It would be tough to find someone who doesn’t respect Dirk Nowitzki for scoring 21 points for the Mavericks — 10 in the fourth quarter — during a Game 4 victory against the Heat despite a fever that allegedly reached 101 degrees. Or would it? Perhaps we have to look no further than the Miami locker room, where Dwyane Wade and LeBron James appeared to have a little fun at Dirk’s expense after their team’s shootaround on Thursday. Here is the video of LeBron and D-Wade making fun of Dirk’s sickness courtesy of CBSSports.com:
If there were a proper time to criticize LeBron James for his lack of offense during the NBA Finals, Game 4 was it. The Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks played their third game that was decided by a basket, and for the second time this series the Mavericks came out on top.
Dirk Nowitzki fought through a fever that reached 101 degrees to score 21 points — 10 in the fourth quarter — in Dallas’ win. Though Jason Terry shot down any comparison to Michael Jordan’s infamous flu game in the ’97 finals, there is little doubt that Dirk came up big in the clutch. And if you have any wonders about how sick he was, just look at his face in the picture. The dude looked like the cousin of death.
LeBron James on the other hand did very little down the stretch. LBJ handled the ball and distributed in the previous finals games and the strategy resulted in wins two of the three games. His decisions to pass to his teammates were usually the right ones because he was double-teamed leaving someone open. But LeBron showed very little aggression in Game 4 even when he should have. He received high pick and rolls allowing him a one-on-one match up yet he decided not to drive late in the game. For whatever reason, he didn’t attack the basket and he ended up with just eight points on 3-for-11 shooting. The eight-point performance was LeBron’s playoff career low and it left him saying he needs to be more assertive in the future.
Entering Game 1 of the NBA Finals, most observers agreed that Dirk Nowitzki had been the best player in the playoffs. During his games, announcers frequently debated his place in history. Coach Rick Carlisle stated he felt Dirk was a Top 30 player all time. Former coach and current analyst Jeff Van Gundy proclaimed during Dirk’s brilliant Game 1 against the Thunder that Nowitzki was a Top 10 player all time.
Inevitably, people began comparing Dirk to Larry Bird, suggesting Nowitzki may be the greatest white player ever. Even though their style of play is different, people thought the comparison was fair because of their skin color. By that logic, we should assume limes and broccoli taste the same because they’re both green. It’s a stupid debate, but it’s resulted in a response from Larry Legend.
“I’ve always admired the guy,” Bird told Marc Stein. “He’s had a great run (in the playoffs), but I’ve always been very impressed with him. His work ethic, his loyalty to his country. It’s really an honor for me to have people compare us.”
Bird added that “I understand (the comparisons). I’ve always felt it’s an honor when they compare anyone to me, because I haven’t played ball for 20 years.”
Tuesday marks the beginning of one of the most anticipated NBA Finals matchups in recent memory. Miami vs. Dallas. The Heatles vs Dirk and The Boys. Pat Riley vs Mark Cuban. The Rematch Series (even though it’s really not much of a rematch considering how much the teams have changed since 2006).
Rarely are championship contenders as easily differentiated as the Heat and the Mavericks. They are complete opposites. Like tofu and steak.
Yes, the Lakers and Celtics had the whole bitter rivalry thing going on last season. But at their core they were more similar than they were different: two talented, versatile teams filled with veterans. Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom against Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo. Pretty even, right?
The same can’t be said for Miami and Dallas. They are different in almost every discernible way, from the way their talent is distributed to the styles of their offenses to their general world views.
This makes it difficult to pick a favorite in this series (personally, I’m going with Dallas in 6) but easy to choose a team to root for. If you’re not from Miami or Dallas and have yet to decide on a rooting interest, here’s your guide to picking a side:
After coming back to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 5, the Dallas Mavericks were happy to have closed out the series. But staying true to their workmanlike character, they refused to celebrate too heavily knowing they still have their toughest task ahead — a meeting with the Heat or Bulls in the NBA Finals.
ESPN brought out reporter Doris Burke to interview owner Mark Cuban and head coach Rick Carlisle about reaching the Finals, but when she turned to speak with Dirk Nowitzki, she realized the team’s MVP had already exited the floor. Soon after that, the party ended as all the players dispersed. Check out the ditch party:
Even though this is the second time Burke was embarrassed this week, you can’t blame her too much. She probably should have interviewed Dirk before Cuban, but players generally stick around to conduct interviews. The question I have for you is why did they do it? One suspicion I had was that Dirk Nowitzki was upset at the way Mark Cuban was going all WWE in his interview and getting carried away. After all, Dirk said the team was doing better this year because Cuban was keeping quiet, so maybe he was upset that Cuban was opening his mouth. But the overwhelming feeling is that he walked off the floor because he didn’t feel it was time to celebrate.
Throughout the NBA playoffs, we’ve seen a few constants: Dirk Nowitzki putting up points, the Thunder blowing leads, and reporters asking stupid questions at press conferences. One of those dumb questions came after Oklahoma City was eliminated from the playoffs Wednesday night. A reporter asked Kevin Durant, the franchise player for the Thunder, how he felt about seeing Dirk succeed at his expense. KD gave about as good of a response to the bad question as he possibly could have.
“I’m not happy at all. I’m a competitor,” Durant explained. “I really didn’t care about what he went through the last three or four years. I know it’s been tough for him, I’m sure he’s happy now he’s going back to the Finals, but I’m not happy for him at all because I wanted to be there. But [sometimes] it happens like that.”
Former All-Star and current NBA analyst Charles Barkley has been on the Dirk Nowitzki bandwagon for a long time. Before picking the Mavs to beat the Thunder, Barkley said about Dirk “In my 30 years around the NBA, he has the most unique game. He’s a 7-foot guy who can shoot 3s, he can put it on the floor” and that was only part of his praise for the German. If you don’t understand where his love for Dirk comes from, it actually goes back several years ago when Barkley saw Dirk play as a teenager. He related the story as a guest on PTI Thursday.
“We’re on one of those Nike trips and I had Scottie Pippen and Gary Payton, and a bunch of great players,” Barkley recalled. “Dirk had 28 at halftime. He was like 16 years old. He finished up with about 42. I told him ‘You name your price, you’re going to Auburn University.’ I said ‘Here’s a blank check, just fill it in. Just fill it in. You’re going to Auburn.’ He said ‘I gotta go into the army.’ I took his information, called a couple months later, and Don Nelson drafts him for the Mavs. You know how great we would have been? Can you imagine how great Auburn would have been if we had the white mamba?”
The main point of the story was to explain how good Dirk was at such an early age, and how obvious to Barkley it was that Dirk was a special player. But if you think he was joking about writing a blank check to get Dirk to Auburn, you’re wrong. Barkley freely admits he took money from agents when he played, and he’ll probably tell you Auburn got Cam Newton cheaply if they only paid $180,000 for him.
And just for factual information, Dirk was actually drafted by Milwaukee and traded for Tractor Traylor. It was easily one of the worst draft-day trades ever, all respect to the late Tractor.