Avery Questioning Dirk’s Leadership?

Something was clearly missing from Dirk in the playoffs this year. He was the rightful recipient of the regular season MVP, and the quick exit by the Mavs was probably attributed to a poor matchup against the Warriors. Still, I was expecting nothing less than a finals run, and quite simply, a championship from Dallas last year. So what’s the deal? Where did it go wrong with Dirk? Maybe it has something to do with his questionable leadership skills, as Marcel Mutoni at FanHouse tips me off. From a Q&A with Avery Johnson in the Dallas Morning News:

What does Dirk Nowitzki have to do this year to improve on an MVP season?

Dirk can get better, and there are some things that Dirk can improve in that may not be basketball-related. It may be leadership-related. Dirk can get better on and off the court. And that’s why I’ve been stretching him. He’s the reigning MVP, and if he’s not willing to be stretched by his coach, then he never would have improved. So he’s willing to be stretched. And his stretching may not be necessarily on the court, but it may be in the area of leadership, and we’re willing to help him get better in that area.

You know, if Avery wanted to protect his player while answering diplomatically, he could’ve just said that things didn’t end up the way the Mavericks had hoped, and that there’s always room for improvement, regardless of whether or not you won an MVP … yadda, yadda, yadda. But no, Avery went straight to the leadership card. I’ve always liked how confrontational Avery has been, but maybe he didn’t have to go there at this time. Then again, he could be dead on with Dirk.

Dirk Deserves the MVP

It seems pretty simple to me — Dirk was the best player on the best team in a year where no other individual had as good a year for a team that came close to performing as well as the Mavericks. That’s why the report from ESPN’s Marc Stein that Dirk won the MVP award does not shock me. The voting occurs before the playoffs begin meaning whatever happens after the regular season — the important stuff — is insignificant. This is something Shaq should know well, as he bitched about Steve Nash winning back-to-back MVPs instead of him. I’ve always felt that Shaq has the real prize — the rings — and he’ll have the last laugh. Given a choice to Nash and Dirk, I guarantee you they’d prefer an NBA Championship.

But will Dirk and the Mavericks’ choke job keep them from winning future awards? Have they become their own worst enemies? After posting such an excellent regular season mark, going 67-15 to lead the NBA, there’s nothing they can possibly do that will change the public and the media’s view of them. They could go 72-10 next year, and there still will be people questioning if Avery Johnson deserves coach of the year, Dirk MVP (assuming he plays just as well as last year), and whether or not they should have three All-Stars. I know one thing. I will not let the poor performance of the Mavs in the playoffs cloud my judgment; they had a fantastic regular season, and Dirk firmly established himself as the leader of the best regular season team in the NBA. And that’s what this award is based on — the regular season.