If anyone questions Dirk Nowitzki’s toughness, they may want to first give Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey a call.
As an assistant coach with the Mavs when they won the 2011 NBA title, Casey recalls the events prior to Game 5 of that Finals series against the Miami Heat. That’s when Heat superstars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were fake-coughing and mocking a serious cough that was bothering Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki.
That demonstration by James and Wade didn’t go over well with Nowitzki — or with the Mavs.
“I remember the night in the championship round that Wade and James questioned whether he was really sick,” Casey said before Monday’s game between the Mavs and Raptors. “[Nowitzki] came out and gave them [21 points and 11 rebounds] with a 104 fever, and that’s toughness.
“A lot of guys would have mailed it in: ‘I can’t go tonight.’ But he was going to prove to those guys, and he was sick. He was legitimately sick that night and he came out and had a helluva game and got us [a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series and] we went on to win the championship.”
Last week Nowitzki became the sixth player in NBA history to score at least 30,000 points. The accomplishment wasn’t lost on Casey.
“He put European basketball players on the map,” Casey said. “I know [Arvydas] Sabonis is one, but he came over at a later age.
“Dirk was one of the true big men that came over that could shoot the basketball. But again, he made himself who he is today, he put in the work, he developed the 3-point shot, he developed a toughness that everybody at first said he didn’t have when he first came in the league — now he’s got it — and he’s one of the toughest guys I know in the league.”
Casey certainly got no argument from coach Rick Carlisle in his assessment of Nowitzki.
“He is so consistent with everything,” Carlisle said. “He does the little things every single moment that he is in the arena, and he’s so consistent with it that it progresses the level of greatness and it just allows him to continue playing at a high level, even at the age of 38-and-a-half or almost 39.”
Noel missed his third straight game
Mavs center Nerlens Noel missed his third straight game on Monday with a sore left knee. However, he believes he’ll be ready to play when the Mavs face the Washington Wizards on Wednesday.
“I’ve felt the best I’ve felt in the past few days,” Noel said. “It’s a pretty close decision, but I’m just a little too uncomfortable to play.
“Like I said, it’s the best I’ve felt, so it’s only going to get better and it’ll be even better tomorrow.”
In the six games he’s played since the Mavs acquired him in a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers on Feb. 23, Noel has averaged 10 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 24.2 minutes per contest. The third-year veteran has the ability to change the game with his athleticism, but he can’t do that unless his knee heals, thus allowing him to get some time on the court.
Noel had some swelling in his knee, but said it has gone down.
“It goes down every day, but I think today was at that point where it’s borderline,” Noel said. “That’s where it was, and I guess it was on the other side.
“So as I said, I’ll probably be good by tomorrow, and Wednesday for sure.”