Nowitzki will have stitches removed from his surgically repaired left ankle on Monday

DALLAS – It’s been 17 days since Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki underwent surgical debridement of his left ankle. Since then, Nowitzki has gone from wearing a long walking boot to a much more comfortable shorter version.

The 20-year veteran announced during the 10th Annual Festival De Los Mavs on Sunday at Gilley’s Dallas that the stitches will be moved from his surgically repaired left ankle on Monday. And that procedure will be a big step in Nowitzki’s rehab process.

“It’s been over two weeks now (since the surgery) and I’m moving around without (the walking boot) already pretty good at home,” Nowitzki said. “But once you step out (of the house), I’ll still wear the boot.

“It’s progressing good, but it’ll be awhile until I can run and do basketball activities. I already started rehabbing a little bit and riding the bike and lifting a little bit and doing some movement stuff. It’s going to be, unfortunately, a piece of work all summer, but hopefully it’s going to help me next season.”

Nowitzki, who turns 40 on June 19, couldn’t say whether or not if he’s ahead of schedule as far as his rehab is concerned. But he was jovial as he signed autographs and took pictures with Mavs fans on Sunday.

And Nowitzki reiterated that he’s looking forward to getting back on the court and trying to help the Mavs get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

“I’m not even sure what schedule, but I think we’re on,” said Nowitzki, who underwent surgery on Apr. 5. “I’m supposed to wear the boot, they said, originally for four weeks. I’m walking around already without it pretty good at home. Like I said, once I step out I’m probably going to wear it for a couple more weeks.

“Hopefully when May rolls around I can do a little more and walk around and maybe do a little more stuff in the weight room. But we’ll see how it goes.”

More than anything, as Nowitzki approaches what could be his final NBA season, he would like to retire following a season that’s more palatable than the 24-58 season the Mavs recently completed.

“I miss the playoffs the last couple of years,” Nowitzki said. “The intensity goes up, the atmosphere is amazing, so it’s still tough to watch.

“Obviously in our league the fun comes with winning, so hopefully we can get back to winning some games.”
Nowitzki is expecting the Mavs to draft a player who can contribute right away, and also pick up a solid free agent or two this summer. In the meantime, he’s concentrating on getting his ankle in tip-top shape in time for training camp next fall.

“The foot is not great,’ Nowitzki said. “That’s obvious after 20 years in the league. I think I got arthritis in every joint I have in my body, which is normally I guess after 20 years.

“But they corrected that one area that it was just blocking me and bothering me all season long, and hopefully it’ll be a lot better next season.”

Dirk announces plan to return for 21st season

2017-18 Exit Interview: Dirk Nowitzki

Mavs F Dirk Nowitzki dishes on the season, his summer plans and more.

DALLAS – With a keen eye on getting the Dallas Mavericks back on a championship path, Dirk Nowitzki announced Tuesday that he’ll return next season to play a 21st season with the Mavs.

Nowitzki underwent left ankle surgery last Thursday with the sole purpose of being ready to play again with no problems by the time training camp starts next fall.

“That’s why I went ahead and got the surgery to kind of get the whole process started, get the rehab process started early, and I plan on coming back,” Nowitzki said during a packed press conference at American Airlines Center. “I didn’t really miss a lot of games this year (and) I felt fine most of the time.

“I always said all year that I want to fulfill that two-year contract if possible. I saw nothing this year that was going to stop it, so as of now I’ll see how the rehab goes in the next few weeks and how the ankle responds, but obviously I’m going to work towards another season.”

Nowitzki’s announcement came prior to Tuesday’s Phoenix Suns-Mavs game, and it put coach Rick Carlisle at ease to know that he’ll again be drawing up plays for the greatest player in Mavs history.

“I couldn’t imagine being here and Dirk not being here, so I feel very relieved that its looking like he’ll be back,” Carlisle said. “It’s great news.

“The timing of everything makes perfect sense to him and to all of us. He’s been able to play with the ankle, but it’s just bothered him for the last several years is what my understanding of it is.”

Nowitzki, who signed a two-year contract with the Mavs last summer, didn’t even rule out the distinct possibility of playing another season past next season.

