This was a chance for Dirk Nowitzki to make the deepest statement, to vindicate that he is the prolific player of these NBA Finals and better than ever before, to send a sense of upbeat vibes in the series. This was when Nowitzki was supposed to kick butt and channel Chuck Norris or Cynthia Rothrock, and then inspirit David Hasselhoff to join the craze in the Heart of Texas. But he's delivered a subpar performance and rendered indisputably the most chaotic, lowest scoring percentage that we had the displeasure seeing in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
What we have seen is Nowitzki expose his weaknesses at the worst possible time, unable to avenge the painful memories from when he faltered in the 2006 Finals against the Miami Heat. The star of the Dallas Mavericks poured in 27 points in the lightest fashion and eventually unveiled he had sustained a torn tendon in the middle finger of his left hand. He stood in a corner on the court of American Airlines Arena in Miami, located on the edge of the bay, optimistic about his ability to play at an all-time high as the assassin who answered in prior series with no conscience for his array of phenomenal shots.
So when Nowitzki and the Mavericks withered in the first game of the series, missed shots and lost a decisive game, I had suddenly pondered and flashed back to the nightmarish point in time that he unsteadily unraveled. It's a no-brainer he's absolutely fixated on the task at hand, when he's never embraced the moment of capturing a second Western Conference title. It was the night he disappeared from the trophy presentation, jumping over the scorer's table and hiding in the tunnel to avoid the national spotlight of flashbulbs and swarming media personnel.
The last thing Nowitzki wants is another meltdown, on pace to avenge the painful collapse -- ready for a suspenseful and striking rematch on the path to redemption only if he grinds out his first ever NBA championship and doesn't come unglued in the national landscape given his reputation of descending. If you can recall, as the Mavericks took a 2-0 lead on the Heat in the '06 Finals, Nowitzki couldn't vanquish from the burden of failures in the past. There was one point, such as when we were overly obsessed with Nowitzki prematurely considered to be one of the greatest players of all-time, if not the deadliest shooter, when the god of the Mavs carried Dallas in Game 3 in Miami by maintaining a 13 point lead with 6:42 left, but then all of the sudden underperformed and took much criticism for the struggles.
Is he overrated?? In my view, he is the best player in these playoffs. And coming in a different scenario, he never has been fully capable of capturing a title or leading the Mavs to the biggest victory. This season, he was more than the freakish athlete, more than the appreciated star in Dallas, only a man endeared for modifying the personality in a sport that relies on an influx of star ballplayers. Before entering the Finals, he was a breakthrough performer who suddenly relived the moment, when he drove the Mavs literally through the postseason, including with the helpful contributions of the veteran point guard Jason Kidd, forward Shawn Marion, and the emotional defender at center Tyson Chandler and, of course, the journeyman Jason Terry -- a main fragment for the much-improved '06 Mavs.
As of today, he still has the chills and goosebumps by thinking of the bitter ending that he has never stopped dwelling on, knowing how close the Mavs were to winning a championship. That's how the situation looks for Nowitzki, a typical victim for not only allowing his opponents to defeat him, but also for beating himself. A day later, after watching film and working out in practice on Wednesday, Nowitzki said he is ready to respond. But then, he might be declining again when so much is on the line, hit by a roadblock now that the Heat stands in the way.
What's more, with many postseason appearances, is he advanced to his 11th straight postseason and started as one of only four players all time to average at least 25 points and 10 rebounds per game. That wouldn't, by the numbers, rank Nowitzki higher than many active ballplayers, although he has compiled 32.2 points on 55.7 percent shooting in the Western Conference Finals. In reality, he is an elite player, but he hasn't led the Mavs to a championship and stumbled in the finish. Therefore, he is trying harder than ever to not walk away winless in his 13th season.
A couple of weeks ago, he surely recalled the Game 3 collapse with too much mournful thoughts as Nowitzki lamented and finished 2-of-14 from the floor for 16 points in Game 4 of the '06 Finals in the 98-74 rout. The point is -- he performed the choke job in prior seasons -- particularly in critical series, at this time of year. All we know is that the Mavericks, owned by the cyber bully Mark Cuban, have a bevy of experience when the billionaire has lavished his players with wealthy paychecks to build the deepest contender in the West.
Now, we are left to wonder if Nowitzki can finally lead the Mavs five years after they were obliterated by the Heat. Now, we are left to wonder if Nowitzki, who is having the best season of his outstanding career, can actually transcend in his prime with a dimensional nucleus of talent. Twice in his winsome career, Kidd has lost in the Finals. There is even Terry and Peja Stojakovic, a pair of sharpshooters with lethal ability to slaughter their opponents from long range. Then come the Mavs’ centers, Chandler and Brendan Haywood, two of the tallest players with tremendous size in the paint. There is much to like about Nowitzki -- for instance -- he has proven to be a solid player, a perennial star in the postseason, though he hasn't proven he can lead a franchise to a championship.
That much is an explanation for all the criticism the much-scrutinized megastar takes in each season. But now, quicker than he drills a three-pointer, the Mavs' aspirations might be determined based on Nowitzki's ability to play at a moment when his presence is a necessity in Dallas' championship pursuit. And whether people are willing to believe it or not, Nowitzki admittedly informed everybody that he is optimistic the middle finger on his left hand with the torn tendon won't affect his ability to release shots.
Welcome to the playoffs, folks. Over the course of his career, Nowitzki has certainly fought through pain from injuries. First, he nursed a number of ankle sprains, and then he amazingly made a speedy return after having Carl Landry's chipped teeth removed from his elbow. Earlier in the season, he also recovered from a sprained right knee and returned sooner than expected. In his career, all with the Mavs, none of his injuries debilitated his athleticism or strength to push left on the court.
When it comes to Nowitzki, he is more efficient driving left than moving the ball right, and his shooting percentage is solid on the left side. If he desires to heal the wounds of postseason flaws and treasure the celebration of winning a title, then he needs to direct the Mavs in the biggest happenstance of his lifetime. Pressured to win it all or either worsen the criticism, it's a notion that it would be a miserable travesty in Dirk's elusive NBA career if he is devoid of a championship after having his best season.
As in the case with all players, particularly the stars of the sport, winning cures everything for Nowitzki, too.