Cafe Witness

Friday, May 04, 2007

What Makes an MVP?

Yesterday, the Dallas Mavericks -- the NBA's best team this past season (67-15) -- were bounced from the first round of the playoffs by the 8th-seeded Golden State Warriors. This is the first time in league history that an 8 seed beat a 1 in a best-of-7 series.

Part of the reason is because the Warriors were coached by Don Nelson, the former Mavericks coach who built that team in the first place and understood most of their weaknesses.

But the bigger reason is because presumed MVP Dirk Nowitzki came up small. Repeatedly.

Keep in mind that the NBA playoffs are a best-of-7 affair, meaning a team needs to win 4 games against their opponent in order to advance. This means a good team can have a bad night and still survive. The odds of an inferior team beating the better team 4 times out of 7? Rare.

So when likely MVP Dirk Nowitzki (the MVP votes haven't been released yet) turns in one bad game after another... after another... after another... after another... basketball fans start wondering what's up. For example, in yesterday's game, which saw the Mavericks ousted:
Nowitzki finished 2-for-13 from the field with eight points, unable to prevent the NBA's biggest playoff upset ever. Nowitzki didn't make his first shot until the final minute of the first half. By the time he made his second, Dallas was already down 23 points.
The bolded text was mine to emphasize a point: Nowitzki didn't score for the first 23 minutes of the game. Knowing his team was counting on him to carry them to the next round, he instead deferred all responsibility to his teammates. In fact, Nowitzki had been complaining about how well Golden State had been defending him all series -- essentially admitting he had no solution for their gameplan.

So, instead, his solution was to stop trying.

Does that seem like Most Valuable Player behavior to you?

What You (May) Have in Common with Dirk Nowitzki

Like basketball, business and art are collaborative works. They're performed by teams, but those teams are comprised of individuals. And everyone on the team is expected to do his or her job in order for the team to succeed.

Dallas won 67 games this year because Dirk Nowitzki did whatever his team needed him to do to win. Then, Dallas was ejected from the first round of the playoffs because Dirk refused to do what his team needed him to do to win.

Why?

Was it pressure? Was it fatigue? Was it a lingering injury that no one knows about?

Was it the fact that the opposing coach also mentored Nowitzki for his first 7 years in the league, and therefore knew how to get inside his head?

Or was it a simple matter of temperament? Perhaps Nowitzki's not cut out for the high stakes, high-pressure, high-visibility role of being the top dog on the top team when the stakes are highest.

You know what? That's okay. It doesn't mean Nowitzki's not a great player. In fact, it might even validate his expected award -- he might BE the league's Most Valuable Player, because when he doesn't show up, his team is in tatters.

But when I think "MVP," I think of someone who gets the job done, no matter what, and helps his team perform even better in the process. I think of someone who helps his colleagues find creative solutions to vexing problems that could spell disaster if left unchecked. And I think of someone who rises to the challenge and performs best under pressure, when one false step could send the entire venture hurtling to the ground.

Does that sound like Dirk Nowitzki?

More importantly: Does that sound like you?

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4 Comments:

  • good piece and quit possibly true, but losing the last 7 out of 9 playoff games as a TEAM can't be all Dirk's fault.

    By Blogger Pat Jenkins, at 9:58 AM  

  • It may not be ALL Dirk's fault, but then again, isn't the Mavericks' gameplan designed to run through Dirk?

    When your star voluntarily passes the buck because things are too difficult, it's asking a lot for the entire team to adjust on the fly and suddenly play a game other than the way they're used to playing...

    ... for 9 straight games...

    By Blogger Justin Kownacki, at 10:10 AM  

  • One of the worst performances in play off history. It was hard to watch.

    Dirk just couldn't get it going last night. The whole Maverick team seemed to suffer a loss of motivation and focus. Combine that with playing at Golden State (best fans in the NBA) its tough.

    MVP=Steve Nash!!!

    By Blogger theclipshow, at 11:03 AM  

  • Dirk is a good player but not the most valuable. If anything Steve Nash should get it over Dirk

    By Anonymous Robert R., at 4:46 PM  

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