Archive for Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Mavericks’ Nowitzki wins MVP award

May 16, 2007

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— Dirk Nowitzki has some consolation for a postseason flop - an MVP trophy.

The Dallas Mavericks forward ended the two-year MVP reign of good friend Steve Nash on Tuesday after a regular season in which the 7-footer led his team to 67 wins, the sixth most in league history.

"It's still a little hard for me to be happy because of the way this season ended," Nowitzki said. "But this is an award for the regular season. That's how I've got to look at it and be proud."

Nowitzki received 1,138 points, including 83 of the 129 first-place votes. Results of the MVP vote were reported last week by The Associated Press and other media outlets.

Nash of the Phoenix Suns followed with 1,013 points and 44 first-place votes, and Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers got the remaining two first-place votes. San Antonio's Tim Duncan was fourth and Cleveland's LeBron James was fifth.

NBA commissioner David Stern praised Nowitzki as "an iconic, elite athlete from Europe who has not only learned to play our game, he's mastered it."

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban became emotional in describing Nowitzki's work ethic.

"You don't have to encourage him to go to the gym," Cuban said. "He's the guy you have to lock out."

Votes were turned in before the playoffs, a good thing for Nowitzki considering how little he did to prevent the Mavs from being bounced in the first round by eighth-seeded Golden State, one of the biggest upsets in the NBA playoffs.

Twelve days later, Nowitzki hasn't gotten over the disappointment, although this award is definitely a mood-lifter. The German is the first European honoree in the 52-year history of the award, and he's the first recipient not to have attended high school or college in the United States.

Nash, the league's MVP his first two seasons after leaving Nowitzki and the Mavericks to join the Phoenix Suns, was trying to join Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell as the only players to win the award three years in a row.

Nash called to congratulate Nowitzki on Friday. While he himself had a great year, Nash was happy to have his pal join the fraternity of MVP winners, adding that "he's very deserving."

"I'm excited for him," Nash said. "He's obviously not the happiest camper right now but he deserves it and I think he should really enjoy this and allow this to kind of heal an unfortunate first round. Because he did have a great year and worked hard for it."

The Mavericks finished 67-15, with six more wins than the next best team (Phoenix). Nowitzki led Dallas in scoring (24.6 points a game) and rebounding (8.9), and was the only player in the NBA who made more than 50 percent of his shots, 40 percent of his 3-pointers and 90 percent of his free throws.

Nowitzki, who turns 29 during the finals, is the first Mavericks player to be the MVP, which is only fitting since he's been the team's first All-Star starter (this season) and the first All-NBA first-team selection; he received that honor for the third straight year last week.

Nowitzki, however, also goes onto the dubious list of MVP winners not to win a playoff series. It last happened with Houston's Moses Malone in 1981-82. The only other times were Malone in 1978-79, Los Angeles' Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975-76 (didn't make the playoffs) and Baltimore's Wes Unseld in 1968-69.

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