Talking to Dirk Nowitzki after a game is absolutely greatness and a pure joy because Dirk is going to be open and honest. Miners during the gold rush would be jealous of the amount of gold that can be discovered when you get some quality time with Dirk. Of the random things that can be discussed, I took it upon myself to bring up the coolest he’s got going right now – his facial hair. Hair has always been a weird thing I take an interest in. I feel no shame in admitting that. Writing an article about it? Well, that’s probably a different issue. For quite a while, Dirk has had a planned or unplanned routine where he lets his hair grow as the end of the season approaches. Whether he was channeling his inner Samson is irrelevant, Dirk just looked like a beast.
Going back in early February, it appeared that Dirk was letting things hang out a bit in terms of his facial hair. He told members of the media that there was a method to the evolving madness. Dirk said that the team made a pact to not shave until the team got back to .500 “It’s been rough,” said Nowitzki back in February. “There’s been some itching going on. Since we’re still down seven games under .500, it’s a long way to go.” Dallas was 21-28 when Dirk made the pact public. The earliest they had a chance to grab the razors was Feb. 26.
Plenty of time has passed between now and early February and Dirk’s nickname from the championship run, the Ghostface Drillah, no longer seems to fit. Now, it seems like he has emerged as the Goatface Drillah. “I kind of like it,” owner Mark Cuban said of Dirk’s beard. “He looks better that way.”
With a win against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Dallas Mavericks kept their playoff hopes alive and inched closer back to .500. At 31-34, they’re now three games under .500 but had the opportunity to make it two, before suffering a crushing loss to the San Antonio Spurs. It won’t get any easier in the team’s next game as they face the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Mavericks remain under .500 but it’s certainly not due to lack of productivity by Dirk. In the victory over Cleveland, Nowitzki notched his third straight double-double (fifth of the season, 374th career) with 13 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and two steals in 33 minutes. It was his third straight game with 11 boards. The last time Dirk had 3 straight double-doubles was from Feb. 20 through Feb. 28 of the 2011-12 season.
Dirk is really rounding into form as he is averaging 17.6 points and 9.2 rebounds since the All-Star break. The rebounding number is staggering. After seeing his rebounding totals drop over the last few years, seeing a spike like what we’ve seen during this stretch of hoops after the All-Star break is intriguing. Maybe Dirk realizes he has a beard and has to be a little more aggressive and bang around now in the paint. Maybe not. He just knows he has to do more, especially with Shawn Marion out, to help the team win.
Dirk, in his own unique way, commented on how he was able to grab six rebounds in the first quarter of the game against the Cavaliers. Dirk grabbed six rebounds, but he also went scoreless in the opening period. “I have no idea,” Dirk said in response to what has led to his improved rebounding numbers. “In the first half, I felt like (Dennis) Rodman. Couldn’t make a shot, just out there chasing rebounds. I’m just being around the basket and using my legs. My reaction to the ball is a lot better obviously than what it was when I came back. I can push off and actually pursue balls again. I’m just trying to be a little active out there.”
It was news to Dirk when I told him after the game that there’s a group of people that would actually prefer that he kept this lumberjack-like look. “I was ready to chop it off about a month ago, but things didn’t really go the way we wanted it,” Dirk said. “Hopefully, eventually here it’s going to be cut off.”
Not one to be about endorsements, Dirk joked that maybe something can come about if the Mavericks do get to .500 “Gillette, maybe they’ll call me,” Dirk joked. “I’m not sure.”
The only other time there’s been this amount of hair that’s taken up real estate on Dirk’s face is when he traveled to Australia after the team’s disappointing first-round exit to the Golden State Warriors during the 2006-07 playoffs. The Mavericks won 67 games that season and Dirk won the MVP award, becoming the first European player to win the award. The award was bittersweet as the Mavericks became the first time a #8 seed had beaten a #1 seed in a best-of-seven series in league history. Dirk got away from basketball and drowned his sorrows in a foreign land. He also neglected using a razor, not even bothering to take one with him. “In the outback, I didn’t even trim (my upper lip),” Dirk reflected as he was comparing his beard then and now. He’s at least making sure you can see his teeth, which he admitted you couldn’t during his trek in the land down under.
Two of the most important women in Dirk’s life have had to make the most of his sign of solidarity with his teammates. “I talked to my mom (Friday) and she said I looked like I’m 45,” Dirk said with a laugh. “I need to get rid of it as soon as possible. It’s rough.” His wife, Jessica, who isn’t a fan of the look, has to put on a good face through this time. “She’s trying to hang in there,” Dirk continued. “It’s obviously not a good look. We’re all invested for this .500 thing, obviously.”
It’s a solid commitment to a realistic goal. The team, including Dirk, has had to buckle down and really put in work to get this close to being able to reach for the razor. It sounds like the possible backwards logic of ignoring the pact and rolling with what has been working will be neglected if the Mavericks do get back to .500. The beard will not be feared, but it will be appreciated. What’s cooler than Dirk Nowitzki? Dirk Nowitzki with a gnarly beard.
Bryan Gutierrez writes about sportsmen. He is a contributing writer for Mavs.com. Bryan also attended Ball So Hard University. You can follow him on Twitter @BallinWithBryan.