By Scott Spangler

michael redd

This just in: Dirk Nowitzki is now and has been a phenomenal postseason performer – for years.

The lion’s share of NBA “analysts” are hopping aboard the Charles Barkley bandwagon, lauding Dirk’s newfound mindset.

“This is a different Dirk Nowitzki.”

Really?

One of four players to post career playoff averages of 25 points and 10 rebounds and the guy is just now stepping it up?

There is no denying what we saw Tuesday night in Dallas is the stuff of legend. Dirk gave the Thunder 48 points on just 15 shots. That will not happen again. However, Maverick fans have become quite accustomed to brilliance from their star power forward.

In a word, Nowitzki is efficient. There are a few players out there who can put up 29 points per game in a playoff run; not many, but a few. But how many of those are doing that putting up just 18 shots?

And that’s a step above the incredibly efficient regular season numbers he put up this year. In his 12th NBA season, Dirk averaged 23 points on 52 percent shooting, right under 40 percent from deep, and 89 from the foul line.

I recall Chris Webber sitting on the TNT set in late March, doing postgame for Mavs/Lakers. This was a blowout win for L.A., complete with a near-brawl emanating from a Jason Terry shove of Steve Blake. C-Webb launches into his “soft” spiel, which is funny on a number of levels, primarily because it’s Webber himself offering up that particular label.

Webber, who never wanted anything to do with the rock in a tight game and wanted no part of anything inside 18 feet when play got rough, calls out Nowitzki specifically and declares Dallas as a first-round out because their best player fails to plant Kobe Bryant on a fast break.

Just wondering what Gregg Popovich might say about that. Five different playoff series Pop has coached against Nowitzki and the Mavericks. The first one, a 23-year-old German star-to-be gets his front teeth knocked out, only to respond with 42 points and 18 boards.

“Soft,” he says.

Then we get word out of L.A. about Pau Gasol’s personal issues, the girlfriend, fiancée, whatever, and how that may have affected his play in the series vs. Dallas. This would be the Gasol many argued was the top Euro in the league not too long ago.

This reminds me of a series two years ago between the Mavs and Nuggets. Nowitzki had just been hit with a sledge hammer. The Crystal Taylor imbroglio would have buried most guys.

Taylor was a con-artist marking Nowitzki from the outset. He proposes marriage, and Taylor gets a $250,000 rock for her trouble. After being arrested on warrants, it comes out this woman has a number of aliases. Dirk was played. And all of this coming down during that Denver series.

How does said superstar respond? Averages 34 points, 11 rebounds, shoots 53 percent. If only Jason Terry or Josh Howard could focus like this. It might have been a series. I’m guessing George Karl would also smirk at the soft label.

The critics will, more often than not, point to two series when attempting to discredit Nowitzki’s postseason body of work – Miami in 2006, and Golden State in 2007. Admittedly, that catastrophe against the Warriors was bad on so many fronts, and Dirk shared in it.

If anyone could effectively gameplan for Nowitzki, it was Don Nelson. Using guards to play underneath and running a second defender at him once the ball was floored, Golden State frustrated Dirk and dared anyone else in a Maverick uniform to beat them. Didn’t happen.

That said, if we are putting any player not named Michael Jordan under a microscope, some pretty shoddy moments are going to be revealed.

Again, try 25.8 points and 10.6 rebounds per playoff contest on for size. Four men in NBA history have done as much in the postseason. Soft doesn’t apply here.

We all know the deal. Dallas has to go the distance for Dirk and the Mavericks to shed some rather unflattering tags. Because Jason Terry is shooting the ball well, and because Tyson Chandler finally represents a real presence inside, Charles Barkley has decided to be a front man for the Dirk parade. And now he’s not so soft. Amazing how that works.

Kevin Garnett gets roasted for years by Nowitzki – regular season, playoffs, you name it – absolutely taken apart. Somehow, a trade to Boston lands him beside Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, and KG is a champion. Never called soft or weak? Garnett… you know… the guy who screams at air and rarely looks an opponent in the eye.

But he was traded to a team with other future Hall of Famers and now he’s never to be questioned.

News flash: Garnett is much the same dude he was in Minnesota, just a bit older and the act has worn thin.

The guy in Dallas is much the same, too. He is doing what he’s always done. It’s about time we get the story straight with Dirk Nowitzki.

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