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Forward Thinking: The Big German's Return

Forward Thinking: The Big German's Return

The other day I was sitting in my living room deleting through my DVR and came across the Dallas Mavericks versus Alba Berlin, the first preseason game of the season. Before removing it from my system I watched a few minutes for one reason – Dirk Nowitzki.

We didn’t know it then but Dirk would not play another game in the preseason due to swelling in his knee. After making the difficult, but wise choice to undergo surgery Dirk has been out indefinitely.

Five weeks have gone by and this Mavs team new and old continues to work on chemistry development without its superstar talent.

Positive news broke yesterday that Dirk’s rehab activity and intensity levels have steadily increased. The writers here at TheMavsFanatic thought it’d be fitting to discuss what his absence has meant thus far and what his eventual return will mean for this Mavericks team.

Ryan Wilson (Founder of TheMavsFanatic)

On Dirk’s Absence: The Mavericks started the season off on a very high note going 4-1, leading all of us at Mavs Nation to believe that we could do better than just weather the storm in Dirks’ absence. That proclamation deemed untrue, as the Mavericks lost their next 3 games. Two of these games included the Charlotte Bobcats and the Minnesota Timberwolves. The real problem is the Mavericks lack an on floor leader. The knock on Dirk early on was that he wasn’t vocal enough. Over the last few years, he has taken on the role. The Mavericks, without Dirk, are turning the ball over way to much. They are averaging 15.2 turnovers per game, good for 16th in the NBA. It’s not that horrible of a number, but if you look at the way some of these turnovers are coming, it is obvious they lack leadership.

There have been bright spots. The Mavericks are currently 6-5, good for 6th in the Western Conference. O.J. Mayo has been better than expected, and has filled in JET’s shoes nicely. He leads the NBA in 3-point FG’s made(36), with a staggering 59% from behind the arc. He also is averaging 21.3 ppg. There is one issue I have with Mayo. If he is going to be the main option for the Mavericks while Dirk is recovering, he has to look to be more aggressive later in games. The Mavericks are lacking the go to scorer. That guy remains sidelined due to a knee operation.

Who knows when Dirk will be back on the floor. Rick Carlisle has to continue to find the right 5 players at the right time. It’s no easy task, but do you really want to doubt him? He’s done it before.

On Dirk’s Return: Where oh where will the Big German take us? That’s the question on everyone’s mind. I’ve told you what the problems have been off the floor. Too many turnovers. Lack of leadership. Lack of a go-to-guy. These are problems that can be fixed. Too often, the Mavericks are struggling to find the right guy at the right time late in ball games. This will be fixed once the former MVP returns.

Do you think a guy that can get you 20-25 ppg and 6-8 rpg won’t help? It will. The Mavericks will have their leader back. They will have their go-to-guy.

Everyone will benefit from Dirks’ return. If Chris Kaman thinks he’s getting good looks now, wait till Dirk comes and can spread out the floor. Want to double Dirk? That’s fine. Imagine how wide open those 3’s will look for Mayo. Collison leading a fast break with Dirk, Mayo, Marion, and Kaman? It’s something that should leave all of us salivating. Hold one sec. I need to wipe this dribble off my chin.

All they need to do is weather the storm in his absence. If we can do that, the Mavericks could turn some heads later in the year. It will take some time go gel.

Damian Jackson (Mavs Game Night)

On Dirk’s Absence: When Dirk isn’t out there for the Dallas Mavericks, it reminds me of the early 2000s when I was a huge Allen Iverson fan. In the rare occurrence A.I. didn’t lace ‘em up, the 76ers were kind of a drag to watch. No entertainment. This has nothing to do with a comparison of the two future Hall of Fame players. It just exemplifies what no Dirk means to me.

Without the “Tall Baller from the G” the Mavericks miss a crucial element to overall success. The Mavericks don’t have the security blanket of supporting stars say like the Miami Heat or even the now older Big 3 in San Antonio. Dirk’s always been the vocal point of opposing defenses, yet he still makes the best defenders look helpless on his island that is so often the foul line isolation.

