Dirk Nowitzki is a pretty good basketballer. So good, in fact, that the second the numbers indicate he’s anything other than a pretty good basketballer, he’s covered head to toe in criticisms. It’s not fair, it’s not unfair, it just is.
But before we thoroughly tar and feather our man Dirk, consider the following:
We’ve begged for this supporting cast. The team is finally showing some competency and some backbone. Josh Howard, the Mavs’ very own enigma, is producing in ways that would make 2006 Josh blush. J.J. Barea, Brandon Bass, and Ryan Hollins have become significant, productive members of the rotation. Jason Kidd isn’t perfect, but he changes games in ways that no other Maverick can. All of these are reasons to be pleased with the Mavs, and yet the primary concern seems to be the numbers next to Dirk’s name in the box score.
It would be rad to watch Dirk pour in thirty a night. Tubular, even. But that aspect of the Mavs’ game is a given. If the opposing defense puts all of its energy into stopping Dirk, there’s still a pretty solid chance that it won’t mean a damn thing. Dirk’s midrange mastery may not strike fear into the hearts of men, but it’s obscenely efficient and extremely difficult to counter. If there is anyone on the team that shouldn’t be worried about, it’s Dirk.
Dirk choosing not to force things isn’t a character flaw. Exercising patience isn’t troubling. By playing intelligently, Dirk has opened up lanes and shots for his teammates, and his impact should be impossible to ignore. The team’s MVP is supposed to make those around him better, and though Dirk’s statistical dominance may have slowed, the rest of the Mavs are reaping all the benefits. Judge if you must, but that type of sacrifice sounds like leadership to me.