None of Dirk Nowitzki's franchise-record 19,084 points have come on a baby sky hook.
But Nowitzki sure looked comfortable with that shot when he softly dropped one in on the opening possession of the second half in the Dallas Mavericks' otherwise forgettable preseason win Saturday night over the LeBron-and-Shaqless Cleveland Cavaliers. As if the eight-time All-Star weren't difficult enough to defend, he's added to his offensive arsenal.
Dirk Nowitzki picked up some pointers from Kevin McHale during training camp.
New teammate Drew Gooden has guarded Nowitzki a lot during the course of their careers. His scouting report when Nowitzki catches the ball on the block: If he doesn't face up, which is his forte, he's shooting a turnaround jumper over his right shoulder.
Well, Dirk has gone to work to expand his back-to-the-basket repertoire.
After the longest layoff of his career, Nowitzki spent hours in a German gym with mentor Holger Geschwindner this summer working on his post-up moves. Then he had the opportunity to pick the brain of ex-Celtics star Kevin McHale, a legendary low-post scorer who spent training camp with the Mavericks.
"Dirk spending a week with McHale would be like Jason Kidd having a chance to spend a week with Magic Johnson," said Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, who has been buddies with McHale since their days as Boston teammates.
Nowitzki soaked up all sorts of wisdom from McHale, picking his brain at length on a pair of occasions. They discussed such things as attitude and leadership. And of course, McHale gave Nowitzki a tutorial on how to get buckets from the block.
"I mean, he's probably the best low-post player this game has ever seen," Nowitzki said. "He definitely talked to me some about angles down there."
Nowitzki, who had a game-high 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting in the win over Cleveland, scored half his buckets off low-post moves.
He could work with his back to the basket more often this season, since Gooden is a center with an excellent midrange game. If the 7-foot Nowitzki can exploit his height advantage over most power forwards, the Mavericks could have a heck of a high-low game.
Not that Nowitzki will suddenly morph into a traditional 7-footer. He's one of the toughest matchups in the league because he's such a unique, skilled player: a big man with ridiculous shooting range and the ability to score with a wide array of shots off the dribble.
The one thing missing from Nowitzki's offensive game for most of his career has been old-school, McHale-esque, back-to-the-basket moves. He's most comfortable with a one-legged lean-away shot that won't be found in any basketball textbooks. He's made steady progress with his post-up game over the past few years and might make be ready to make a leap down low this season.
"Great players, every year they come back with something new," Carlisle said. "This looks like something that's going to add to Dirk's game, but he's worked hard on it."
Nowitzki tried to downplay his low-post development, particularly regarding the hook shot, which he referred to as a work in progress.
"I work on it all the time," he said. "To use it in a game-time situation, it's something different. Now it's preseason, a good time to swing one. But I don't know if it's ready."
Try telling that to Cleveland's Darnell Jackson, who was defenseless when Nowitzki caught the ball on the block, took one dribble to the middle of the paint and pulled off a hook shot that would have made Kareem Abdul-Jabbar proud.
Is it ready? Looked like it. Another question: How do you stop that move from such a graceful 7-footer?
"It's almost impossible to block," Gooden said. "It's an unstoppable move."
It's another piece to a point-producing puzzle that opposing power forwards rarely have solved.
Last season during the playoffs versus Denver, Dirk said that the Nuggets, Birdman and K-Mart specifically, could defend him and defended him really well with their length, athleticism and toughness. As an offensive player, you NEVER say anybody can defend you. That's coo he's working on his back to the basket moves and all, but what he needs to work on is his heart and mental makeup because he's lacking in those areas. That's what's holding him back, not his post moves.
Who cares what he said? Did you watch the series? He destroyed the both of the guys that he said could defend him well. He averaged 34.4 points on over 53% shooting from the field, 38% from 3, 91% from the line, along with 11.6 rebounds, 4 assists and one block a game. He torched them. Too bad he didn't have much help. He might not be the toughest mentally, but the guy is a great player and it's nice to see that he still keeps looking to improve and expand on his game.
With that said, I think a back to the basket game is a great asset to have since it's almost extinct. Shaq has always had a limited post game despite his agility unless you count just overpowering and backing people down. Carmelo is a 3 and he's got better post up skills than probably any of the guys that will make this years all star team at the 4 and 5 positions other than maybe Duncan and if healthy Yao.
The comment was made out of respect for those 2 guys. Dirk is getting older and is probably slower and probably less explosive so he needs to start adding more moves. It's never too late to get better.
He averaged 34.4 points on over 53% shooting from the field, 38% from 3, 91% from the line, along with 11.6 rebounds, 4 assists and one block a game, BUT... HIS TEAM STILL LOST.
Who cares what he said? His team cares. As your team's leader and go-to offensive player, you never say your opponent/enemy can defend you, ESPECIALLY during the playoffs when all of the chips are on the line. You'd never hear Kobe Bryant say that. You'd never hear Michael Jordan say that. You'd never hear LeBron James say that. You'd never hear Dwayne Wade say that. You'd never hear Reggie Miller say that. You'd never hear Larry Bird say that. You'd never hear Magic Johnson say that. You'd never hear Isiah Thomas say that. Tell me ONE great player or go-to offensive player for his team that's said something like that. He's soft mentally and usually your team takes the mentality of your best player or coach. Dallas takes Dirk's mentality, which explains why they coughed up versus Miami in the Finals (a series they should've won), got elliminated in the first round versus Golden State (an inferior team) and why they were spanked last year versus Denver.
Dirk is a talented offensive player and that's great he's still expanding his game, but dude is weak mentally. When your leader and go-to player is weak mentally, the team will have problems. I don't care what type of statistics he puts up.
You didn't hear Jordan vs the Pistons saying, "Joe Dumars, Dennis Rodman, Isiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer and John Salley defend me well." You never heard Jordan say, "John Starks, Charles Oakley, Anthony Mason and Patrick Ewing defend me well." Even if they did, he didn't tell them. Instead, he tried to rip them a part. It's just a mental thing. I think a strong mentality trickles down to the rest of your team and gives your teammates confidence.
Dirk is not the toughest player mentally. He should have been slapping his teammates aorund during that Fianls series when they choked up the title. But he is a top 10 player in tihs league and a franchise talent regardless of what he says or how he acts. He mixes it up on the boards and takes the big shots. I don't think he has ever backed down to opponents, it's just he has a finnesse game and a finnese mentality.
Dirk is no doubt a franchise talent. Talent wise, he's the best power forward in the NBA... However he has a WEAK mentality. He let Tim Thomas basically smack him in the face versus the Suns in the playoffs a few years ago. Dirk has received criticism about his leadership skills and it's been said that no team with him as the leader will win a championship. Even Dwayne Wade questioned his leadership skills.
"At the end of the day,'' Wade told the Miami Herald, "you're remembered for what you did at the end. ... Dirk says they gave us the championship last year, but he's the reason they lost the championship, because he wasn't the leader that he's supposed to be in the closing moments. That's because of great defense by us, but also he wasn't assertive enough as a leader's supposed to be.'' - Dwayne Wade
I'd take Garnett or Duncan over him any day of the week.
That's why being a great leader should show toughness and never back down from any challenges along the way. He should never ever speak out something that doesn't need to be spoken to. Those kinds of things can be spoken about AFTER they win a series NOT while the series is ongoing. Dirk decided to expose himself as if to express praise to the opponent. That's pretty much a confidence booster on anybody defending Dirk....
Dirk might need to step up, but at least he bangs the boards and takes the big shots. I don't see anyone blaming Josh Howard for the way he dissapeared and turned into bobby simmons in that first round loss to the warriors.