“I’m hoping the ankle will be tons better than this year and then I’m hoping that I can play some decent basketball next year and then kind of go from there,” Nowitzki said. “I always kind of leave the end open.

“It’s hard for me, at this point, to commit farther than one year, or one year is it. I just kind of want to see how it goes. I’m hoping that this ankle will give me a lot of relief next year and then we’ll go from there.”

Nowitzki is currently wearing a walking boot and also walked into the press conference with the help of crutches. He said he’ll be in the boot from three-to-four weeks.

Then, the recovery period and rehab will start in earnest.

“Like I said, that’s also a reason I went ahead and got a head start on it,” Nowitzki said. “At my age, of course the recovery takes a little longer, and I had bone spurs taken out of this ankle early in my career.

“I think maybe after my third or fourth year in the league, so it’s been a long, long time and the recovery, I’m guessing, was a little shorter. Now I’ve just got to be smart, take my time.”

Time is indeed of essence for Nowitzki, who holds nearly all of the Mavs’ major franchise records. He even said he’ll come off the bench next seaosn if that helps the Mavs become more efficient.

“I’m hoping to get out of the boot in a few weeks and then start slowly rehabbing every day, getting some more motion back,” he said. “And the rest will be all summer working out and getting back to where I want to be strength-wise and agility-wise, and afterwards obviously basketball-wise. So it’s going to be a long process, it’s going to be a summer with some frustrations here and there, as I’m sure some things just don’t progress like you want at 40. But I’m willing to fight through it and give it another shot.”

In 77 games for the Mavs this season, Nowitzki averaged 12 points and 5.7 rebounds in 24.7 minutes, and shot 45.6 percent from the field and 40.9 percent from 3-point range. Not bad for a guy who turns 40 on June 19.

“I played with (Larry) Bird in Boston and I coached Reggie Miller and Ben Wallace and a lot of guys that had a reputation for being mentally tough,” Carlisle said. “Dirk’s right up there with any of them.

“He played hurt an awful lot in his career, probably has played injured at times. Some athletes just have a different sort of threshold for those kinds of things. Any time there’s an opportunity to relief some of that, that’s great.”

That relief, thanks to the surgery, has Nowitzki thinking like he was still the 19-year old kid the Mavs acquired in a draft-day trade in June of 1998. However, as reality sunk in, Nowitzki knew he couldn’t continue doing the same thing on the same weak ankle and expecting different results.

Thus, surgery was imminent.

“At times I was limited in a lot of my movements, especially,” Nowitzki said. “I was never a great lateral movement guy in my entire career in my 20s, but at times this year it was just non-existent.

“It was frustrating at times, but I kept fighting through it and I wanted to fight through it, and now at the end I had actually some knee problems there the last few weeks, I had some problems with the ankle. So that’s when we decided to go ahead and do the surgery earlier.”

Nowitzki undergoes ankle surgery

DALLAS — The Dallas Mavericks announced today that forward/center Dirk Nowitzki underwent surgical debridement of his left ankle. The surgery was performed by Dr. Eugene Curry and Dr. Daniel Worrel at the Carrell Clinic in Dallas.

Dirk Nowitzki on passing KG on minutes played list: ‘Nothing but respect’

The latest in a season of Dirk Nowitzki milestones felt a little different. This time, he was moving past a contemporary rival on an all-time list.

By recording his seventh minute Thursday night against the Utah Jazz, Nowitzki moved past Kevin Garnett (50,418) and into third place on the all-time minutes played list. Of the thousands of players to have appeared in an NBA game, only Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have played more minutes than Dirk.

“I’m fortunate that I was able to be out there for so long, for so many years, and not have any major setbacks,” Nowitzki said. “Hopefully I can stay out there and try to help this franchise get some wins.”

At the beginning of the 2017-18 campaign, Nowitzki became just the second player in NBA history to play 20 seasons for one team, joining Kobe Bryant. Should he play a 21st season, he would join Garnett in a four-way tie for most seasons played ever (Kings forward Vince Carter could also join him), and he’d be alone atop the list of most campaigns played for one team.

