DONUT 1: DIRK'S SHADOW
DALLAS - "Fan Jam'' is today at the AAC, doors opening at 11:30 a.m. to allow MFFLs to witness a practice session ... and the casting of a Shadow.
The Dirk Nowitzki Shadow is a long one - longer even that his 7-1 frame. And it's not a negative shadow, but rather a protective one. Yet now it's time for the young Dallas Mavericks duo of Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis to emerge from it.
"I think that it’s really important to always remember Dirk's massive contributions to this franchise, to a championship, and to the kind of integrity that he brought to the club, both as a player and as someone in the community,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said as training camp began this week.''
DONUT 2: THE BIG CHANGE - AND MORE
“It’s a big change without him,'' he said. “But Luka and KP have got to take the reins from Dirk and Jason Kidd and Jason Terry and that group of franchise players. I know they’re excited to take on that challenge.”
DONUT 3: SPREADING CREDIT
I find it notable that Rick would make the wise choice to toss Kidd and Jet in there, too. They were also key not only to the 2011 NBA title, but also to the culture around here during that time. Serious-minded but fun-loving, too.
But that's Dirk, right? Kidd, earlier in his career (especially with the Nets), had to carry a team. (Which he did successfully, by the way.) Jet was never quite enough of a powerhouse to do that, but he morphed wonderfully here into Dirk's on-court sidekick.
I think Jet got more serious about the business of winning basketball thanks to Dirk. I think Kidd had more fun playing the game of basketball because of Dirk.
It's smart of Rick to cite other foundational people from the previous era of Mavs basketball. One, they deserve credit. And two, it's a reminder that one guy usually can't do it alone.
Even though Nowitzki almost did ...
No matter what, though, it all comes back to the 7-1 shadow of Dirk.
DONUT 4: LUKA GETS IT ALREADY
Luka, I believe, already completely understands all of this -- understands it not only from a general leadership perspective, but also from a DFW- and Dirk-specific perspective. Nowitzki isn't just a "leader'' here; he's an iconic presence, with his fingerprints all over virtually ever single thing this franchise has done right in the last 21 years.
Doncic is a basketball savant. But he's also a "magnetic'' person and that's the stuff of leadership. He's a "sharer'' on the court, and that's QB-type leadership. And then, anything he didn't already have in his DNA regarding "grabbing the baton'' he surely absorbed from having Nowitzki figuratively hand it to him.
DONUT 5: QUOTABLE LUKA
Said Doncic on the subject: "(I want to) “Follow in Dirk’s steps. You know, he’s been here, what, 21 years? I want to stay here. They want me over here. So, just follow in Dirk’s steps.”
Read that again. That isn't just about Luka wishing to emulate Dirk as a leader and a star. I read it as Luka envisioning himself emulating Nowitzki as ... a North Texan.
This merits further investigation. Stay tuned.
DONUT 6: NOW TO KP
Meanwhile, I would suggest that KP is only in the process of learning about it all. "Leadership''? Yes, at age 24, he knows what that means. But his previous NBA experience, with the New York Knicks, seems to have been a largely rudderless one.
KP knows Dirk, has long looked up to him, emulates him already in many ways.
But taking the reins from him? Big job, there.
DONUT 7: QUOTABLE KP
Said KP: “All I know is that we’ve got huge shoes to fill, me and Luka, with Dirk being gone now. What he created for this city, for this organization in 20 years of a certain culture. We have huge shoes to fill. Both Luka and I are excited about that.”
DONUT 8: ON THE FLOOR
After all these months of talking about it and speculating about it, seeing KP and Luka together on the floor these last few days is an undeniable treat -- a treat that fans are sure to enjoy today.
There is part of me that wants to curb by great joy and enthusiasm with a reminder of how far away they might truly be from the level of greatness we all experienced during Dirk's time.
But then I tell myself to shut up and watch ...
DONUT 9: VIDEO LOOK-IN
Fun watching Luka and KP get along during Media Day ...
And more fun in a shooting contest on Wednesday ...
Yes, we are entertained.
DONUT 10: MAVSCELLANEOUS
The Mavs will continue to hold back Delon Wright (hamstring) so don't expect much of him in today's Fan Jam or in the Tuesday preseason opener against the Thunder at Tulsa.
DONUT 11: BECOMING 'THE SHADOWS'
Carlisle is correct when he says (often) that the Nowitzki impact and influence on this franchise cannot be overstated. The "shadow'' is also a silhouette on the AAC gym floor, and the "shadow'' will someday be a statue, too. How soon Doncic and Porzingis embrace the legacy, learn from it and in a sense "become it'' will tell the tale of where the post-Dirk Dallas Mavericks are going ... and how long it'll take them to get there.
DONUT 12: THE FINAL WORD
“It is different for sure. I have been saying this for the past two or three years. When Dirk is no longer here, it would be the end of the world as we know it.” - Rick Carlisle, knowing full-well that while it's the end of one world ... it's the birthing of another.