Slap Me With Some Proper
This is not a post about the MVP race; I lost interest in that thing the year Jason Kidd got robbed. This is also not my recap of Sunday's game, since only a fool would think that's the real state of Sun/Mavs. What it is, however, is a glance back at an era we didn't realize we were missing. A time when Simmons could describe Amare/Dirk as "the greatest match-up in Rucker history." When I could drunkenly explain to Big Baby that, were I starting a team, Nowitzki would be my first choice of cornerstone—at least twice a week. When "liquid giraffe" worked positively because of its cutesy understatement, when "Next Nowitzki" could set off a Durant-like orgasm of hype. I speak, and I feel the absence, of the days when Dirk was to be feared.
I know that he's the best player on the league's best team, and that he's a more complete opponent than in the pre-Avery years. And with the patriotic Josh Howard by his side, how could this diligent teammate but diminish his magisterial sweep? A German by nature, Nowitzki would doubtless reach his ultimate effectiveness when asked to thrive situationally. Of course this inexplicable creature would be most fully-realized when asked to tackle concrete problems, as opposed to running free like some Mediterranean slime.
All this may be fantastically the case, and yet I long for what was. Remember how in He Got Game, Denzel gets all misty over the early Earl Monroe? Well, in my mistaken identification with the people who once slayed so many of my kin, I have a similar panoramic warmth associated with Nowitzki under Don Nelson. He can still score from anywhere, and will if appropriate—provided he's not choking or fading. That's not the same, though, as knowing he was going to score from wherever just because he could. Like LeBron, or Kobe, or Durant, Dirk once was a player who decided he had to score and then thrilled you proving he could. Perhaps he's wiser now, looking for cues and stoking a trembling economy of function. To me, though, this is not how legends are made, and exactly why "Dirk for MVP" lacks sizzle.
Come to think of it, has anyone thought to correlate Dirk's nagging disappearances with Avery-ball? That maybe it's exactly because of the new way in which Nowitzki is deployed that he sometimes comes up short? Despite his background, maybe this one-of-a-kind dangling bean is born to run, to make things happen rather than be hedged in by context. Even when the Mavs go crazy, it's a far more regimented, iterative offense than was every induced under Nelson. Especially, for some reason, with regard to Dirk. I might be exaggerating this for effort's sake, but at this very moment I feel like Nowitzki has gone from the avatar of Nellie's regime to Avery's prized pupil. This may win games, but at what price?
I find it puzzling that, if Durant becomes a viable #1 because of the Suns, and Dirk is the closest there is in the league now to Durant, why no one thinks Dirk belongs in a wide-open offense. So what, he's seven feet tall. Boris Diaw is pretty big, and Phoenix has no problem getting him on a little bit of everything. If there's something missing from Dirk's on-court charisma, I'd have to attribute it to this. He's been domesticated, applied in a way that would make Hermann's creators proud. Still, this is a entity with the ability to send ripples through the basketball imagination. It is the difference between those who would like to see LeBron back down defenders more, and those who demand he play the point.
Speaking of LeBron, I supremely urge you to peep out this post by my FanHaus cohort Nate Jones, in which he points out that Biz LeBron is ailing. This didn't really sink in until I saw that dinky lawnmower commercial, for which he received only a paltry $200K. Seriously, I was all for him and his boys sticking it to convention, but that shit is just sad.
(Are there no replays in college basketball broadcasts?)
(Is Greg Oden really that tired?)