In recent seasons, Nowitzki has moved past legendary names like Hakeem Olajuwon and Moses Malone on various lists. Now, though, he’s finding himself moving past very familiar names. Nowitzki and Garnett squared off 37 times in the regular season, with Dirk’s squad taking 20 wins to Garnett’s 17. Nowitzki averaged 23.1 points and 8.2 boards to Garnett’s 21.8 and 11.5.

While Nowitzki was known for his laid-back demeanor, Garnett was famous for his passion on the floor. Both were intense players in their own right, but Garnett was perhaps the most fiery player in the league.

“The thing you always remember about KG is he was an unbelievable competitor,” Nowitzki said. “Whether you saw him at preseason or in the playoffs, (he’d) just always go hard, always get his troops fired up. He was an unbelievable competitor. Had a great, long career, stayed basically injury-free for the most part as well. So nothing but respect for KG and what he’s done for this league and what he’s meant for this league.”

Those are two big-time members of the NBA’s golden era of power forwards. Their primes essentially intersected with those of Tim Duncan, Rasheed Wallace, Chris Webber, Pau Gasol, and the tail end of Karl Malone’s. Any list ranking the greatest power forwards ever will surely start with a few of those names, in addition to Charles Barkley and some others.

Unfortunately, we only got to witness one playoff series between Nowitzki and Garnett, while we were treated to six Nowitzki/Duncan showdowns. Dirk’s Mavs took the lone series with Garnett’s Wolves, 3-0, in the first round of the 2002 playoffs. Nowitzki averaged a jaw-dropping 33.3 points and 15.7 rebounds on 52.6 percent shooting from the field and 72.7 percent from beyond the arc. Garnett, meanwhile, averaged 24.0 points, 18.7 rebounds, and 5.0 assists. It’s a shame we couldn’t see them battle it out in the playoffs any other time, but we still got to witness plenty of great duels in the regular season over the years.

Nowitzki recently moved past Garnett (1,462) for fifth place on the all-time games played list, as well. Should he return for season No. 21, Dirk (1,465) will almost surely pass Malone (1,476) and John Stockton (1,504) and into third place on that list. It would be another full-circle moment, as those two were the key players on the first team Nowitzki played in the postseason, all those 17 years ago.

Seeing all of these familiar names, and seeing Nowitzki move past them, is pretty special stuff. It reminds you how many great players have come before Dirk and reinforces how lucky we are to have been able to watch him for the last 20 seasons, 50,000+ minutes, 30,000+ points, and counting.

On the cusp of 50,000 career minutes, a look back at how Dirk Nowitzki got here

Tonight, Dirk Nowitzki will become just the sixth player in NBA history to play 50,000 career minutes.

Nowitzki recently became the sixth ever to score 30,000 points. He’s the only European to win NBA MVP honors, and is a card-carrying member of the exclusive club of greats to have won both MVP and Finals MVP honors. He holds virtually every Mavericks record. Suffice it to say that by now, we are used to witnessing Nowitzki accomplish things.

This achievement, though, is a little more meaningful. For starters, it’s now even more exclusive than the 30,000-point club, which is crazy to think about. There have been thousands of NBA players, and soon only six will have played 50,000 minutes. Earlier this season, LeBron James became the seventh player to reach 30K.

More importantly, however, this is a testament not just to Nowitzki’s peak and offensive prowess, but to his longevity. You don’t reach 50,000 minutes played without a combination of extraordinary ability, of course, but also health. Nowitzki never missed more than nine games in a season during his first 14 NBA campaigns. Now in his 20th season, he’s only missed 10+ games twice: his age-34 season in 2012-13 and age-38 season in 2016-17.

“It’s a staggering accomplishment and done with such grace and such little hype that it’s probably very much taken for granted,” Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle said.

Nowitzki’s knee injury that sidelined him for the beginning of the 2012-13 campaign was a tough blow for the Mavericks, who at the time were only two years removed from winning a championship. Dirk was still considered an elite NBA player, but missing the first two months of the season resulted in a down year for the German and for his team, which floundered without him. (We did get the infamous .500 beards from it, though, which produced some pretty awesome pictures.)

