The Lakers are back in business tonight, facing off against the Mavericks for the final time of the season. This, of course, means this will be the last time Kobe Bryant faces off against Dirk Nowitzki in an NBA Basketball game. Actually, unless they meet up at the local Y, it will be the last time they face off ever since Kobe has pulled his name out of contention for the 2016 Olympic Team and Dirk has retired from the German National team.
Tonight, then, really should be a bit of a celebration. Well, at least for me it will be. Dirk has always been one of my favorite players. Recently, Kevin Durant called Kristaps Porzingis a “unicorn” because of his varied skill set at a guy his size. Dirk, though, was the original unicorn — a 7-footer with unlimited range on his jumper — and the player who paved the way for players like Porzingis to make it to the NBA and be drafted as high as he was.
So Dirk, like Kobe, is somewhat of a pioneer. The fact that this will be the last time they play means something to me and I’ll try to reflect on that and appreciate the moment while it’s happening.
I’ll also try to focus on things like that because, well, I don’t expect this to be much of a game. The Mavs are only 2-2 in their last 4 games (with their two wins coming in overtime), but they are playing much better than the Lakers are who are losers of 6 straight and 10 of their last 11. Frustration is mounting with Kobe and, if I were to guess, it’s only a matter of a few more losses before the head coach starts to name names in the press again.
If you’re looking for good news, it looks like Larry Nance Jr. will return to the lineup tonight. With Nance’s return, Julius Randle is likely back to the bench. This isn’t ideal, but I’m all for Nance getting some run and, hopefully, seeing if the two can play together for a handful of minutes to see how that goes.
That’s about all the good news I’ve got, though. Yes, I’m interested in seeing how Russell and Clarkson play, but with half the season over, we have a pretty good idea of what these guys are capable of. Hopefully we get something on the higher end of the range, but if not I’m not very concerned. Small strides, a new wrinkle, or a few big plays would be nice, but those come with time and I’m not that concerned we’ll not get more of those moments as the season progresses.
Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM Los Angeles.