DALLAS – One day after some people tried to liken Dirk Nowitzki’s(notes) performance in Game 4 of the NBA Finals to Michael Jordan’s famous “flu game,” Dallas Mavericks general manager Donnie Nelson had a different comparison for his ailing All-Star:
Willis Reed, the New York Knicks forward who tried to play through a torn thigh muscle in Game 7 of the 1970 Finals.
“I think last night was one of those inspirational gut performances in Mavericks history,” Nelson said of Nowitzki, who played with a high fever and drove for a key basket with 14.4 seconds left. “That was our version of Willis Reed. If he doesn’t tough it out and he doesn’t come back, there is no way. … I don’t even know how he could stand in that fourth quarter because it was a physically taxing game.
“Hat’s off. We’re here at 2-2 because of him.”
The Mavericks learned of Nowitzki’s illness during Tuesday morning’s shootaround and immediately sent him home. In hopes of not aiding Miami’s preparation, Nelson said that Dallas did not let the media or public know anything about Nowitzki’s condition. Nowitzki received intravenous fluids before and after the game.
Nelson described Nowitzki as looking like a ghost before the game and said he was “put through every test known to man.” It wasn’t widely known Nowitzki was sick until it was reported during the game.
Nowitzki, who scored 10 of his 21 points in the final quarter, said he felt better Wednesday.
“I tried to get out of here pretty quick, go home, take a long shower and just go to bed right away,” said Nowitzki, who is averaging 26.5 points in the Finals. “I had some soup and had a good meal. Just drank some fluids, drank some tea and just feel a lot better today. I still got a little high temperature, but the fever is basically gone. So that's obviously the main concern always.
“Anything else, the sniffles or the cough, you don't really care about that as long as the fever is gone. That's the main thing you worry about.”
Nowitzki was still coughing on Wednesday, but he looked livelier. He was able to sleep in and didn’t do much during the Mavericks’ workout. Nowitzki said he was considering returning to the arena Wednesday night to get some shots up and break a sweat for about 30 minutes.
Nelson preferred Nowitzki stay home.
“If anything, he’ll probably do free throws [Wednesday night], some technical stuff,” Nelson said. “He’s a big boy now and he understands he can’t be burning up energy like he did when he was 22.”
Along with the sinus infection, Nowitzki also is playing with an injured middle finger on his left hand. Even so, Miami guard Dwyane Wade(notes), who has been bothered by a shoulder injury, isn’t impressed. The mention of Nowitzki’s illness before Wednesday’s Heat practice brought more skepticism from Wade.
“Everyone is injured at this time,” Wade said. “I'm not going to get into the fun-loving story of him being sick, either. Once you show up on the court, you show up on the court. Everyone is equal. He's a great player without all the dramatics of the stories that's been going on. That won't change anything that goes on in his career.”
- Donnie Nelson