The Mavs dropped to 22-29 after a crazy, last-second loss to Atlanta on Monday in Dallas, and they are in serious danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since 1999-2000 — Dirk Nowitzki’s second year in the league. Dallas has known nothing but success since then, most of it built around a jump-shooting big man who redefined the NBA and has solidified his place as one of the 25 greatest players ever with a memorable title run in 2011. Nowitzki sat down for an extended one-on-one with Grantland after that Monday loss to reflect on his career, his legacy, the current Dallas team, Shark Tank, and Shawn Marion’s shooting mechanics. What follows is an edited transcript of our chat.
For the remainder of the NBA season, The Triangle will be breaking down the biggest games of the week. Up first: Knicks-Mavs, a game in which Tyson Chandler returned to Dallas and faced the team he won a championship ring with last season. In Dallas's 96-85 victory, Dirk Nowitzki resumed his single-footed heroics and Carmelo Anthony gave more fuel to his growing army of critics.
What Was at Stake
Since the Knicks had amassed their full arsenal of weapons — Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, Baron Davis, and Iman Shumpert returned from injury, and J.R. Smith came back from joyriding junkets down the Yangtze River — they’d gone 2-3, with losses to Boston, Miami, and New Jersey going into Tuesday's game. The two wins were in games that presented challenges as daunting as spotting someone in Los Angeles wearing a fedora: One was a trouncing of a depleted Atlanta team, the other a rout of the Cavs. (Even then, the Knicks trailed at the half by 12.)