What a difference a year makes, though, as Nowitzki and the Mavericks are on the verge of seeing their season come to an end, trailing the Oklahoma City Thunder 3-0 in their first-round series.
As is the case with any superstar, they are going to get the credit when things are going well, but they also need to shoulder the blame during tough times—and Nowitzki deserves a lot for the poor season the defending champs have had in 2012.
In this case, though, it's well deserved. Nowitzki is the biggest culprit for the Mavericks failed season.
It was going to be tough for the Mavs to repeat anyway, given the key losses of big parts of their championship team in Tyson Chandler and J.J. Barea, but this team still should have been better than they finished.
Some offseason acquisitions like Lamar Odom didn't exactly work out, but a lot of this needs to go squarely on the shoulders of Dirk.
He's Dallas' leader and go-to guy, but he began the season admittedly out of shape. Nowitzki struggled early and as a result the Mavericks dug themselves a hole. The Mavs lost four of their first five games and while they were able to put together a couple of nice winning streaks during the season, they really never recovered from their early-season woes.
Sure the lockout affected things and the season started suddenly, but having your leader not in prime condition really was inexcusable.
Nowitzki had to sit out four games in late January to get his body in shape and it took far too long for him to get his game in gear. The finals MVP averaged only 15.1 points per game through January and while he did pick things up and finished averaging 21.6 PPG, it was a case of "too little too late" for Nowitzki.
Then there's been his less-than-average play this postseason. He scored during the first two games, but his six turnovers in Game 1 were a killer and after two tough losses, a 6-of-15 performance from the floor in Game 3 just doesn't cut it.
So while there were plenty of factors to the Mavs underachieving season, Nowitzki also deserves a big part of the blame.
There may not be much basketball left for Dallas this season, but the Mavs will re-tool and hopefully Dirk comes back in 2013 as the Nowitzki everyone expects him to be.
But he needs to do it for an entire season next year.
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