The next season, 2013-14, he returned to his typical load of games and minutes at age 35 and nearly put together a 50/40/90 season. That year, starting next to Jose Calderon, Monta Ellis, and Sam Dalembert, Nowitzki averaged 21.7 points per game on 49.7/39.8/89.9 shooting splits. Dallas won 49 games that season and nearly upset the No. 1-seeded Spurs in the first round, taking them all the way to seven games. Only one other team even took San Antonio to six games that postseason.

The Mavericks struggling without Nowitzki is not new. Dallas had a positive net rating with Nowitzki on the floor for at least 16 straight seasons, from 2000-01 to 2015-16. (Basketball-Reference’s plus-minus database only goes back to 2000-01.) Throughout that time, the Mavs outscored opponents by 7.1 points per 100 possessions with Nowitzki on the floor. For reference, the 36-16 Toronto Raptors, who are on pace to win 57 games, have a +7.0 net rating this season. That was what the Mavericks averaged with Nowitzki on the floor for 16 years. During that time, the German had a cumulative +6,587 plus-minus, which ranked second in the NBA behind only Tim Duncan.

Even last season, the first time in at least 17 years that the Mavericks were outscored on average with Nowitzki on the floor, Dallas was still better with Dirk on the floor than when he wasn’t. The Mavericks won 33 games last season but still played competitive basketball with Dirk on the floor, being outscored by only 2.1 points per 100 possessions. (They were outscored by 3.8 per 100 with him off.)

“The whole thing is just an amazing set of accomplishments straight across the board, starting with leading the franchise in virtually every offensive statistical category along with rebounding, to the longevity to the durability to how he’s carried the franchise and everything else,” Carlisle said.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about all of this is Nowitzki’s contained efficiency. Despite playing nearly 50,000 minutes and scoring more than 30,000 points, Dirk ranks just 81st all-time in field goal attempts per game at 16.0. For reference, Utah Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell is taking 16.2 shots per game this season. Kobe Bryant, who ranks third all-time in scoring, averaged 19.5 field goal attempts per game for his career. Nowitzki averaged as many attempts only one season in his entire career.

Now at age 39 and in his 20th pro season, Dirk is certainly not the First Team All-NBA superstar he was in the mid-2000s. But he’s still effective, currently sporting the third-best effective field goal percentage of his career, at 54.4 percent. He’s shooting the 3-ball better than he ever has, at 42.9 percent. He’s only taken 81 free throws, but he’s only missed nine. He’s still a picture of efficiency, putting up numbers that most big men could only dream of matching.

And he’s still got his longevity. He hasn’t missed a game yet this season. If he realizes his goal of playing all 82, by year’s end he’ll tie Karl Malone (1,476) for fourth all-time in games played. With 29 more games under his belt, that would likely move him past Kevin Garnett (50,418) for third all-time in minutes played. As he climbs the minutes list, he’ll move past his old running mate Jason Kidd.

There have been few players quite like Nowitzki. Only one, obviously, has played 20 seasons for one team (Kobe Bryant). Just a handful have scored more points, and soon only a couple will have played more minutes. His rare combination of an extended peak and superior longevity is virtually impossible to achieve in this day and age as even the best players play fewer minutes and miss more games for rest and maintenance purposes in order to maximize their primes. It’s a wise practice for both player and team, but it also means the likelihood of Nowitzki’s places on the scoring list and minutes list are relatively safe. LeBron James is sure to pass Dirk in points within the next year or two, and will probably also catch him in minutes. Beyond him, Kevin Durant is a real possibility in points (and Carmelo Anthony to a much lesser degree), but it’s hard to come up with many others that have a true chance at passing him in either.

And his trump card: He did it all for one team. That’s something that will set him apart from his peers for decades to come, and maybe forever. Twenty seasons for one team, 30,000 points, 50,000 minutes, an MVP, and a Finals MVP. You’re lucky to do one of those things; no one has ever done all five until now. Until Dirk. He’s become a member of enough exclusive clubs at this point in his career. It’s time to start his own. And it’s likely he’ll be by himself in this one for a long, long time.

After her post-dental surgery video goes viral, MFFL Dianne Garcia meets Dirk, J.J., and the Mavs

Dianne Meets Dirk!

