Dirk Nowitzki was the ultimate franchise player

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When a young German forward named Dirk Nowitzki got drafted in 1998, he knew very little about the Dallas Mavericks.

Dallas: “The only thing I knew about Dallas is watching the TV show with my parents.”

Mavericks: “I knew that they had been through tough times in the 90s.”

Dallas was still a relatively new NBA city. The Mavericks launched only 18 years earlier, and after a decent first decade in the shadow of the Showtime Lakers, Dallas fell on hard times. Between the 1990-91 and 1997-98 seasons, the Mavericks won just 27% of their games. That remains one of the worst eight-year stretches in NBA history.

Then, Nowitzki – through talent, personality and will – redefined the Dallas Mavericks.

Nowitzki announced his impending retirement yesterday. He’s the only player to spend 21 seasons with a team, but longevity doesn’t nearly capture his impact in Dallas. Nowitzki was an all-time great player and culture-setter. The Mavericks went from lousy to champions back to lousy as Nowitzki entered and exited his prime. Whatever prestige they hold, a huge amount of it rests on Nowitzki’s shoulders.

If the Celtics didn’t have Larry Bird, they still would have had Bill Russell. If the Lakers didn’t have Kobe Bryant, they still would have had Magic Johnson. If the Spurs didn’t have Tim Duncan, they still would have had David Robinson

The Mavericks had Nowitzki. Without him, their history might rank among the league’s saddest.

Using a player’s win shares and his team’s all-time win total, Nowitzki alone accounted for 13.1% of Dallas’ victories. That trails only Kevin Garnett’s 14.5% with the Timberwolves.

Here are each franchise’s leader in percentage of wins accounted for by their win-share leader:


In the playoffs, Nowitzki’s mark was even higher – 25.4%. That trails only Kevin Garnett (31.1% with the Timberwolves) and LeBron James (25.5% with the Cavaliers).

Here are each franchise’s leader in percentage of playoff wins accounted for by their playoff win-share leader:


In an era of super teams, the accepted wisdom says stacking stars is necessary to win a title.

Nowitzki won without another star.

The Mavericks built a nice supporting cast in 2011: Tyson Chandler, Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion, Jason Terry and even J.J. Barea. But none of them were stars. Yet, Nowitzki led Dallas over the LeBron-Dwyane Wade-Chris Bosh Heat – to that point, the most super-charged of all super teams.

Nowitzki brought the Mavericks into the pantheon of franchises with a championship and forever altered his own reputation. Tagged soft earlier in his career, Nowitzki proved his mettle on the biggest stage.

It was an incredible reward for a player and franchise that believed in each other far longer than most would. Nowitzki won his first title in his 13th season. Nobody else has ever stayed with his original team that long then won his first championship.

Jerry West won his first title in his 12th season with the Lakers – after they added Wilt Chamberlain.

Garnett, the only player who ranks ahead of Nowitzki on both those percent-of-win charts, didn’t win a championship until leaving Minnesota for the Celtics. He remains pivotal to the history of the Timberwolves, but a large part of his legacy lies in Boston.

There’s no such debate with Nowitzki. He’s a Maverick, through and through.

Of course, Nowitzki’s legacy extends far beyond Dallas. He was a pioneer who changed perception of international players. It doesn’t seem coincidental the Mavericks are building around Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis as Nowitzki exits. Even on a global scale, Nowitzki’s impact returns to its local influence.

Nowitzki wasn’t the greatest player of his generation. That was LeBron.

Nowitzki wasn’t the greatest power forward of all-time. That was Duncan.

Nowitzki wasn’t the great international player ever. That was Hakeem Olajuwon or, depending how you’re counting, Duncan.

But Nowitzki was the best franchise player the Dallas Mavericks ever could have asked for.

Lakers’ LeBron James says he could need offseason foot surgery


LeBron James wanted back on the court. He saw the glimpses of what this current roster can do when healthy and focused — the same glimpses that have Laker exceptionalism running strong in Los Angeles — and he sees a West without a dominant team. Together those things mean opportunity.

LeBron could have shut it down when he felt something pop in his foot last month, admitting that two doctors told him to get surgery. However, the “LeBron James of foot doctors” told him he could be back this season — and he made that return Sunday. Still, LeBron admitted he could need off-season surgery.

“I don’t know. Right now, I don’t need it, so we’ll see what happens. I’ll probably get another MRI at the end of the season and go from there. But if I end up having to get surgery after the season, you guys won’t know. I don’t talk to you guys in the offseason, and by the time next season starts, I’ll be fine. I’ll be ready to go.”

As for what motivated him to get back on the court this season and not shut it down.

“Now we sitting at a chance to be able to… to hell with the play-in, we actually can be a top-[six] seed. That definitely changed my mindset on me coming back and trying to be a part of this, obviously, so — well, I don’t really want to say changed my mindset, it just enhanced what I was trying to do as far as my workouts, as far as my treatment and everything”

The Lakers sit tied for 9/10 in the West, one game below .500. While LeBron can say, “to hell with the play-in,” his Lakers would need help from the Clippers or Warriors to climb into the top six even though they are only 1.5 games back (time is short for L.A., if the Warriors or Clippers go 4-3 the rest of the way, the Lakers need to go 6-2 over their last eight). Los Angeles also is just a game up on Dallas for the 11 seed, and if the losses pile up they could fall out of the play-in completely.

