Dirk Nowitzki's Lack of Killer Instinct Killing Dallas Mavericks

Cock of the WalkContributor IMay 6, 2009

DENVER - MAY 03:  Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks looks on against the Denver Nuggets in Game One of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at Pepsi Center on May 3, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Mavericks 109-95. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

I've been a Dirk fan and apologist for years.

I've ignored his inconsistent killer instinct because I love his game so much.  The patience, the footwork—I'm a sucker for it.

But I have to admit that his lack of consistent motivation to destroy his opponent has and still is holding him and his team back.

It seems as though sometimes he either doesn't understand who he is as a player, or doesn't understand how important it is for a team to have its best player assert himself and impose his will.

When Dirk was at his best—in 2005, the 2006 Western Conference playoffs, and the 2007 regular season—he had "beast" written all over him every time he walked on the floor.

He had the Dirk sneer going in full effect and played with passion and intensity.  He worked tirelessly, but with ease between the top of the key and the free-throw line to get the shot he wanted and made his defender work even harder.  He made every clutch shot.

Ever since the Golden State Warriors debacle, that attitude and passion that made him the best player on the planet for a year has been missing.  It's obvious that at one point he had that killer instinct it takes to carry the Mavs, but it seems like he fell into the trap of believing what people were saying about him being soft and not cut out to be "the man" on a championship team.

Dirk needs to find a way to reassert himself as a dominant force and get his "beast" back.  I don't know if Dirk understands that any team Mark Cuban builds over the next few years is going to be built around him on the assumption he can be the man.

And he can be.  Kenny Smith said the other night that nobody can guard Dirk, and while I don't know if that's an iron-clad truth, it's not far off.  Barkley hit on the missing ingredient when he said that a great player needs to go into every game against every defender with the mindset that "this guy can't guard me."

Dirk isn't LeBron James or Kevin Garnett.  He can't dominate the game in three or four different ways equally.  If he is going to dominate a game, it is going to be by scoring and drawing double-teams to open up the floor.

That means every time he goes out there, he wants to score an efficient number of points.

Like Barkley said, you can go in with the understanding that a guy is going to make you work, but you can't go in with the mindset to be passive and change what you do because of that.  You have to go in with the mindset that you're going to work harder and get what you want because that's what great players do.  That's why he was the best player on the planet for a good year.

This series is surprisingly winnable for the Mavs, considering they were the sixth seed in the Western Conference. However, the only way they can win is if Dirk plays like the best player on the floor every night.  I already believe that he is, but he's got to play like it, and that means going out there with the mindset that he is going to dominate and get what he wants.

It will put more pressure on the Nuggets defense and inspire his teammates