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.