Howls From Around the NBA: Dirk Loses Himself

8 mile final battle

You only get one shot/Do not miss your chance to blow/Cause opportunity comes once in a life time.
-Eminem

It’s not often in life that a person gets a real shot at redemption.

After all, a redemption story requires a life-altering disappointment and then a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make up for that disappointment. And if you can throw in a little revenge to sweeten the deal…well. It just doesn’t get much better than that, does it? Ask 8 Mile; it wasn’t enough for Rabbit to win the rap battle. He needed to destroy Papa Doc and his entire crew in the process.

But if we were to believe Mr. Mathers on the issue of opportunities, 2006 would have been the end of the road for Dirk Nowitzki.

I’m sure you remember, but I feel the need to remind you: in ’06, Dallas faced Miami in the Finals. Dirk led the Mavs to a 2-0 lead, before Miami came storming back and took the next 4 straight games to rip the championship away from Dallas. Dallas fans (including Mark Cuban) were incensed at the superstar foul calls Dwyane Wade had been getting all series as he drove to the basket. The rest of the NBA began to call the Mavericks soft. This description picked up steam as the Mavs lost in the first round three times in the next 4 years, and failed to make it back to the Conference Finals.

But the story on Nowitzki and the Mavs has been getting an upgrade this postseason.

For starters, Dirk has been going nuts. Averaging 28.5 points per game, Dirk has been performing at an efficiency level rarely before seen in the NBA. Bill Simmons likes talking about the 50-40-90 club, a rare NBA achievement in which a player shoots 50% from the field, 40% from three, and 90% from the free throw line. This postseason? Dirk is shooting 52% from the field, 60% from three, and 92% from the line.

Whoa.

But more than that: Dallas has been proving themselves tough. Not only did Dallas sweep the defending champion Lakers, they did it after two come from behind victories in games at the Staples Center. They were more talented, more composed, and mentally tougher than Los Angeles, who embarrassed themselves in game 4, committing petty and dangerous flagrant fouls in a blowout, sending their Hall-of-Fame coach off in shameful fashion. (It was awesome.)

The NBA blogosphere has been flooded with writers clamoring to be the first to say “Dirk isn’t soft, I’ve been saying it all along!” Which, of course, is utterly bogus; everyone has been calling Dirk and the Mavericks soft since ’06, there’s no doubt about that. Many of these same writers said that Portland would upset Dallas in the first round, and very few, if any, of these writers picked Dallas to beat Los Angeles in round 2. For the record, I include myself in this, I picked the Lakers in 5.¬†Fool me once, shame on me.

Possibly the most fascinating storyline left in the playoffs is this: if Dallas advanced to the Finals, their opponent could be none other than the Heatles, who enter Sunday’s game with Chicago tied 1-1 as well. Obviously, the Heat are a very different team. But the sight of those red and black uniforms, as well as Dwyane Wade, the player who completely eviscerated them last time, would be enough to make even the most confident Mavs’ fan shake a little bit.

At which point, it will be up to Dirk to change the narrative. This postseason has people talking about him in an incredibly positive way, but the internet is a fickle beast. With Kevin Durant and the Thunder already giving the Mavericks just about all they can handle, it’s not implausible to say that this could be Dallas’ last real chance to win a title. Failing to grab the Larry O’Brien trophy could close the book on Dirk’s legacy, as his years begin to climb up there, and it would be a very bitter taste with which to leave Dallas’ fans, especially if they lose again to the Heat.

But if he succeeds, and Dallas wins it all? Well, take it from Rabbit. That would be redeeming indeed.

%d bloggers like this: