Thursday, May 12, 2005
Nowitzki's method of lighting a fire under a
teammate is not recommended
First let me say, I wasn't there. I wasn't at the postgame press conference in Phoenix after Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals, in the aftermath of the Suns' 127-102 whipping of the Dallas Mavericks. I emphasize this fact because I missed the question that prompted Mavs' forward Dirk Nowitzki to treat teammate Erick Dampier like a pinata -- verbally. But somehow I don't think the question is relevant. What Nowitzki did violated just about every rule of team camaraderie that I know of -- calling a teammate out publicly, practically putting the blame of a loss squarely on his shoulders.
"We didn't get much out of him," Nowitzki said at the podium. That's how these comments are recorded nowadays -- at podiums, usually solo, very organized and with plenty of time to think about what you're about to say. Nowitzki's comments weren't in the heat of the moment, with a microphone stuck in his face as he changed into his civvies. They came at least 30 minutes following the final buzzer, after the respective coaches had a chance to speak. "He's a step slow on everything," Nowitzki continued. "He never got involved in the game. He has always been in foul trouble. The first series was the same thing. He gets a quick two fouls in the first two or three minutes, and we can't be aggressive any more. Then he gets the third foul and has to sit."
That would have been bad enough, but for some reason, Nowitzki didn't see to it to stop there.
"The bottom line is we've got to get something out of our center position," he said. "We really haven't gotten anything out of it."
You should know, Nowitzki's venom was spewed after he himself shot just 5-for-14 in the blowout loss.
Unfortunately, Nowitzki's comments about his own performance didn't get nearly the air play. Probably because he was much easier on himself than his teammate.
Not surprisingly, Dampier fired back.
"He can say what he wants," Dampier said. "We really didn't get a lot from anyone. This is not a one individual game. It's a team concept. We didn't play the way we are capable of playing, so for him to say something like that is totally stupid."
Erick Dampier is totally correct.
Can you imagine if, say, Bruce Smith of the Buffalo Bills strode to the podium after Super Bowl XXV and said of placekicker Scott Norwood, who had missed the field goal that would have won the game at the gun, "We really didn't get what we needed out of our kicker. It's the same thing -- he misses kicks he should make."
Of course not.
Granted, Dampier's play, though not up to par, wasn't as directly responsible for the Mavs' loss as Norwood's miss was for the Bills in the Super Bowl, which is only the biggest event in the history of the world (I exaggerate, but only slightly). But Dampier is right -- basketball is a team game, and it's up to teammates to pick up the slack when one of the starting five is struggling. You usually don't prop up team morale by publicly blasting one of your own, especially in the playoffs.
Dampier called Nowitzki's comments "totally stupid" -- totally correct
But my praise goes to Dallas coach Avery Johnson, who spoke to both players, apparently cleared the air -- or at least sprayed emotional disinfectant in the area -- and got the team ready to play Game 2, a 108-106 victory that tied the series. Bravo.
"Maybe it was what I said," Nowitzki said of Dampier, who had 15 points and 12 rebounds.
So what's next, Dirk? Personal attacks on Dampier's mother? Or are you saving that for motivation for a possible Game 7?