The Smoking Cuban
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A Mavs Team Like No Other

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There has never been a time, since the Mavericks really became Dirk’s team, that he could have multiple bad games without it really affecting them. It’s sort of hard to believe that it’s true, right now, though it is—they may have lost to Memphis without Dirk OR Monta, but Dirk shot a cool 36% in that tough win against Chicago, 32% against Toronto, 33% against Washington…

It’s not that they don’t need him.  The Chicago win was in double OT, the Toronto win was by four points, the Washington win by 3, and in most other games he’s shot so poorly—Houston, Memphis—they’ve lost.

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It’s that they can sometimes do without him, which is nearly as startling a statement around these parts. We all loved guys like Jason Terry, of course,  Jerry Stackhouse, Vince Carter, but alone of the star players of his generation, Dirk never had enough help. On average, he probably had a deeper bench, year to year, than Kobe and Garnett though obviously not Duncan, but he never had Shaq, Gasol, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. And he doesn’t now, of course, those were all-time greats.

This year, though, the offense is good enough to handle bad teams and sometimes even beat good teams. It’s very exciting, but….

In the weird way of sports, it’s also a little sad. There just hasn’t ever been a guy like Dirk in Dallas sports history. Not just great, but successful and utterly dependable. The most clutch player (clutchest) in Dallas history by a long shot, and I don’t care about people over 60 muttering about Roger Staubach. No, that’s wrong,  I actively hate them.

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I don’t think this 35% shooting Dirk is the Dirk we’ll see the rest of this season. If I’m guessing, it’s  trying to change his shot over the offseason. We’ve all done it, but you probably can’t change the instincts of over twenty years at this point, you end up fighting yourself. Or, it was working in the offseason with fresh legs, and now…

But, very probably, something has nevertheless happened.  Dirk has been the high point man in 5 games this season, which is probably a career low at this point. Hasn’t happened since the day before Thanksgiving, only 3 times in the last month.

Even if Dirk’s numbers tick up again, and they should, and I think they will, it is surprisingly hard to imagine he’ll often be the Mavericks’ leading scorer this season. Which is fine with him and mostly fine with me so long as the Mavs are winning.

And it could be worse. A great career isn’t a great career until it’s over, as guys like Tracy McGrady tragically learned, and Brandon Roy more tragically, like Greg Oden never got to learn..Dirk has had one of the greatest careers of all time, and this will always have been true. And again, I expect him to bounce back to a certain degree, and be brilliant again, at least for a while.

But something beautiful is going slowly out of the world, like the light fading in the west, like something flitting away through the woods in that moment when you turn your head.

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