Nowitzki: 'I don't know what's going on with my free throws'
By EDDIE SEFKO
The Dallas Morning News
Dirk Nowitzki flashed that sheepish grin and said something that cannot be repeated when it was jokingly mentioned to him that Tyson Chandler should be shooting technical-foul free throws from now on.
That's the way it is for the best player in Mavericks' history. There have been so few flaws in his game the last several seasons that it's hard to be serious about nitpicking.
Even if he misses five of 13 from the line over the last two games or fails to box out his man, who happens to grab 18 rebounds, you tend to forgive him because of everything else he does.
But there's somebody in the organization who doesn't excuse his failings.
"No one's going to be a harsher critic of his game than him," coach Rick Carlisle said. "One of the things we've all got to do is make sure he's not too hard on himself. He's going to take a lot of that stuff personally because, as the face of the franchise, he wants a responsibility for winning and losing. That's what makes him a special player.
"That's what's made [Jason] Kidd a special player, what made Reggie Miller great, what made Larry Bird great. They're different creatures. They're very special."
All true. Except from the free throw line lately.
"Yeah, I don't know what's going on with my free throws," Nowitzki said.
What's happened is that his percentage has dropped all the way down to .831, which would be fabulous for about 95 percent of all NBA players.
But considering Nowitzki shot 91.5 percent from the line last season, it's a bit unusual. He recently said that all he'd have to do is make 25 in a row and he'd be back to 90 percent.
After the last couple of games, he'd now have to make 53 in a row to get back to 90 percent.
During an 8-4 start, Nowitzki has been as consistent as any Maverick, in spite of a sprained ankle that limited his mobility for several games. And the free throw issue will almost certainly pass, not that he doesn't take it personally.
Most of his teammates realize how hard the team's best player is on himself.
For instance, after going 8-of-22 from the field in Saturday's win at Atlanta, Nowitzki was blunt:
"Everybody played well. The only guy who was really cold was me."
That self-deprecating style should rub off on everybody. He was equally miffed with himself when Chicago's Taj Gibson grabbed 18 rebounds on Friday.
Nowitzki was at least partly responsible for blocking out the Bulls' forward.
Of course, Nowitzki had 36 points in that game to more than offset whatever he surrendered on the offensive glass to Gibson.
Learning new tricks: Chandler said he didn't want to be one of those big men who teams could foul knowing he would be good for one free throw, at best.
So he put in a lot of time and effort on practicing free throws the last couple of years.
"He's worked hard on it," Carlisle said. "He was leading the team there for a while. I think it's great for other guys to see that. It shows that, regardless of your age, you can get better if you work at it."
Briefly: A momentous occasion transpired in the first quarter against Atlanta on Saturday. DeShawn Stevenson posted up, made a spin move and dropped in a 16-foot jumper. It was the first two-point field goal he's made all season. He's 13-of-23 from 3-point range and 1-of-4 inside the arc. ... The Mavericks rested on Sunday and will get back to practice today. They play four games in five nights starting Tuesday against Detroit.