96.2 points per 100 possessions.
*Going back to Monday night, Dirk Nowitzki’s 11 points in the fourth quarter marked the first time all season he scored in double digits in the final period. Dirk did that 12 times last season. Yet over the past seven games, Nowitzki has averaged 23.7 points on 50.8-percent shooting, compared to 16.2 points per game on 43.0-percent shooting in the Mavs’ first 19 games.
*With one more block, Nowitzki will have 1,000 for his career, making him just the third player in league history to rack up 1,000 career 3-pointers and 1,000 career swats, joining Clifford Robinson and Rasheed Wallace. Jason Kidd, meanwhile, is five steals away from tying Michael Jordan for second place on the NBA’s all-time thefts list (2,14) behind John Stockton (3,265). At 38 days and 331 years old, Kidd is the fourth-oldest active player in the league behind Portland’s Kurt Thomas (39 years, 136 days old), Phoenix’s Grant Hill (39-135) and Miami’s Juwan Howard (39-10).
The milestones are coming fast and furious for Dirk Nowitzki. Through the first 10 games, he has already reached 8,000 career field goals, 1,200 career 3-pointers and he played in his 1,000th career game.
Tonight against the Boston Celtics, the 7-footer needs 19 points to reach 23,000 in his illustrious career. Nowitzki currently sits 23rd all-time in the NBA with 22,981 points. Another 354 points and Nowitzki will pass Boston Celtics great Robert Parrish and move into the top 20.
Nowitzki's scoring average this season is down at 18.9 points, but his minutes, 31.0 a game, are also being closely monitored because of the nature of the compacted schedule. He busted out of a two-game, 5-of-22 slump by hitting 9-of-10 shots for 18 points Tuesday night in the 100-86 win at Detroit.
"We all had a feeling that he was going to play a great game because the way the schedule is set up these last couple of days," coach Rick Calrisle said, nothing the Mavs had two days off before Tuesday's game after playing six games in eight nights.
Can Nowitzki get the 19 points tonight to become the 23rd player in NBA history to notch 23,000 points? Odds are good considering Boston's TD Garden is like a second home to him. Nowitzki's 27.8 scoring average there is his highest at any NBA venue and is the second-highest for any player there behind Michael Jordan's 29.3 average, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Also, Nowitzki's 27.4 career scoring average against the Celtics is his personal highest against a single team. He has the second-highest career scoring average against Boston among active players.
Here's some additional Dirk scoring tidbits:
* He passed Hal Greer (21,586), Larry Bird (21,791), Gary Payton (21,813) and Clyde Drexler (22,195) on the all-time scoring list in 2010-11.
* He ranks third among active players in career scoring, trailing only Kobe Bryant (28,192) and Kevin Garnett (23,426).
* Only three other players born outside of the U.S. have more career points than the 7-footer from Germany: Hakeem Olajuwon (26,946, born in Nigeria), Dominique Wilkins (26,668, born in France) and Patrick Ewing (24,815, born in Jamaica).
President Barack Obama lauded the Dallas Mavericks for their special brand of championship teamwork a season ago and he pointed out attributes of several players.
But, he saved top recognition for NBA Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki -- even if the president had a little trouble pronouncing the 7-foot German's last name.
"Dirk joined the Mavericks 13 years ago as a skinny kid from Germany with what he describes as a goofy haircut," Obama said. "Last year, he became the second European player ever to be named Finals MVP, and it wasn’t easy. He bent a finger so badly in Game 2 that he had to shoot left-handed. In Game 4, he played through a 101-degree fever, but every time he came through when it counted. I think it’s fair to say that we have very rarely seen a better playoff run than Dirk Nowitzki had last year. It was remarkable.
"So, clearly Dirk is a tough guy, although the most painful thing may have been his rendition of “We are the Champions” during the celebration."
Dirk could then be heard saying that he had worked on it.
"You said you worked on that?" Obama siad, turning toward Dirk. "Seriously? OK."
The run was remarkable. Nowitzki averaged 27.7 points and 8.1 rebounds, both higher averages than his regular season numbers. Sure, some of Obama's facts were a tad off. That finger Nowitzki bent back so badly was a torn a ligament in his left middle finger in Game 1, yet he still managed to win Game 2 with a beautiful drive and left-handed layup in the waning moments. And Nowitzki did play through a 101-degree fever and sinus infection in Game 4, which he also won with a driving layup with 14.4 seconds to play.
As for being the second European player to be named NBA Finals MVP, the Spurs' Tony Parker was the first in 2007, also beating LeBron James when he played for Cleveland.
To end the ceremony, Dirk presented Obama with a No. 23 Mavs jersey. With Obama hailing from Chicago, the Michael Jordan connection was obvious, and Obama told Nowitzki: "I was 23 before Jordan."
DALLAS -- Compared to Roger Staubach, Dirk Nowitzki comes up short. Arvydas Sabonis? Nowitzki doesn't quite measure up.
You think it's tough to be LeBron James these days, Nowitzki couldn't catch a break Wednesday afternoon. Well, maybe LeBron is feeling a little more heat being Miami's second (third?) banana.
Nowitzki, on the other hand, is basking in an unprecedented level of appreciation for not shrinking in Game 4 despite a triple-digit fever and his overall play leading the Dallas Mavericks back to the NBA Finals. But when compared against a pair of all-time greats, Nowitzki's point guard and general manager gave the Uberman the shaft.
Jason Kidd was asked if Nowitzki, the Mavs' unquestioned closer, was forging a reputation akin to Staubach, the Dallas Cowboys' two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.
"Roger was one of a kind," Kidd said of Captain Comeback. "It's hard to compare Dirk and Roger, but hopefully at the end of his career he'll be able to be in the same sentence as Roger."
In a discussion of the best Europeans to ever play the game, Donnie Nelson sided with Sabonis. The Mavs GM does have close ties to the Lithuanian Hall-of-Fame center -- Nelson was an assistant on Lithuania's national team -- but Nowitzki wouldn't be in Dallas if it wasn't for the "Little Whistle."
"If it's Dirk and Sabas -- Dirk in his prime and Sabas before his injury -- if I'm a general manager and I'm taking the first pick in the country, I'm sticking with the big guy, Sabas," Nelson said.
Don't forget the flu-game comparisons from Tuesday night with Michael Jordan. Yeah, Dirk loses that one, too.
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Play Podcast ESPN senior NBA analyst Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss the NBA Finals and latest Mavericks news.
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