After her hilarious post-dental surgery video went viral, MFFL Dianne Garcia got to meet Dirk, J.J., and the Mavs at a game!

Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki and guard J. J. Barea had a big laugh about one of the funniest videos they’ve ever seen on the Internet that went viral.

And the funniest part about it: The person who delivered the laughs doesn’t remember a thing about it.

Garland’s Dianne Garcia had four wisdom teeth pulled on January 23. On the way home from the dentist and while Garcia was still dealing with remnants of anesthesia, her roommate Kimberly Mancilla decided to video the funny conversation she was having with Garcia.

And a lot of that conversation dealt with the trials and tribulations of Nowitzki and Barea, and Garcia’s love for the Mavs.

Early in the video, the 22-year old Garcia described Nowitzki as “the greatest of all time.” She went on to say: “I’m going to be so sad when he leaves. He’s loyal.”

“Everybody should strive to be like him. Every girl needs to find a guy like Dirk – willing to go through all the (expletive delete) the Mavericks went through. He’s with us for 20 years. I hope he plays one more year so I can get my jersey signed. I tried for years. He has not listened to me. It’s OK. One day he’s going to listen to me. He’s going to sign my shirt and I’m going to cry. . .”

Nowitzki was grinning from ear-to-ear when he first saw Garcia’s video, and he finally met her prior to Monday’s game against the Miami Heat. Garcia, who was invited to the game by the Mavs, was given the red carpet treatment.

She also took some pictures with Nowitzki and received three jerseys that were autographed by Nowitzki. In addition, she received the Mavs’ new City Jerseys with Nowitzki’s and Barea’s name on it, and a basketball that was autographed by several members of the Mavs.

“It was good to meet her and it’s great to have loyal fans that love the Mavs and bleed Mavs blue,” Nowitzki said. “The support means a lot and I’m happy that she came.”

“She was a little speechless before the game – she couldn’t really say much. But I just told her that’s a great video and I thanked her for being a fan.”

On the video, Garcia recalled the dust-up Barea had with Washington’s John Wall during the Mavs’ January 22 game against the Wizards. She took exception with Wall calling Barea a midget.

“He’s not a midget,” Garcia said on the video. “Even if he is, he still plays. I got you, Barea.” Garcia then quickly pivoted and told Mancilla: “I need a barbecue chicken sandwich from Whataburger. Can I eat that?”

Barea couldn’t stop laughing when he saw that.

“She went from talking to us to talking about food, and then back to us and then the John Wall situation just happened, so she was talking about that,” Barea said. “She had us in her head.”

“You never expect to see videos like that, so it was pretty cool. For her to be thinking about us and Dirk, it was funny.”

Mancilla, who eventually went to Whataburger two days later and purchased a hamburger for Garcia, said she decided to video Garcia’s conversation because she knew this was something Garcia would enjoy seeing once the anesthesia wore off.

“It was funny,” Mancilla said. “Dianne was something else. When we left the dentist she was crying for no reason and then she just popped up with the whole Mavericks stuff, so it’s a good thing I caught it.”

“We can’t believe the video went viral.”

At last count, over 500,000 folks viewed the video on Garcia’s Facebook page. It has also been retweeted over 65,000 times on Twitter and was broadcast on the local TV stations.

Prior to the game against Miami, Garcia was asked about the video and she did everything but plead the fifth.

“I don’t remember a thing,” Garcia said. “My roommate took me (to the dentist), I got home, was knocked out and I woke up and she was like, ‘Watch this, you need to watch it.’ “

“I cannot believe I said that, but it’s true. I’m a big (Mavs) fan.”

Steve Chavera, the social media director for the Mavs, is the person who initially contacted Garcia and invited her to the game against Miami.

“Steve reached out to me a few days ago and he was like your video is hilarious, we want to get you out here,” Garcia said. “I didn’t believe him. I thought he was lying. I’m like, ‘I don’t even know who this guy is.’”

“Then he posted the video of J. J. saying, ‘Hey Dianne, thanks for having my back. And then he posted the Dirk video. I cried. I was like, ‘Wow, this is actually happening. This is the real thing.’ “

Ironically, Nowitzki said before the explosion of cell phone cameras, he too had some unforgettable moments following a tooth extraction like the one Garcia experienced last week.

