Not so long ago, the talk centered on Nowitzki "revolutionizing" the power forward position. That conversation seems so 2003.
It's also moved beyond debating whether Nowitzki is better than Kevin Garnett. The truth is Nowitzki no longer has to justify his draft position, his salary or his nationality.
He's simply a matchup nightmare every night. Just like Bryant or Garnett or O'Neal or Tim Duncan. Only different.
Nowitzki is a fundamentally sound 7-footer with 3-point range, underrated toughness and endless desire.
"Dirk is representative of the dream of David Stern," said Hall of Fame center Bill Walton, an NBA analyst for ESPN/ABC. "Fourteen years ago, it was incomprehensible that any player outside of the United States would be able to crack the top 15 in the world.
"I would say Dirk is top 10 of all the players in the world right now."
Nowitzki isn't naïve to what he's doing or has accomplished. He's 10th in the league in scoring (25.3 points per game), 19th in rebounding (8.4), shooting a career-high 3-point percentage of 41.7. Above all, the Mavs are leading the Western Conference at 41-11.
He has achieved All-NBA status the past five seasons, including a first-team designation last year when he checked in behind only Nash and O'Neal in MVP voting.
"When I finished third in the MVP voting, that was an awesome compliment," said Nowitzki, a favorite again this season. "But do I see myself right there? Not really. I just think we're a great team."
Labonte starts 43rd Sunday at Daytona …Anytime there is a new race team, it is generally fairly easy to decide whether they will be a legit contender or race-filler. Race-filler generally means that they will typically finish in the final 1/3 of the field, and often receive the dreaded “DNF”. With this team, it seems that their equipment is very solid, their drivers seem average, so we will need a few races to see which category they fall into. But yesterday seemed to indicate that they might be filler for now.
Good thing Terry Labonte is a former Nextel Cup champion.
The Hall of Fame Racing team of Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach wouldn't be in the Daytona 500 if he wasn't.
Labonte finished 18th in the second Gatorade Duel qualifying race Thursday, not good enough to earn a spot on position, so Labonte will start 43rd Sunday in the No. 96 DLP Chevrolet thanks to his past-champion provisional.
Labonte couldn't rely on his Pole Day speed to get in because his lap was disallowed when NASCAR officials discovered a carburetor that wasn't within regulations.
So Labonte started at the back Thursday in the 60-lap qualifying race. He moved up 11 spots but still had to fall back on the provisional.
Here is a handy chart for your racing viewing …
OK, I’ll admit it. I am fascinated by Johnny Weir: He finished 5th last night for many reasons …
"I never felt comfortable in this building," Johnny said after dropping from second to fifth. "I didn't feel my inner peace. I didn't feel my aura. I was black inside."
Yes, Johnny's a real beauty. He makes Dick Button seem like Tony Soprano.
His favorite male singer is Justin Timberlake and his Web site also lists his favorite fashion designers (Balenciaga), boutiques (Barneys), models (Kate Moss) and teams (Gordeeva and Grinkov, Berezhnaia and Sikharulidze, and -- surprisingly -- the Boston Red Sox). He wears costumes that Elton John might wear for Mardi Gras, including a red glove in Tuesday's short program that he named Camille. He used the phrase "I did a little hoppy-hop like a bunny" while describing Thursday's performance, which is something you rarely hear from say, Brett Favre.
And he owns not one, but two Chihuahuas.
That flamboyant behavior has turned Johnny into a minor cult hero. "My best friend e-mailed me and said, 'You made somebody's Web site as a D-list celebrity,'" Johnny said. "Great. I'm Kathy Griffin."
The Chicago Tribune even ran a poll Thursday asking whether fans care if Johnny is gay.
"I think it's funny that people care," Johnny said. "I don't have a problem with people saying anything. They could run a poll on Bode Miller or on Michelle Kwan and whether she's a lesbian. Who I sleep with doesn't affect how I skate on the ice or what I say in a press conference."
Unfortunately, unreliable public transportation does affect how he skates.
Johnny was scheduled to skate third in the last group, at about 10:30 p.m. He said he planned to catch a bus from the Athletes Village a little after 8:30, hoping to arrive about 8:50. Unfortunately, there was no bus, so he panicked, rushing around and shouting and looking for a ride and generally expending a lot of useless energy.
"Buses had been coming every 10 minutes all week, but they changed the schedule to every half hour today, I guess," Johnny said. "I didn't want to wait until nine o'clock because then I wouldn't get there until 9:15 or 9:20. Which is what happened anyway. I was yelling at people in English and they only spoke Italian.
"I was swearing. I was calling people and swearing. I was very unprofessional."
It should be noted here that the Athletes Village is about a 30-minute walk from the ice rink.
Johnny eventually caught a ride in a car and reached the arena around 9:20. He acknowledged that he was only a half hour later than planned, but that was a big half hour. After all, he said, he had to put on his uniform and go to the bathroom twice.
Sports Guy spars with David Stern …
Albert Belle, stalker? …
Former baseball star Albert Belle was arrested Thursday and charged with stalking his ex-girlfriend, police said.
Scottsdale police said the 39-year-old Belle was taken into custody after a former girlfriend told officers that he had stalked her.
Belle was being held without bond at the Maricopa County Jail in Phoenix, according to a county sheriff's department spokesman.
Phil Nevin admits to acting wrong in 05’ …
Nevin needs that strength now that he's 35. Before being traded to the Rangers in July, the report on Nevin was that he'd lost the ability to pull the ball. He hit just .256 with nine homers for San Diego. But that was in a pitcher's park. His performance with the Rangers, however, which included a .182 average and three homers in 99 at-bats, only reinforced those reports.
Nevin didn't help himself by dragging a poor attitude along after the trade. He occasionally cracked wise about being regularly left out of the lineup over the final six weeks of the season.
"I almost acted like I was the first guy to ever get traded," Nevin said. "I took it a little personally. As much as I wanted to say it didn't affect me, it did, and I was completely wrong. I've still got a heck of an opportunity here, and I want to put myself in position to take advantage of it."
The Story of The Shocker …
And now that you are shocked, Here is how you get your shirt from some enterprising P1’s…I own the Updog shirt.
I do not endorse either of the above links, but was forced at gun-point to put them both up.
What a lousy day in sports. Nothing. No NBA, No NHL, No Olympic Hockey. Nothing.
Come to Ticketstock.