Dirk Nowitzki’s Last Stand
When it comes to aging future Hall of Famers, there is a silent recognition that the end of the road rarely ends in a fairy-tale fashion. Currently, there are two extremes of this scenario to reference in the cases of San Antonio Spurs center Tim Duncan and Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant.
Duncan is strongly positioned to make another run at a title this season, while Bryant has battled injuries in recent years and will finish his legendary career on a team currently ranked last in the Western Conference.
Those are the extremes. But in the middle of these two extremes is another future Hall of Famer battling the age old fight with Father Time.
The Dallas Mavericks (35-35) currently sit seventh in the Western Conference standings and are fighting for their playoff lives as the season heads down the stretch. Leading the Mavericks’ charge is 37-year-old Dirk Nowitzki, who is looking for one more shot at hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy.
But Nowitzki’s role is different than Bryant and Duncan’s.
Bryant is on a farewell tour and it’s clear the Lakers are turning to a youth movement that revolves around Jordan Clarkson, D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle among others. Duncan is still highly productive, but the Spurs’ heavy lifting is the responsibility of younger All-Stars Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge.
For Nowitzki, the burden of the heavy lifting continues to be placed squarely on his shoulders despite the team’s numerous attempts to lure elite-level talent to town over the past four years. From Dwight Howard to DeAndre Jordan to Chris Bosh, the Mavericks have taken shots, but ultimately missed out on bringing a star to Dallas to take some of the pressure off of Nowitzki.
This season has been more of the same. After the DeAndre Jordan spectacle last summer, the Mavericks were able to scrap together a surprisingly decent offseason in a pinch, bringing in guys such as Deron Williams, Wes Matthews and Zaza Pachulia. Those guys have been highly productive this season, but not enough to allow Nowitzki to consistently fade to the background.
With reports suggesting forward Chandler Parsons will miss the remainder of the season for the second straight year due to knee issues, if the Mavericks are going to hold onto a playoff spot then Nowitzki is going to have to strap the franchise to his back like he’s done so many times in the past.
To his credit, Nowitzki is seemingly turning back the hands of time as we head down the stretch.
In 10 March contests, the veteran is averaging 24.9 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists on 53 percent shooting from the field (including 37 percent from three-point range). The issue is, as some other teams around the league have been able to rest their older guys for the playoffs, Nowitzki’s minutes per night have steadily increased in each month since the season began; they currently sit at 32.8 minutes per night in March.
Father Time is undefeated and Nowitzki is not going quietly, but it’s a shame the Mavericks’ front office hasn’t been able to put a stronger unit around him during his last stand.
Wade Offers Some Advice to Anthony Davis
New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis is a top-10 NBA talent and should be a perennial MVP candidate as soon as he enters his prime years. The problem for Davis hasn’t been his game on the floor, but his inability to remain healthy. Since entering the league, Davis has yet to play 70 games in any given campaign.
Davis’ injuries haven’t been career-threatening in nature, but have been severe enough to consistently throw off his momentum in becoming one of the league’s top stars.
Future Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade, who has been through a plethora of injuries throughout his career, recently gave some advice to Davis on how to get back on track after surgery.
The key? Do not rush back.
“If this is something he’s going to go through, the biggest thing is patience,” Wade said, according to Michael Wallace of ESPN. “It’s not coming back from those procedures too soon. I got those surgeries [in May], and I think I was there trying to do stuff in training camp. But maybe I should have waited longer to make sure I was 100 percent or as close to it as I could be. So it’s more about patience than anything. Eventually, you bounce back.
“Coming off this, he has to learn his body, approach it a little differently and take care of his body – not like a young guy, but like a veteran. He’s dealt with a lot of knickknack injuries, a lot of things in his career already. He’s got to treat his body like a veteran now. If he does that, he’ll be fine. He’ll be back. And we all know he’s capable of playing a lot of great years in this league.”
In 61 games this season, Davis posted averages of 24.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and two blocks per game.
Make sure to follow Basketball Insiders on Twitter at @BBallInsiders.