“I’ve had some good ones on anesthesia, that’s for sure, but I’ll keep those to myself,” Nowitzki said. “The good thing is there were no cameras around that caught my silliness.”

“But she’s obviously a diehard Mavs fan. She defended J. J. against some of those comments from John Wall. We got a good laugh out of that.”

Nowitzki also got a good laugh from Garcia saying – on the video – “If I meet Dirk I may die because I’m going to have a heart attack. He’s amazing. He’s so nice.”

“Everyone needs to find a boyfriend as loyal as Dirk is to the Mavericks. Even when they’re struggling and they (are losing games), I still love them and he’s still there. He’s not a traitor. I can name a few traitors.”

For Garcia, meeting Nowitzki and Barea was one of those memories that’ll last a lifetime.

“J. J. said, ‘I love your video and thanks,’ ‘’ Garcia said. “I didn’t even know what to say. I said, ‘Yeah, I got your back.”

“It was crazy. I can’t believe it. I cried afterwards. Right now I’m just in awe that anything is happening.”

Dirk Nowitzki finally feels like himself

Dirk Nowitzki checks out during the first half of a game against the Orlando Magic on Tuesday night. He’s not off to a good start from the field, and his team trails 29-27 in the second quarter. He slowly walks to the bench and, still standing, throws on a long-sleeve shirt over his jersey. He bends his knee a few times as if he’s hurt, but he’s only hurting; he knows there might be pain, but there’s no injury. That’s just his 39-year-old body asking him why the heck he’s still playing basketball. Sometimes, it betrays him. Would tonight be one of those nights?

Nowitzki would sit out for the next seven minutes. By the time he’d touch the ball next, Dallas would be behind 48-41 with under a minute left to go in the first half, an uninspiring start to a game against a team the Mavericks should beat. But something suddenly changes. J.J. Barea brings the ball up the floor and runs a pick-and-roll with Nowitzki — is it 2018 or 2008? — and the German draws a switch. Barea recognizes the situation and dumps it to the man who helped make his career. Nowitzki catches, spins, and fires a shot he’s made 1,000 times. It falls.

The bucket seems to breathe life into both Dirk and his team, who would come out of the halftime break and score a season-high 39 points in the third quarter. Nowitzki would score eight of them himself, putting on a vintage display of post-ups and fadeaways, appearing to dial back the clock a decade or more. He would finish the night with a season-high-tying 20 points in 24 minutes.

Like it or not, Father Time comes for us all. Nowitzki has rejected his advances for quite a while now, but even the sixth all-time scorer in NBA history has felt vulnerable at times in his 20th season. The German has said many times that some nights he just doesn’t have it; his body simply won’t cooperate. That’s through no fault of his own — Nowitzki puts more time into maintenance than actual basketball these days — but rather the result of thousands and thousands of games, jumps, falls, and collisions.

It seemed like Tuesday night’s game against the Magic would be another one of those nights, but something clicked and suddenly the time machine took us back to 2008. From a distance it might seem like Nowitzki is having a down season, averaging just 12.3 points per game. But these last few weeks, just like during that seven-minute reprieve in the second quarter Tuesday night, something has clicked. Nowitzki has surged.

“It took me a while, unfortunately, to get going,” Nowitzki said, “but I feel a lot better the last month or so, even longer than that.”

In his last 14 games, Nowitzki is averaging 14.8 points and 5.6 rebounds per game on 51.0/42.9/88.0 percent shooting splits. He’s sporting a career-high-tying 42.1 3-point percentage and a career-best 55.0 effective field goal percentage. He’s shooting above 90 percent from the free throw line for the first time since the 2009-10 season. And, most impressively, he’s played every single one of the Mavs’ 42 games. He wants to play all 82, something that’s only been done at age 39+ by Michael Jordan and John Stockton.

Instead of starting south and only getting worse, Nowitzki’s Tuesday night became a microcosm of his season. It took him a while to get going, then he suddenly hit his stride and never looked back.

