Dirk's All-Star nod well deserved
Despite his years, Nowitzki's inclusion on West squad is no gift to an aging player
Admit it, when the season began, you didn't think Dirk Nowitzki was going to be an All-Star for the 12th time.
None of us did. Not if we're honest.
Most of us figured Dirk, at 35, was too old to consistently dominate younger, stronger and more athletic players, which is what it would require to be an All-Star.
We figured Dirk's body would betray him again -- he has missed a combined 49 games the past two seasons -- and without his legs he wouldn't be able to consistently hit his jumper.
None of this means we thought Dirk wouldn't be a good player. We just assumed, you know, that he would average about 17 points and six rebounds.
Sure, he'd dominate every now and then, but the Mavericks signed Monta Ellis to take scoring pressure off Dirk. Heck, in a perfect world, the Mavericks hoped Ellis would be the team's best player.
Nope. Dirk still owns that title.
The dude is averaging 21.6 points and 6.2 rebounds in just 32.4 minutes per game. Reduced minutes and the occasional day off, like he received last week in Toronto, are the only concessions he's willing to make for being older.
This All-Star berth was no gift to an aging player the way we've seen other stars receive toward the ends of their careers. Frankly, there's nothing wrong with that. The game belongs to the fans, and if they want to see one of the all-time greats play in All-Star Game, so be it.
But Dirk earned the right to wear one of those God-awful ugly T-shirt All-Star uniforms the NBA is trying its best to market.
By the way, his All-Star Game invitation has nothing to do with the nasty 38-point, 17-rebound performance he turned in Wednesday night in a two-point loss to Houston. The votes for the reserves were due earlier this week.
Dirk has scored at least 20 points in 27 of 47 games, and he has had five games of more than 30 points. He scored a season-high 40 a couple of weeks ago against New Orleans.
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You can't really argue with Blake Griffin, Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant and Dallas native LaMarcus Aldridge, a Seagoville High School graduate, on the Western Conference team as All-Stars. If we're talking front-court players, the next three best players are Dirk, New Orleans' Anthony Davis and Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins.
No way, any coach would take either one of those players over Dirk at this point of their careers, if you had to win one game. You'd take Dirk's skill set, his savvy and his step-back jumper over Davis and Cousins right now.
Another season, it will probably be different. Not now.
Besides, Dirk is positioned to join Larry Bird and Steve Nash as only two-time members of the 50-40-90 club. Only six players in NBA history have shot 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from beyond the 3-point line and 90 percent from free-throw line.
This season, Dirk is shooting 48.3 percent from field, 39.7 from the 3-point line, and making 90.8 percent of his free throws.
"Don't ever underestimate greatness," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said.
You know, he's right.
That's why Nash could win two most valuable player awards after the Mavericks let him leave via free agency because owner Mark Cuban figured the combination of the rigors of the NBA season and his slight frame would soon end the then 29-year-old's career. It's why Ivan Pudge Rodriguez won a World Series and played nine more seasons after the Rangers let him leave because they believed the physical wear and tear of catching would bring his career to a premature end.
If Minnesota's Adrian Peterson doesn't get it, Emmitt Smith will probably hold the NFL's all-time rushing record for 100 years because the game has changed so much, and he gained 4,392 yards after turning 30, the age when most running backs are headed toward retirement.
"He's a worker. He's still competitive and he still has the will to be the best," Carlisle said of Dirk. "He's one of the greatest of all time. It's as simple as that."
Sometimes, it feels so good to be wrong.