Sunday, February 14, 2010
Host Dirk receives dose of hospitality
By Tim MacMahon ESPNDallas.com
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Dirk Nowitzki doesn't have the kind of game required to stand out on the All-Star stage.
"Nobody wants to watch a 7-footer shoot 15-footers," Nowitzki said this week.
That wasn't true this weekend. A large portion of the 108,713 fans who flocked to Cowboys Stadium on Sunday -- shattering the world record for attendance at a basketball game -- wanted to see their hometown hero jack up jumpers.
Dirk Nowitzki (41) of the Western Conference shoots over East defender Dwight Howard. Nowitzki tallied an All-Star high 22 points playing in front of his home crowd.
The pro-Dallas fans made that loud and clear with a high-decibel roar during pregame introductions, when the best player in the Mavericks' history was saved for last.
And Nowitzki's All-Star teammates knew it, too. It's no coincidence that he hoisted jumpers on the West's first possession, tickling the twine both times. The game's first play was a flashback: Steve Nash setting up his best buddy for a wide-open jumper.
"The guys were talking about it a lot," said Nowitzki, who needed 60 tickets to accommodate his friends and family, many of whom flew in from Germany for the weekend. "I'm supposed to shoot a lot, and Steve when he was in there always dribbled to me and flipped the ball back and forced me to shoot all game long."
In theory, good pal/current Mavs point guard Jason Kidd would have helped feed Nowitzki. However, Kidd played only six minutes in his 10th All-Star appearance.
Dirk's performance won't make the cut on highlight packages -- not with dozens of dunks, many of the "wow" variety, from which to choose -- but the unofficial host of the weekend did what he does pretty darn well. He scored a personal All-Star-high 22 points on 8-of-15 shooting.
Nowitzki didn't get the final shot. That went to Denver's Carmelo Anthony, who barely hit iron on a contested 3-pointer at the buzzer to seal the East's 141-139 win.
Not that Nowitzki cared. He got a chance to win the game the previous possession, when a play was drawn up to get him a 3-pointer from the left wing. He pump-faked to get Orlando's Dwight Howard in the air but put the ball on the floor before getting hacked, earning two free throws to tie it up.
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And there might not be an All-Star with a smaller ego. Nowitzki had too much fun to sweat something silly like who got the last shot.
All in all, it was a wonderful weekend for Nowitzki. He was a fixture on the Mavs-friendly party circuit, including an event he co-hosted Friday night with Jason Terry. He did a little charity work. He hit the halfcourt shot that clinched Team Texas' win in the Haier Shooting Stars competition Saturday night, kidding afterward that he wanted a spot in the dunk contest instead.
Oh, yeah, and Mark Cuban and Co. pulled off a blockbuster deal that improves the Mavs' chances of contending.
A win in the All-Star Game would have been a sweet way to finish the weekend, but Nowitzki still couldn't wipe the smile off his face.
"Just to be in this game was an unreal experience," Nowitzki said, "and I'll always remember this for the rest of my life."
Tim MacMahon covers the Mavericks for ESPN Dallas. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.