The Mavericks spirit doesn’t feel quite right when #41 isn’t in uniform. That’s not to discredit what the Mavs have done without him, but simply an honoring testament to Dirk’s irreplaceable value. Dirk’s vocal leadership improved drastically through the years and he’s an encouragement to all who take the floor next to him.

It’s a challenge to uncover a positive aspect of Dirk not playing in 12 games and counting. We all want him back out there, but it’s been smart to undergo surgery and face the problem early this season rather than risk further damage and miss time when games become more important. In his absence Rick Carlisle gets to experiment with his rotation to figure what guys will contribute once Dirk makes his way back.

On Dirk’s Return: There’s no possible way to overemphasize the night Dirk is back in Mavs Blue. It’s going to be a movement, trending on Twitter and news throughout sports media. What to expect from him out of the gate? He’s going to need to adjust to the game speed while getting on the same page with his new teammates. It should be a swift process because Dirk’s presence doesn’t complicate matters for his own team.

I like what Brendan Haywood said about Dirk a while back in regards to Dirk the player AND person. He described his then teammate as the coolest, most down-to-earth superstar he knows. That is Dirk in a nutshell.

Dirk’s on court presence will make life easier for his new young backcourt comrades. Darren Collison has struggled immensely due to poor floor spacing and defensives clogging the lane on his penetration. Who else looking forward to DC pushing the break, waiting for something to develop and then hits Dirk for his signature trailing triple? SPLASH! Dirk turns and faces the Mavs bench, tongue out and giving the 3-point fingers/thumb celebration.

I am indeed anxious to see Dirk play next to a skilled offensive center, but most of my exhilaration lies in what could be Dirk’s best second fiddle running mate in O.J. Mayo since Michael Finley or Steve Nash. JET Terry was phenomenal in his eight seasons with Dallas and played a major role in the Mavs’ first and only championship. That said, I feel like Mayo has the qualities to be even better.

Dirk and Mayo will benefit playing off one another and it’s going to be a treat for the fans.

Tony Clayton (The TC Report)

On Dirk’s Absence:  Oh Captain my Captain.  I’ve spent some time watching some past Mavs games over the last few lunch breaks at the office and it’s resulted in missing the big guy even more.   It’s almost become like a mini-retirement as the last 11 games have passed with no Dirk.  As if we’re getting used to not seeing him out there.  But maybe that’s credit to the current roster as they’ve fought hard to keep a respectable 6-5 record, Dirk-less.

I recently watched a documentary on the 97-98 Chicago Bulls.  They started that season with no Scottie Pippen.  The Mighty Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan struggled out of the gate that season as they missed their 2nd scoring option and Michael’s right hand man.  Obviously, the season turned out to be a success as they won their 6th title.  Not comparing our 2012-2013 Mavs to those Bulls, but the point is that we’re missing a bigger piece; our “Michael Jordan” and managing to keep our heads above water.  Our supporting cast is much deeper than those Bulls so we’re lucky to have the roster that we do, o matter how much patch work was involved in building it this offseason.  The main thing that the team has missed in Dirk’s absence is the floor spacing.  They’ve tried to recreate this when inserting Troy Murphy into the rotation.  But it’s……..Troy Murphy.  He’s been unable to knock down as many shots as we’ve needed him to.  Darren Collison is feeling the effects as well.  After starting the season by carving up defenses and getting in the paint with ease, he’s recently run into log jams down low resulting in contested jump shots for the Mavs.  Once defenses are forced to spread out, they’ll pay.  The Mavs have also missed the 7 feet body on the glass this season too as it’s no mystery that this team has struggled with rebounding.

On Dirk’s Return:  I’m being completely honest when I say this, but there may or may not be a tear running down my cheek on the night of Dirks return.  The game in which he comes back is still undetermined, but that’s ok.  We need that knee at a high level when he steps on the court.  The moment he hits that first 17 foot jumper will be a glorious sight.  I’m just imagining that net ripping as he shoots over a poor defender with one of the sweetest jumpers the game has ever seen.

I’m guessing that there will be some important “Gel” time needed once Dirk is back as the offense will learn each other’s tendencies.  But it shouldn’t last long. Collison should have more opportunity to drive and shoot/dish, Mayo should have open shots, Kaman should see more 1-on-1 coverage, and BWright will have more opportunity for his high flying offense as we’re used to seeing.

