|By breaking club scoring mark, Nowitzki seals case as greatest Mav of all|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 09 March 2008 09:48|
OK, so he's probably had that distinction for a while. But the big German cemented his status Saturday night by moving to No. 1 on the franchise's career scoring list.
``Yeah, he's the best player in Mavs history. That's for sure,'' said Rolando Blackman, the previous scoring leader and one of two players whose numbers have been retired. ``By the time it's all over, of course, he'll have all the records to prove it.''
Actually, Ro, he pretty much does.
Of the 22 categories the team charts in the ``career leaders'' section of its media guide, Nowitzki is among the top 10 in all but field-goal percentage. Even before this weekend, he was No. 1 on six lists, including most rebounds, 3-pointers and free throws.
Then, with 4:38 left in a runaway win over New Jersey on Saturday night, Nowitzki made a fadeaway 18-foot jumper, giving him 34 points on the night and 16,644 in his career, one more than Blackman for the top spot on the scoring list.
``Ro has supported me ever since I got here, so it hurts a little to take his record,'' Nowitzki said. ``But it's definitely a great honor.''
Being the best Mavericks player ever isn't the same as being among the greats for the Celtics or the Lakers. Heck, Dallas has only the third-best history among NBA teams in Texas. (Shawn Bradley is among the most productive big men ever to wear the blue and green.)
Yet Nowitzki is a major reason the club's reputation is as good as it is.
Only San Antonio has won more games than Dallas since he arrived in 1998-99. If that doesn't impress you, then you've forgotten that the Mav-wrecks had the lowest winning percentage of teams in all four major pro sports in the 1990s.
Nowitzki got Dallas to its first NBA finals in 2006. He helped the Mavs challenge the league record with 67 wins last season and became the club's first MVP winner.
He's made All-NBA the last three years and played in eight straight All-Star games. He became the first 7-footer to win the 3-point shooting contest. Only Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson have scored more points than Nowitzki over his 10 seasons.
``It's been an amazing ride,'' Nowitzki said. ``When I first got here, I don't think a lot of people believed in me. They saw a skinny little 7-footer who could shoot a little bit but really had nothing else to him.
``Having some amazing teammates to share that ride with me, and some amazing coaches, they always gave me confidence. My first year, I didn't play much, but the fans were always great to me. They've shown me a lot of love. Really, I'm happy to be a Maverick.''
Critics still poke holes in his game and his character, blaming him for the Mavericks blowing a 2-0 lead in the finals and for getting knocked out in the first round after their 67 wins.
But step back and consider his career arc, going from a skinny 20-year-old who had to be talked into moving to Dallas because he didn't think he was ready for the NBA into someone widely considered the greatest European-reared player in league history.
And at 29, he might only be halfway through his career.
``I kid with him all the time, but you don't luck into 15-, 16,000 points - you know how to do it,'' said teammate Jerry Stackhouse, who has a big brother-like relationship with Nowitzki. ``He made himself into a great player in this league. He didn't come into the league like that. I think it's great that he has the record for this franchise.''
Nowitzki's work ethic is what sets him apart.
He's at the gym shooting well into the night, even after a long practice in the afternoon. Every offseason, he goes back to Germany and refines his game with his mentor, Holger Geschwindner.
Geschwindner saw Nowitzki's potential the first time they met. Realizing that a guy big enough to be a center but with the touch of a shooting guard would attract the NBA's interest, they built his ``toolbox'' - as Geschwindner calls it - from the outside in. That's why he mastered the 3 long before the left-handed hook shot he's recently started showing off.
Nowitzki's defense has gone from embarrassing to respectable. His post game has improved, too. This season, he's become a more reliable passer, even notching his first triple-double.
``You realized he was special after he struggled a bit in his first year in the league, then came back for his second year and was adjusting, understanding what it took to get better,'' Blackman said. ``You saw a guy that worked very, very hard. The years proved it out. Each and every year he got better and better, more consistent.''
Nowitzki is the sixth active player who is a franchise's leading scorer, but Charlotte's Gerald Wallace and Miami's Alonzo Mourning are the only others still playing for the team they lead.
Those who play elsewhere: Boston's Kevin Garnett for Minnesota; Pau Gasol of the Lakers for Memphis and New Jersey's Vince Carter for Toronto.