Dirk’s Beard Grows Longer As Mavs’ Playoffs Chances Fade

.

DALLAS – Dirk Nowitzki‘s beard grows thicker and more unruly with each passing day. Losses like Wednesday’s at home to the Brooklyn Nets decrease the odds that he’ll reach for a razor any time soon. The pact he and a group of teammates made some six weeks ago was that no one shaves until they reach .500.

The Dallas Mavericks were 21-28 on Feb. 8 when the motivational ploy came to light. Nowitzki had little more than the scruff he typically wears. But look at him now. The Mavs are 32-36, barely hanging on to playoff hope, and Nowitzki’s bearded face is proof, untamed, grizzly and rivaling the one he grew for weeks in the Outback six summers ago after his lone MVP season ended dismally in a first-round flop.

“Only then I didn’t even trim this part,” Nowitzki said, pointing to the lower portion of his bushy moustache creeping over his upper lip. “It came all the way down here.”

After Wednesday’s loss when Nowitzki shot 80 percent from the field, but took only 10 shots and none in the final half of the fourth quarter when Deron Williams – the co-star Dallas failed to obtain last summer — took over, the 34-year-old Nowitzki stroked his prickly-chin and scratched the back of his fur-covered neck where clumps of hair forcibly trail downward like a thicket of overgrown vines.

He said his mom told him he looks 45. Judging by his heavy eyes after the 113-96 disappointment to start a crucial six-game homestand, he might feel that old, too.

Nowitzki missed the first 27 games of the season after having arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on Oct. 19. His recovery was slow and painful, as was his game upon his return. And now, after missing his first All-Star Game in 12 seasons, he is on the verge of sitting out the playoffs for the first time in 13.

His team hasn’t been at .500 since it was 11-11 on Dec. 12. They were 12-16 when he returned two days before Christmas.

He was asked Wednesday why point guards Mike James and Darren Collison can’t seem to get him the ball in key situations, particularly on nights when he isn’t missing. In Dallas’ last two losses, both at home, Nowitzki was 8-for-10 in both, yet was a non-factor late.

“They [defenders] don’t leave me much anymore,” Nowitzki said. “It’s up to other guys to make plays. It’s as simple as that.”

There was zero talk of the future Hall of Famer reaching yet another remarkable milestone. Nowitzki surpassed 9,000 career rebounds, making him the 10th player in NBA history with 24,000 points and 9,000 boards, joining Wilt ChamberlainKareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elvin Hayes, Moses Malone, Karl Malone, Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing and the only other active player, Kevin Garnett.

Nowitzki has scored and shot the ball better lately (18.1 ppg, 50.9 percent from the field, 48.8 percent on 3s), but he’s still set for his worst statistical season since he was a rookie, averaging 16.4 ppg and shooting 45.9 percent.

Mavs owner Mark Cuban doesn’t believe age is catching up to his star. In fact, Cuban said he expects Nowitzki to regain his All-Star status next season, the last on Nowitzki’s current contract, and “at least” a season or two after that.

“What we’re seeing now with Dirk is what we can expect to see next year and the year after, if he stays healthy,” Cuban said. “And the year after that.”

Nowitzki’s response to what will be his 16th, 17th and 18th seasons in the league?

“I’m not sure about all that. We’ll just have to wait and see,” Nowitzki said. “Hopefully I can finish this season strong and have a good summer like I basically did last year with a lot of lifting and running and hopefully not have a setback with a surgery. We’ll see how consistent I can be again next season.”

Cuban compared Nowitzki to 36-year-olds Tim Duncan, who is having a renaissance season, and Garnett, who remains an integral part of the Celtics.

The problem with those comparisons is that Duncan and Garnett are not their team’s lone star. Duncan has Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and a crew of impressive young players around him. Garnett has Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo, until he was lost for the season with an ACL injury.

Nowitzki is mostly alone now and misses two huge contributors to the 2011 title run — Jason Terry and Jason Kidd — now more than ever. With all due respect to Tyson Chandler, those guards aided Nowitzki’s game. He ran a killer two-man play with Terry, while Kidd made the game easy, getting the ball to Nowitzki where he likes it so he didn’t have to work in isolations as he often does now.

“I can’t wrestle every time to get the ball. You can’t do that for 48 minutes,” Nowitzki said. “I’ve got to pick my spots, take open shots when it’s there. I think we’ve been running pick-and-roll pretty well. Because [defenders] are not really leaving me much, guys are pretty much walking in the lane, getting stuff out of that. I’m going to keep picking my spots and be aggressive when I need it.”

Nowitzki is 18th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, less than 2,000 points shy of No. 10 Oscar Robertson. If Nowitzki plays another two seasons, he should break into the top 10. It will take at least three seasons of elite play to crack the top five.

Can he regain and sustain such a level turning 35 in June? Would he consider leaving Dallas if the team doesn’t get appreciably better in his final contract season?

All we know now is that he’ll at least be able to start next season with a fresh slate and a freshly shaven face.

