Mavs following Nowitzki's lead toward top of the West
"I'm just not a rah-rah kind of guy," Nowitzki said. "I'm just more of a quiet guy, always have been. But I think I've become more comfortable over the years saying a little something. As you get older, you learn how to handle situations better, on and off the floor. I still could be better I guess, but I've evolved."
It should be enough that the 31-year-old Nowitzki has guided Dallas to the second-best record in the West. It should be enough that Nowitzki is on track to record his 10th consecutive 21-point, eight-rebound season. It should be enough that the 7-foot, 245-pound power forward sees his job through the prism of his team.
But some Mavericks fans, who felt cheated out of a title when the team won 127 regular-season games from 2005-2007 as their franchise player was getting paid handsomely to bring them one, want more. They want a vocal, take-the-reins leader.
"If we win, I did my job as a leader," said Nowitzki, the 2007 MVP. "Some nights it might be scoring 30, some nights it might be getting 12 or 13 rebounds, some nights I might have to be a decoy and set some screens to get guys open. If we win, I'm fine with whatever I do."
That isn't exactly
As Dallas looks ahead to the second half of the season and ultimately the playoffs, Nowitzki's biggest challenge may start at home. The Mavs have already lost six times at American Airlines Center, more home defeats than they had in six of the past eight seasons. Plus, their 12 home wins (against six losses) are one fewer than their road tally (13-6).
"For some reason, on the road we shoot better than we do at home," Nowitzki said. "We haven't really made shots at home, we haven't really played well. We're actually trying to figure that out."
What doesn't need figuring out is the Mavs' 8-0 record when shooting at least 50 percent, and their 7-8 record when shooting less than 44 percent.
"I never thought I would say this, but we've got to work on some things on offense," Nowitzki said. "We need to move the ball a little more and get guys to the right spots."
And despite their recent lapses, the Mavs rank eighth in defensive field-goal percentage (44.7) -- a skill they will need to maintain pace in the West, not to mention an essential element in their bid to make another run at that elusive championship.
But Dallas' immediate future depends on Nowitzki, and his willingness to develop as a player and a person where Dallas' immediate future lies.
"I'm still not as efficient in the post as I want to be," Nowitzki said. "I'm trying to get better at understanding the angles down there, how to attack and where to attack, and how to play against double teams."
He also has learned to play against the pressure of an impatient fan base and, lately, the tabloid press after his fiancée was arrested at his home and eventually sentenced to five years in prison for violating probation in a prior forgery and theft case. "My private life had never been looked at before. It wasn't something I liked but I've been around the media for 12 years and I understand it was a big story. "I've tried to move on. I didn't want to change and be all by myself. For me, basketball was an escape; I was with my friends in the locker room and they treated me normally, they made me laugh."
Enjoy as he does time with the guys, Nowitzki isn't just one of them, but after a most trying year, he's earned the right to be treated line one.
• "Why did they take me? You should take someone that they really think was gonna play right away because just taking someone to sit on the bench, you waste a pick and you waste the guy's time. You wasted my time for three years not playing so you [mess] up a player and you [mess] up yourself, and I just didn't get it. So I just didn't get it. I guess they thought they were gonna be champions forever. I don't know."
• "I didn't like the cold when I lived there, and I don't like it now."
• "I just think I've played too much basketball."