Dirk a step-back master
By JON KRAWCZYNSKI
AP Basketball Writer
MINNEAPOLIS — Dirk Nowitzki’s one-legged, step-back jumper has become one of the most recognizable shots of the NBA’s modern era.
Most believe that Jerry West’s likeness has served as the inspiration for the NBA’s logo since 1969. If the league were to ever consider freshening things up it would be difficult to find a more appropriate silhouette than Nowitzki’s signature move.
Nowitzki’s combination of size, shooting touch and high release point has made his version one of the game’s unique weapons. And now stars like Miami’s LeBron James, Kevin Durant of Oklahoma City and Minnesota’s Kevin Love are trying to incorporate the shot into their games.
“It’s an honor to know that some of these guys are trying to shoot it,” Nowitzki said. “LeBron shot it the last couple weeks. Kevin Durant’s been shooting it a little bit, and that makes me proud that I actually did something in this league that’s worth somebody’s while.”
It’s a work in progress for Love, but he believes it’s worth it.
“Dirk spent many, many thousands of hours on that shot,” Love said. “I don’t know if there’s ever going to be quite someone like Dirk, 7-foot tall shooting that shot again. But I try to pick apart different people’s games and Dirk is one of them with the way he shoots it.”
Dallas coach Rick Carlisle has had a courtside seat to watch Nowitzki’s step-back for the last six years.
“He’s redefined the power forward game and guys like Kevin Love wouldn’t be coming along and shaping their game the way they are if a guy like Dirk hadn’t come along and been the pioneer,” Carlisle said.
Here are four things to watch this week in the NBA:
SPURS STRUGGLES: If the Spurs (26-8) have one issue this season, it’s been beating the league’s best teams. They were 0-7 against the teams with the seven best records in the league before beating the Clippers on Saturday night. But Los Angeles didn’t have Chris Paul.
SURGING RAPTORS: Since trading Rudy Gay to Sacramento, the once-reeling Raptors are on a roll. They won 10 of their first 13 games after the trade, including victories over Dallas, Oklahoma City and Indiana. Suddenly, a team that was supposed to be tanking is fourth in the East, and climbing.
HEAT AT NETS: Brooklyn’s victory at home over the Heat in the second game of the season has easily been the highlight of this massively disappointing campaign for the Nets. They’ve shown some signs of life with consecutive wins over the Thunder and Cleveland Cavaliers, and they get the Heat again on Friday.
BANGED-UP STARS: Paul, Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford and Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe went down last week with significant injuries. They join a worrisome list of stars on the shelf, including Kobe Bryant, Russell Westbrook, Brook Lopez, Derrick Rose, Steve Nash and Marc Gasol. And every NBA general manager is hoping their big guy isn’t next.
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