Dirk Nowitzki

Some might say this is the last chance for Dirk Nowitzki to make an impression in the postseason. The Dallas Mavericks need him to play like he is desperate if they actually want to put themsleves in a position to make this series longer than four or five games.

Nowitzki scored only 11 points in the game 1 loss to the San Antonio Spurs. The defense for the Mavs worked fine, which is surprising considering how badly they perform on that end most of the time. But Nowitzki and also Monta Ellis playing this badly? That wasn’t in the cards, and kind of caught everyone by surprise. Even with a solid defensive effort every night, without the team’s two best players starting to score like its the regular season, there’s no chance of making this a long, six-seven game series.

Is the two year plan Mark Cuban set out for himself to become challengers again working out? He missed the playoffs in the first year and is now en route to getting knocked out in the first round. OK, but it’s important to look at what happens this summer to pass a final verdict. Right now, the Mavs are tied up to only $31 million under the salary cap. Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Vince Carter, Devin Harris and DeJuan Blair become free agents.

Who stays? Aside from the contracted ones: Ellis, Calderon, Brandan Wright, Samuel Dalembert, Wayne Ellington, Shane Larkin, Jae Crowder, Ricky Ledo and Gal Mekel. Hardly championship or even playoff material. Assuming Nowitzki stays for a lot less than the $22.7 million he is making now, the Mavs have a shot at signing an elite player, or bringing in a few dominant ones in a so-so free agency market.

Nowitzki has plenty of basketball left, but one must wonder how many of it is at an elite level. Whatever is left in the tanks for him has to come out now. The Mavs don’t always do too well in free agency when chasing after the big stars (Anthony this time? Someone opting out of his Miami Heat contract?), so feeling safe about landing a big fish this summer shouldn’t be something spreading too much confidence among Mavs fans.

Calderon, Marion, Carter. They’re all nice players. Monta Ellis can explode from time to time, but isn’t exactly known for exploding in the postseason. Nowitzki has had plenty of big games in the past, and even though the rival does seem to be a bit too much for them this time (the Mavs have a much better matchup with the Thunder, but didn’t make it to 7th), more should be expected from the franchise’s best player ever. There aren’t going to be too many opportunities for him to dominate in the postseason, which he can still do. It’s now or never.

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