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Is It Time For Dirk Nowitzki To Leave Dallas?

Ashwath KrishnaContributor IMay 1, 2010

SAN ANTONIO - APRIL 29:  Forward Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks takes a shot against Manu Ginobili #20 of the San Antonio Spurs in Game Six of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center on April 29, 2010 in San Antonio, Texas. 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 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

There isn't a Golden State fan alive who doesn't remember every bit of the 2007 Warriors-Mavs playoff series.

I can guarantee you that every single one of my ex-girlfriends started dating me with no knowledge of basketball, and broke up with me knowing just who Boom Dizzle is, why I own every piece of Sydney Kings merchandise that has any connection to Stephen Jackson's four game stint in 1998 (which proved an expensive and time-consuming quest), and why I have "We Believe" tattooed on my back in Hindi.

And my friends have told me that they seriously considered getting me professional help after I gave them the entire Game Six play by play for the hundredth time...six months after the game itself.

However, for every joyous celebration there's always a despondent loser.

In this case, that role was filled by the Mavericks and specifically Dirk Nowitzki. The loss in the 2006 Finals to Miami when his Mavs were favorites to win their first ring, clearly did a minor number on Dirk.

However, they lost that series because Dwyane Wade treated it as his coming-out-party and because Shaq was still the best big man in the league.

There were no excuses for the Mavs in 2007.

While the Warriors were fired up, the Oracle was off the hook loud and Baron Davis was playing the best basketball of his career, the fact remains that Dirk could and should have dominated the series on his own purely because of his size advantage in the paint and the Warriors' inability to play consistent interior defense.

But the past is the past.

Only, it doesn't seem to be that way for Dirk.

In every playoff game I've seen him play since then, he seems to be almost haunted by 2007 and how they blew an unloseable series and, as such, rarely brings his A-game.

When Dirk doesn't bring his A-game, the Mavs inevitably lose.

This season was supposed to be different. The Mavs brought in Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood just before the trade deadline for Josh Howard's expiring deal and little else.

Finally, Dirk was given the supporting cast that would put the Mavs over the top and bring Mark Cuban and the Mavs their first ring. 

Of course, things didn't go as planned and the Mavs faced another first round exit, this time at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs.

As the old saying goes, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."

But "Fool me five times, shame on Dirk!" 

It may not have a very catchy feel, but this has to be how Mavs fans are feeling. Some of them are undoubtedly asking an even bigger question; is Dirk Nowitzki capable of leading a team to a ring?

Had you asked me this question five years ago, I would have said, undoubtedly, yes.

Even if you'd asked me just after the Warriors series I would have probably agreed (after regaling you with Baron's best plays from the series).

Now?

I just get the feeling from watching Dirk this series that his playoff failures have weighed on him to the point where I don't think he believes he can carry the Mavs to a ring. If your superstar is in that frame of mind, you can't win.

Plain and simple.

Everyone in the NBA is ultra-competitive. You don't become a professional athlete without being so. Most superstars, however, go beyond being merely competitive. They all have the belief that they can destroy the opposition, nay, that they will destroy the opposition, and more often than not they do so.

While losses anger them, the don't play on their mind as they fully believe they're gonna get theirs in the next game.

Jordan had it.

Kobe has it.

Shaq had it at his peak.

LeBron has it.

So does Wade. 

Dirk? I just don't think he has it.

I'm not denying the quality of Dirk as a player. It's hard to forget that he practically revolutionised the role of big men in the NBA and forced the league to start taking European players seriously as NBA stars.

Without Dirk, the road would have been much harder for Pau Gasol, Andrei Kirilenko and Nikoloz Tskitishvili (OK, forget I mentioned him).

Even today, you'd still have to argue that he's a top-20 player in the league who can get you 25 points and 8 rebounds per game while shooting close to the magic 50/40/90. 

However, he turns 32 this June. Even though he's the ultimate finesse big man and hasn't had any major injury problems through his career, age wears on us all and causes even the best to lose a step or two.

That said, Dirk could still very plausibly play a major role on a contending team. And almost every team in the league would welcome him with open arms for the right price.

What would the Bennett City Hijackers (sorry, it's for my Sonics-loving dad) give for his veteran experience on their young team? Surely the Knicks or Nets or whoever else wants to try lure LeBron or Wade would realise that getting a guy like him as a sidekick would be pretty helpful?

Up until now, Dirk has said that he couldn't imagine playing anywhere else, but since his latest playoff loss, he's started to sing a different tune.

A lot of people forget that he is a free agent at the end of this year. While he has a $20 million player option that would be hard to decline, I'm sure that at this point of his career he's starting to wonder whether it's worth taking a pay cut and winding back his role if it means he can win that ring he obviously desires, yet seemingly doesn't believe he can achieve on his own.

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