“I’m just feeling so much better, honestly, than I did earlier in the season,” Nowitzki said. “The first couple weeks were tough, to kind of get my legs under me and really get going in the season. I guess you can practice all you want, and shoot all you want, and run on the treadmill all you want. But there’s nothing like guys pushing on you when you go up and down, and showing and helping on pick-and-rolls. There’s no way you can simulate that.”

The Mavs’ earlier and abbreviated training camp didn’t do Nowitzki any favors coming out of the gates this season, and he admitted he felt a little creaky early on. But now, on more nights than most, he’s able to do everything he wants to.

He’s flourished playing alongside Dennis Smith Jr. in the starting lineup and with the three-guard bench unit featuring J.J. Barea, Yogi Ferrell, and Devin Harris. He’s no longer the focal point on a nightly basis, instead playing more of a supporting role as a pick-and-pop or spot-up shooter while Smith and Harrison Barnes do most of the heavy lifting.

Tuesday night, however, was different. The Magic kept switching screens, leaving point guard Elfrid Payton on an island against the 7-foot Maverick. Once Dirk saw one shot go in, he wanted more, and the Mavs were happily willing to oblige him. His work in the post was the driving force behind the team’s 39-point third quarter and 71-point second half.

The execution on the play above was nice. Nowitzki made the catch, waited to see if help would come, then took a dribble to gather himself before taking the shot. But it was what happened before all of that which let you know he was feeling good.

Upon setting the ball-screen and drawing a switch, Nowitzki trotted to the block. Smith immediately attacked the mismatched Bismack Biyombo but didn’t have an appealing driving lane, so he quickly withdrew from the paint and waited for the German to get to his spot. On nights when Nowitzki might not be feeling it, there’s a good chance he’d spot up on the 3-point line and let Smith go one-on-one with the center. But Tuesday night was not one of those nights. Body language tells stories of its own, and so too does how Nowitzki plays in the pick-and-roll. He’s even begun rolling every now and then lately, too, not popping.

At first glance it looks like since there’s no one else in the lane during the sequence above, obviously it’s an easy play to make. But it’s a chicken/egg argument. Did Dirk roll because no help was there, or did every Bulls defender disregard the paint because they thought there’s no way Nowitzki would roll? You can see Nikola Mirotic show on the screen and then turn his head anticipating Nowitzki to either spot up or re-screen. But by the time he turns his head, Dirk is already catching it five feet from the rim. Again: Is this a defensive breakdown or is this an opponent not even considering the possibility of Nowitzki rolling? Either way, it’s two points. Nowitzki has done this more lately and it’s a matter of time before teams start having to worry about it.

The Mavericks continue to space the floor so well that it makes cheating off your man as a defender to offer a double-team a risky proposition. After he sank a couple jumpers and drew a couple fouls, the Magic decided to send a second defender, but Nowitzki made them pay with the pass.

Later, he posted up all-time Mavs assassin D.J. Augustin at the nail — his favorite spot — where it’s impossible to send a double-team without leaving someone one pass away wide-open. These are areas Nowitzki rarely ventures into unless he’s feeling good.

After shooting just 43.9 percent from the field and 35.7 percent from beyond the arc in his first 18 games of the season, Nowitzki’s 14-game renaissance has vaulted him back up the efficiency leaderboard. Among the 167 players who average at least 10 possessions per game, Nowitzki ranks 17th in points per possession, according to Synergy Sports, ahead of names including Klay Thompson, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and LeBron James. Does that mean he’s better than them right now? No. But it doesn’t matter if you’re literally only shooting wide-open layups: If you score more efficiently than names like that at age 39, it means you’re having a pretty incredible season.

Nowitzki is scoring great right now. But he’s still 39 years old. There might be another stretch where his body betrays him, and he’s said himself there will still be nights when he just doesn’t have it. Second nights of back-to-backs immediately come to mind; he’s shooting just 43.1 percent from the field and 34.8 percent on 3s in seven such games this season, with another coming Wednesday against the Hornets. (On the flip side, he’s shooting 59.6 percent and 50.0 on 3s in six games coming off two days’ rest, which is phenomenal.)

All of that said, his recent run is still worth marveling at. Enjoy the stretches of excellence like this one while you still can, because you never know when the next one — or the next player like Nowitzki — will come around.