Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
From day 1 there was plenty of frustration and doubt for the Dallas Mavericks last season. From watching Jason Terry and Jason Kidd leave for Eastern Conference contenders to franchise player Dirk Nowitzki questioning the talent of the team and missing time with knee surgery. Last season was not what Mavericks fans have come accustomed to. Yes, the Mavericks have endured tough moments since the Dirk era, from losing to the Miami Heat in the Finals then following it by losing to the 8th seeded Golden State Warriors to just never getting over the hump till 2011, but nothing like last season; where the Mavericks were no longer viewed as contenders but a lowly lottery team.
Many faces of last season are gone with the Mavericks retooling with Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon, Devin Harris, Samuel Dalembert, and others, but no acquisition is more important than a healthy Nowitzki to place the pieces around. Just as every season though, these Mavericks face plenty of questions. Will Ellis be efficient? Will this team be able to defend? Can this team make the playoffs? But no questions is bigger than has Father Time caught up with Dirk Nowitzki.
A rejuvenated and healthy Nowitzki gives this team a new and promising look to put those questions and concerns on hold for the time being. Yes, Nowitzki may not be the same player he was three season ago, but the drop off isn’t as steep as people make it out to be. As his presence alone still gives the Mavericks a chance to compete every game. Nowitzki’s game has never revolved around speed or athleticism, but instead was built on his craftiness and ability to make and take tough shots, which still forces and demands teams to alter their game plan when facing him and the Mavericks. The new additions of Ellis and Calderon are evidence that the Mavericks will not ask Nowitzki to carry the team on a consistent basis as he’s done so often. Instead, with Ellis and Calderon’s ability to get to the basket and run the pick-n-pop, the belief is that those two will create plenty of open looks for Nowitzki so to avoid him having to tax his body throughout the season by constantly having to carry the offense.
We’ve already seen a better Nowitzki this preseason than we did all of last, as he looks rejuvenated and healthier than any point of last season. A bearded and unhealthy Nowitzki was still able to show flashes of greatness and carry a subpar Maverick team last season as they attempted a playoff push, examples consisted of his 35 pt game against the Chicago Bulls and his 30 pt game against the Los Angeles Lakers.
A new season, new pieces, and most importantly a healthy Dirk Nowitzki give plenty of reason to believe this Mavericks team has a chance. It’s easy to forget that after everything the Mavericks went through last season they were still able to finish 41-41 and barely miss the playoffs. As we’ve seen before, get Nowitzki to the playoffs and the Mavericks will have a chance.
So the real question comes done to do you really think the Mavericks and Nowitzki are done?
Mark Cuban and Dirk would disagree and so would I.
To the new season and a new hope, Go Mavs!