Dirk is a matchup nightmare.  He’ll drive his defenders nuts as they try and stop him which should also result in bad offensive nights for them as well.  I.e. Nick Collison, Haslem, Gasol, etc.  Also, this current roster has a hard time coming back in games when they’re down by 10 points or more.  The offense gets stagnant and these young players panic.  Once Dirk is back, the Mavs should be back to their cockroach offense; never die.  (“Cockroach Offense” is copyright of Tony Clayton LLC.  You may not use without consent of Tony Clayton).

We all miss Dirk.  But it’s been a blessing in disguise to this current roster to learn how to play hard with little room for error in his absence.  It will make the team stronger once April comes around and we’re fighting for playoff positioning.  But at the same time, it sure is a great feeling to know that we have a secret weapon healing up on the sideline.  I can’t wait for the night when the bat signal is lit up and our super hero comes to the rescue.

Mike Bibbins (The RoundUp)

On Dirk’s Absence: When I found out Dirk was going to be missing part of the year initially I was upset. With the West being as tough as it is this year I was worried that we’d be missing valuable time to keep pace when we were already looking at probably fighting for the 4 seed in most people’s eyes. After that initial reaction however I saw this as an opportunity.

Most of you will recall that I said during the offseason, before we signed OJ, that he was not much of an upgrade over Roddy in any department other than 3 point shooting and of course durability. I figured OJ was written in pen in that starting position so Roddy didn’t really have a chance to steal that spot. I wanted OJ to work out in that position and thought that with Dirk out it would be the perfect time for him to have some time as THE MAN and get comfortable in that role instead of having to struggle to find his way and deferring to Dirk off the bat. My whole goal for the period of time before Dirk returns is for OJ to get comfortable, average over 20 points a game, and show some leadership.

In the first few games Roddy was clearly outplaying OJ and I was concerned that this would end up being a problem long term but Roddy got hurt and OJ stepped up his game so that fear went away. Though most of his scores are coming from behind the arc and he’s not being aggressive late (Vince has accepted this role), what he’s doing is what we will need him to do when Dirk returns. Right now we just need to steal wins and buy time.

On Dirk’s Return: It has been a while since I heard a Dirk update and this slightly concerns me. Not because I am worried that he may be out longer than initially stated but because I want to put a date on it. Supposedly it could be a week or less away but with no news out I doubt that is the case. I, of course, don’t want him rushed back though. The season is a marathon, not a sprint.

I am encouraged by what I’ve seen from the guys out there but Dirk changes the game. Our bigs don’t have to be game-planned for right now because none of them do anything out of the ordinary. Dirk changes things because teams have to decide if they’re going to double him, if they’re going to guard him with a smaller guy or a bigger guy but regardless they have to commit to him. Right now teams really only have to game plan to defend the 3 and that can be done 1 on 1. By throwing Dirk in there it becomes, what do we do with Dirk that allows us to still be able to guard the 3 and that causes defenses to have to work harder. Then having a penetrating guard like Collison only makes it that much more difficult. Kaman will be the beneficiary of easy tip ins or wide open looks when Dirk draws his man off so I think that if we stay healthy we may have a real shot at contending. Where people were talking about getting to the second round being a successful season during the summer, maybe we should be aiming higher.

Time will tell for this Mavs experiment that we are running out there game in and game out. The Mavericks must cut down on the turnovers and find someone who is willing to take on the leadership role until our true captain comes back.

One thing is for sure. Dirk’s return can’t come soon enough!

Let us know what you all think! Comment below!

As always…GO MAVS!


Ryan Wilson founded Mavs Fanatic (Now Dallas Sports Fanatic) in January of 2012. He had a vision of starting something new and different. A place where fans of the Dallas Mavericks and fans of writing could come and be heard. A blog "Run By Fans For Fans". He is also a fan of the Dallas Cowboys and the Chicago WhiteSox (His hometown team). Mavs Fanatic is now known as Dallas Sports Fanatic, a blog that covers all of the major Dallas pro sports teams.    

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