There are about 10 games remaining for each team this season, which means it’s time for coaches and other staffers to solve the complicated riddle that is trying to figure out when to rest your starters versus playing at full-strength for playoff positioning. It’s a tricky tightrope to walk, because you want your big guns fresh for the playoffs but you don’t want them rusty. So confusing.
Well, Dirk Nowitzi is making things easy on Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle. He’s telling the Jim Carrey look-a-like “nein” to the idea of sitting out games down the stretch. From ESPN:
“I never like preserving energy. I always like to go for it and like to go with momentum into the playoffs,” Nowitzki said. “Actually one of my worst playoff runs was when I rested and I was rusty in the playoffs. I always like to go for it. I like to play for something down the stretch and that’s when I always have my best playoffs. It might be a little different for J-Kidd, who is a little older.”
You guys know what he’s talking about right? The time when he was rested and rusty? That’s 2007 when Dirk — who, in the playoffs, averages 25.6 points per game while shooting .459 from the field and .372 from three — went for 19.7 ppg on .383/.211 shooting in a six-game first round loss to the Warriors after sitting out the Mavs’ second-to-last game and playing just 25 minutes in their final regular season tilt. That’s what he’s talking about. Even if “I never like preserving energy” is a weird way of saying it, maybe he’s right.
More interesting, though, is the continued mental impact losing that series to the Warriors has on Nowitzki. After losing, Dirk famously went in to seclusion in Australia, joined only by his long-time trainer, just to escape being recognized. Three seasons have passed, during which the Mavericks won one playoff series and lost in the first round twice, and it’s still obviously something that drives him crazy to the point where he won’t take a rest in games that don’t matter despite playing on an ankle that caused him to miss nine games. Considering the circumstances, it’s understandable why he’d want to avoid replicating that situation in any way. Hard to blame him for that.
That being said, it’s probably not a bad idea for a 32-year-old to rest a little before the playoffs, especially one who’s played heavy minutes in more than 1,000 career games. If he’s worried about not preserving energy, I’ve got some screens that need to be built. That should tucker Dirk out, plus it’ll save his knees. Win-win-win.