DALLAS – It is being suggested by melodramatic media members that Dirk Nowitzki’s valiant and vintage 27-point effort in Saturday’s Game 4 loss to OKC might mark “the last home playoff game we’ll ever see from him’’ or even “the last home game we’ll ever see from him.’’
Whoa, what? Dirk is tired — not retired.
“He went one of his longest stretches of the year, but I was talking to him all the time,” said Mavs coach Rick Carlisle of the 37-minute workload carried by the 37-year-old in the 119-108 failure. “We had no choice. If we’re going to give ourselves an opportunity (to win), he’s got to be in there at that point.”
It’s been that way in Dallas forever, and it’s been a joy. So why are we acting like this is the over-the-cliff end of The Dirk Era? Nowitzki recently reiterated what is accepted as his plan in Dallas: He wants to finish this existing contract (which expires after the 2016-17 season) and then sign on for one or two final seasons. Playing an even “20 years would sound really, really great,’’ he told ESPN’s Marc Stein.
So, he’s not done with basketball. He doesn’t want to play anywhere else. And as to whether this year’s postseason appearance (as a No. 6 seed) will be the last time the Mavs with Dirk on the roster ever make the playoffs? That’s as silly as guaranteeing that other teams in the West like the Lakers, Jazz, Pelicans and Timberwolves will automatically vault above Dallas in semi-permanent fashion.
It’s possible. But if you are guaranteeing a Nowitzki-led team will be bad, you aren’t paying close enough attention. Mavs suits Cuban, Donnie and Carlisle pour great effort into helping Nowitzki realize his wish of remaining in contention as often as possible — and that’s meant 15 postseason berths in the last 16 years. With only one title to show for it, it can be argued that Cuban and Company haven’t done enough, or at least haven’t been successful enough.
But there is no lack of organizational effort, and it matches the on-court effort being given by this group of “Masking-Tape Mavs,’’ who simply don’t have the firepower to keep up with OKC studs Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and don’t have the bodies to match anybody else on the Thunder roster, either.
Game 5 is Monday in OKC. And Deron Williams (abdominal injury) won’t play; he’s done for the year. Big man Salah Mejri (groin) is iffy. Zaza Pachulia is playing without complaint despite a sore Achilles. J.J. Barea (groin) is a shell of himself. David Lee (foot) isn’t of much value now. JaVale McGee has a fever. Justin Anderson’s got a bum shoulder. Said Carlisle: “The manpower is very important to us. Anybody that’s available to play (is needed to play).”
The already-ailing Mavs are absorbing elbows and head-slaps and haymakers from OKC and the Mavs are going down. But “going down’’ means “for the series,’’ not for the rest of Dirk Nowitzki’s basketball life.
Here’s Dirk on his team: “I’m proud of the guys. They’re all battling…we feel like we left it all out there…saying all that, we’re going to keep fighting on Monday.’’
Here’s Dirk on Dirk: “I play to win. I compete to win.’’
Does that sound like a “quitter’’ in any sense of the word? Let’s quit penning the Dirk Nowitzki Basketball Obituaries, shall we? There is only one person who should rightly write that…and he’s busy right now, and plans on staying that way.