Picture, if you can, an NBA player with the following stats: 31.8 minutes per game, 17.2 ppg, 45.5 percent shooting from the field, 21.6 percent shooting from 3-point range, and 6.0 rpg for a 14-11 team. Is that player an All-Star?
The easy answer is an obvious "no." Unfortunately, the case is not so easy, because the player in question just happens to be Dirk Nowitzki, the reigning Finals MVP, a surefire Hall of Famer and the best foreign player in NBA history. While his performance over the first month of this bizarre NBA season hasn't earned him a spot on this year's West squad, there's a strong argument to be made that he deserves one just for his career accomplishments. An All-Star game without Nowitzki would seem to lack some essential star power.
"Averaging whatever, 15, 16 points, I don't think you should be an All-Star," Nowitzki said. "But we'll just have to wait and see. I think there is a lot of great young talent in this league that deserves to go. I think LaMarcus Aldridge has been stiff the last couple of years. He's a great young player, fun to watch. You know Blake and Love are playing great. There is a lot of talent at my position."
Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, Boston Celtics power forward Kevin Garnett and San Antonio Spurs power forward Tim Duncan are the only players with longer active All-Star appearance streaks than Nowitzki. Nevertheless, Nowitzki said he wouldn't care much if his All-Star streak ends this season.
"To me, it's more about getting right again and getting my body back in rhythm and getting used to all the grinding and running and jumping again," said Nowitzki, who sat out four games last month to go through a personal training camp and strengthen his sore right knee. "I think that's more important to me than an All-Star appearance at this point. Ultimately, (we want) to make a push after the All-Star break. That's ultimately where my head is at here."
There are at most four additional reserve spots for forwards on the West, and players like LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love, Rudy Gay and Paul Millsap have quite clearly outperformed Dirk this season. It's also totally in keeping with Dirk's selfless personality that he's more concerned with the Mavericks improving their playoff seed — they're currently just eighth — than with earning a personal accolade.
[ Related: Blazers' LaMarcus Aldridge waiting for All-Star call ]
So, if I may be so bold, let me act as Nowitzki's hype man. As I argued on Friday, the All-Star game is not only about season-to-date performance. It's an exhibition meant to sell the league in all its grandeur. In such a context, an absent Nowitzki hurts the game. For all the accomplishments of Paul Millsap this year, there are few fans outside of Utah who want to see him play with the league's best more than they do Dirk. Q-rating and reputation matter in the All-Star game — it's the NBA's version of a circus. We have the All-NBA teams for on-court merit anyway, and it's a lot less arbitrary to measure a player's quality by a full season than a few weeks of play.
Let's show the world the NBA at its hype-fueled best. Put Dirk in the All-Star game in Orlando, because not every decision has to be governed by results-based logic.
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