It happened again. Steve Nash and the Sun’s elimination from the playoffs produced a nation-wide question: Why doesn’t Nash, a two time MVP, get blamed when his team loses early? Well, that is not only a stupid question; it is an easily answered one. First, last season wasn’t Nash’s fault. They didn’t have Amare, and last I checked they still did pretty damn good. Second, this season was Robert Horry’s fault. He single handedly gave the Suns their exit tickets, and you can thank the NBA for that. The suspensions of Stoudamire and Diaw were ridiculous. But I don’t want to focus on the Suns. I don’t want to take it one step further and say,” Nash? What about Shaq and D-Wade?” I don’t even want to begin to dissect the many reasons why those two stars were heavily responsible for a drastic collapse and sweep by the hands of the younger Chicago Bulls. Wait, yes I do.The Maverick’s blown first round series to the Warriors showed us all what a star in this league is treated like when they can’t carry the weight of their city’s hope and dreams. If they can’t win the big games, they are choke artists. Their posters come off of young kid’s walls, and dads everywhere throw a glass against the wall. Dirk Nowitzki just cost them five thousand dollars, their daughter’s tuition money, and any self respect they were still clinging to. Dirk Nowitzki, the great basketball player, blew it for his team and everyone else. At least, that’s what the media wants you to believe. The Mavericks, the league’s best team and title favorites with 67 regular season wins, were downed by a more athletic and more aggressive team.
And who is blamed? It’s not Avery Johnson’s fault. No, even though he clearly couldn’t handle the pressure near the end of Game 4 when his mentor and former head coach of the Mav’s was sitting on the opposite bench, booming with confidence. It couldn’t be the supporting cast’s fault. Impossible. Josh Howard only decided to show up in game 6, performing a wonderful disappearing act in Games 3 and 4 in the 4th quarter. And the rest of the supporting cast? They did just enough to make you believe that they were the Miami Heat. This, interestingly enough, brings me to my main point.
Dirk Nowitzki, arguably the best player at his position, and in the top 10 in the NBA, is to blame for this quick exit, but why? In a blog by former NBA player Eddie Johnson on Hoopshype.com, Miami Heat stars Dwayne Wade and Shaq are defended to the death after an early first round exit by the reigning NBA champs at the hands of the Chicago Bulls. These two stars are the sole reason why the Heat won the title last year to begin with, just as Nowitzki is the reason the Mavericks made it to the Finals last year. So why should their scrutiny be any different, any less painful to endure? Why is Eddie Johnson writing an article saying that the Heat’s woes and the reason for their non repeat is because Jason Williams is slowing down or all Jason Kapono can do is shoot threes? If Antoine Walker can’t shoot 3’s and Udonis Haslem isn’t what he was last year, then why are they even playing?
My point is I am tired of seeing star athletes being barraged by reporters with questions about how they underperformed, while their supporting cast remains unbothered. In the Heat’s case, the two superstars, who are the face of the franchise and the leaders of the team, are not the scapegoats. They are the martyrs. But with Nowitzki, even though he is getting fouled every time he shoots and no one cares, he is still deemed the reason for the failure. It’s not Dirk Nowitzki, Hall of Famer. It’s Nowitzki, red-headed step child.
The beautiful thing about this is that it cycles itself all the way back to last year’s NBA Finals. In that series, Dallas, the obviously deeper and superior team, was up two games to none and looking at making it 3-0. And then what happened? The referees let the Heat hassle Nowtizki and the Mav’s even more than usual, as well as gave Wade phantom fouls whenever he snapped his fingers. Wade later went on to say that Nowitzki was the reason why the Heat beat the Mav’s. Nowitzki was weak and let it slip away. And whether or not he is right or the media is right now is not the point. What is the point is that the finger pointing is far too inconsistent. If one star is to blame then all stars all to blame. Otherwise, where do you draw the line? It’s okay that Kobe’s Lakers failed to get past the Suns because he’s amazing and his supporting cast, well, simply is not. And maybe that is so, but if it is, then guys like Nowitzki and Nash should be seen under the same microscope.
But to answer the allegations against Dirk; yes, Nowitzki is cracking folks, but not under the pressure. He is beginning to see something that I have seen for a very long time. The rule of judgment is not equal for all stars, and it is becoming painfully obvious Nowitzki is set up to fail. What is more painfull obvious, however, is that everyone wants him to.