28 Comments

  1. thejerr says:

    mavs are fine, like the wolves they just had some injuries this is season that kinda screwed them up. dont forget they gambled to try to get dwight and Dwill this last offseason and they had to retool on the fly (which i think they did a pretty good job) because they didnt get either. This offseason theyll know whats what alot more clearer and im sure mavs fans will have a very competitive team next season.

    PS mavs have mark cuban…. itll be fine, hell spend when needed

  2. Big Al says:

    It looks like Dirk’s beard will be growing to seven feet after all. The Mavs will never get to .500 until they get somebody useful. Cuban is wasting his time with the Derek Fisher issue rather then getting Iverson. Sign him up now, start him at the point, and you’ll see positive changes.

  3. Scott says:

    yes who cares, Mavs peaked at the title and players left the team.

    props to Dirk for staying but I would just leave for a title team

  4. Chris says:

    @ dirk45:

    Technically, 0-0 is 0%…

  5. Patrickmarc says:

    Something wrong with point guards in Dallas team.

  6. caloyski says:

    Lets be realistic-the MAVs could have easily landed in the top 6 teams of the WEST if Dirk did not miss the first 27 games; the MAVs knows that they need a very good point guard next season and an itimidating CENTER to protect the paint- If they could do this then they could easily enter at the very least the Conference Finals– If they can get a player of Paul’s caliber, then they will make a lot of teams sad– the MAVs need to change their approach to WINNING

  7. heaaaaaaaaaaaaaatttttt says:

    all of them grows beard as their playoff chance fades

  8. Mavs fan from Mongolia says:

    I am completely agree with Mohamed. GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO MAVS. Fight till to end.

  9. sports fan says:

    For next year the Mavs could gamble on signing Andrew Bynum & also picking up Allen Iverson. They’ve got nothing to lose at this rate.

  10. AEL3 says:

    This is Dirk

    A warrior .He never left his team to find the eazy way for the ring.
    Always respect

  11. Aram says:

    Well, have Dirk follow Chandler to Knicks :) LOL

  12. dink says:

    dirks a beast , and a top ten all time player , there really has never been a player like him for a guy who is 7 ‘ 1 , his run in 2011 was the most impressive one man show in the playoffs of all time

    • E-SY says:

      Top 10 all time if you turn the list upside down, allright! A non-factor when defended properly with a very ugly shot! A weak spot in defense…

  13. MrNBA says:

    If Chris Paul says ‘no’ to Dallas, which he will, sign Al Jefferson, Brandon Jennings, and Jose Calderon. Sorry but Collison has been disappointing eventhough he’s made some nice shots. If Wright can gain a few pounds of muscle, he’ll be one hell of a front court player. Lastly, please no more ex-Lakers in the lineup.

  14. The MAVS should re-sign Anthony Morrow. He could probably average 15 a game, but injuries have hurt him this year.

  15. dirk45 says:

    Four more weeks, then this horror season is over. When they don’t qualify for playoffs they are 0-0 next season technically, aren’t they? Which you could count as 50% technically.

    Anyway the problem this season was that both Kaman and Collison showed that they aren’t good enough as starters in a playoff team. I expected much more of them than they were able to show. Combined with Dirk and Matrix missing too many games the Mavs just aren’t better.

    Next season, next try.
    MFFL

  16. Lakers says:

    how could you like the lakers and mavs? get outa here foo

    • pekpek@kantot.sarap says:

      your da fool. u dont know a thing about basketball. lakers have a very knowledgeable front office. juz that players have to play to their potential. you fool. lol

  17. mohamed says:

    I believe that Dallas Mavericks will go to the Playoffs , just have to win 3 consecutive wins while the Lakers loose that , the game is not over yet , GOOOOOOO Nowitzki

    • caloyski says:

      I HOPE THAT YOU HAVE AN ANGEL’S TONGUE– THE MAVS NEED TO HAVE BOTH TALENT AND A LOT OF LUCK ON THEIR SIDE TO EVEN REACH 8TH PLACE

  18. ELISEO SORIANO OLDPATH says:

    For MAVS:
    Pls get Andrew Bynum and Eric Gordon…
    These players are willing to Sign BIG Contract…
    Hopefully they wont get injured…
    Charlie Villanueva and Rodney Stuckey… to revamp their careers…

    still MIAMI Heat All Day… –Daniel Razon Oldpath

  19. standard says:

    i remenber those days of Dirk shooting all over the place.
    is very unfortunate/sad to see my to favorite teams doing so bad this year: Mavs and Lakers.

  20. Craig Berlin says:

    Kurt Rambis was quite clear last night that Dirk is on the decline. What ignorance – his stats since the All-Star brea show just the opposite and that’s without Kidd and Terry feeding him the ball.

    In time, we’ll be better with Vince Carter over Terry due to the completeness of his game. However, snagging a guy like Calderon who can be a Nash/Kidd like floor general will be essential. I hope that’s the move they make.

  21. theholyspectator says:

    who cares, mavs have flopped, cuban is an idiot…dirk is gettin old…what else is new for dallas?