With LeBron back, missing the play-in is unlikely. But having him back (and eventually a healthy D'Angelo Russell, who was out Sunday with a hip issue) also is no guarantee of wins — the Lakers still need peak Anthony Davis to compete. When he has a solid game of 15 points, nine rebounds and five assists (as he did Sunday), they lose. The Lakers need bubble Davis every night, or even if they make the postseason it will be short-lived.

Dončić dodges suspension, NBA rescinds 16th technical

Dallas Mavericks v Charlotte Hornets
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This was unexpected, especially after crew chief Kevin Scott said after the game last night: “Doncic was assessed a technical foul for his use of profanity directed at the officials in protest to a no-call that was correctly judged in postgame video review.”

The NBA league office reviewed the incident (as it does with all technicals) and rescinded what would have been Luka Doncic’s 16th technical.

That 16th technical would have triggered an automatic one game suspension. With it rescinded, Dončić is clear to play Monday night when the Mavericks take on the Pacers.

Sunday night in Charlotte, Dončić was given a technical when he didn’t get a call on a leaning baseline jumper and said something to the nearby official.

This incident comes days after Dončić was fined $35,000  for making a money gesture towards a referee in frustration after a  Mavericks loss.

Through all this the Mavericks have lost four straight, 7-of-9, and have slid back to 11th in the West, outside even the play-in. Their team is disintegrating and if they don’t pick up some wins fast they have less than two weeks until they are on summer vacation.

MVP showdown off: 76ers to sit Joel Embiid due to calf tightness

Philadelphia 76ers v Phoenix Suns
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Recently Joel Embiid said,” ‘If I win MVP, good. If I don’t, it’s fine with me.” Today’s news plays right into that narrative.

Embiid has been playing through calf tightness for a few games now — he only played a half against the Bulls last Wednesday — but still putting up numbers (46 points against the Warriors, 28 and 10 against the Suns). However, there had been some concern in the organization about not pushing things and making sure Embiid is healthy for the playoffs. Which is why they will rest him on Monday night, short-circuiting an MVP-race showdown against Nikola Jokić and the Nuggets. Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN broke the news and John Clarke of NBC Sports Philadelphia has confirmed it.

Embiid did go through part of the 76ers’ shootaround this morning. The decision was made after that point.

Undoubtedly this will spark the load management discussion around the league again, and Embiid is going to take heat for this — but this is a situation where the team’s medical staff made the call, likely over Embiid’s objection.

From the 76ers perspective what matters is having Embiid healthy during the playoffs — they are going nowhere without him — and there is no reason to take undue risks with the team all but locked into the No. 3 seed in the East.

James Harden is still expected to make his return to action Monday from a three-game absence.

But it robs fans — including those who bought tickets in Denver — of one of the great showdowns in the league, and one of the more anticipated games of the season’s final weeks. The NBA has to find a way to balance player health with having their best players on the court for the biggest games. Keep telling fans the regular season doesn’t matter and they will start treating it like that.

Joel Embiid not stressing about MVP: ‘If I win MVP, good. If I don’t, it’s fine with me.’

Philadelphia 76ers v Phoenix Suns
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Joel Embiid is the MVP betting favorite — -160 at our partner PointsBet — heading into Monday’s showdown with the reigning two-time MVP Nikola Jokić (+180 at PointsBet).

Embiid campaigned for the MVP award the past couple of years but came up second to Jokić. This season, Embiid is not stressing about it. Or at least trying not to stress about it. Here is what Embiid told Shams Charania of The Athletic.

What matters — it’s just about winning, winning, winning. I’ve been focused on that. We’ve been doing that. Whatever happens, happens. If I win MVP, good. If I don’t, it’s fine with me.

Why hasn’t Embiid won the MVP? Outside of Jokić also being deserving and the complaints of Antetokounmpo and others that the criteria for the award are constantly changing (which suggests there are criteria for the award, but there are none officially), Embiid thinks it’s because he is not well-liked.

People always thought that I was crazy when I said this — I really believe that I’m not well-liked. And it’s cool with me, that’s fine. I’ll be the bad guy. I like being the a–hole anyway. I like being the underdog. So that’s fine with me. My thing is … when I leave the game, I want to make sure that they say: No one was stopping him offensively and defensively, and he was a monster.

There’s no doubt he will leave the game remembered as one of the great 76ers and a “monster” on both ends when healthy. However, resume matters with legacy and an MVP award helps with that. Just not as much as being the best player on a championship team, something more difficult to pull off because it requires a lot of help (it’s up for debate whether Embiid has the help he needs around him to win it all, and if they can stay healthy enough to make that run).

This season the MVP race is a tight three-way contest between Embiid, Jokić and Giannis Antetokounmpo (+450 at PointsBet). There are legitimate cases to be made for each member of this trio. However, with the Sixers surging (and the Nuggets stumbling a little), things may break his way this season.

Another dominant performance against Jokić with just a couple of weeks left in the season would stick in voters’ minds and help his cause.