Dallas Mavericks: Dirk continues transition from star to support
By Kohl Rast
During Dallas Mavericks media day, we learned that Dirk Nowitzki will be moving from starter to a bench role this coming season. Although this will be something different, it is just the next step in an ongoing transition.
In the 2014-15 Dallas Mavericks season, something happened that Mavs fans had been dreading for more than a decade and a half. For the first time since the year 2000, the Dallas Mavericks had a new leading scorer for the team. Dirk Nowitzki was officially on the decline.
No one really wanted to accept the fact that Dirk’s play could ever decline. After so many years of watching the big German dominate the court and being the heart and soul of the Mavs squad, things had finally changed. And even though Dirk was once again the leading scorer for the team the next year, people still knew that the time was coming when Dirk would no longer be in the NBA.
As the years went on, Dirk went from averaging 18.3 points per game in the 2015-16 season, to 14.2 points two years ago and only 12 points per game last year. His ability to score at will has declined, despite his shot still looking very good. His body has just slowed down.
Despite the decrease in average points per game over the years. Dirk has not become what I would call a liability. Sure his offensive numbers aren’t what they were and his defense has taken a hit, but he is still an effective and efficient player on the court. He won’t be able to average 30 minutes a game anymore, but he makes due.
Although it seems like a simple thing for those of us who have continued to watch Dirk throughout his career, this transition from star to key player to role player to coming off the bench is a fascinating transition that most superstars wouldn’t be able to make.
The big name players throughout the history of the NBA have always struggled finding an identity when their body starts to fail them. Players like Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady or even Pete Maravich all retired much earlier than expected. In the case of McGrady and Maravich that was largely due to injury, but each of these guys had no desire to be a second fiddle.
Dirk has not only embraced the fact that he is no longer the best player on the team, he has done everything he can to adapt his play into a useful role player. This is why Dirk is taking more and more trailing threes, posting up and setting screens to open up other guys on the team.
As if any of us needed another reason to recognize that Dirk is one of the greatest to ever play the game, his selflessness during this process may be one of the most significant reasons. It will be very interesting to see Dirk in that role this year, but I am certain he will do an incredible job like he has at everything else since becoming a Maverick.