- The Washington Times - Monday, May 15, 2006

Dirk Nowitzki rolled his right ankle in a grotesque fashion, and the end of the season flashed before the eyes of Mark Cuban, Avery Johnson and the Mavericks faithful.

ABC’s producers felt compelled to wallow in this unsettling sequence, as television is conditioned to do. Nothing excites the maudlin like a potentially crippling injury.

Nowitzki squirmed on the floor while clutching his lower limb, and it was at this point the 7-foot German was supposed to be booking a flight to the fatherland.

The Europeans are not tough, as you know. The same with Yao Ming. Steve Nash, too. Yao seemingly bows before he dunks on the head of an opponent, and Nash is forever removing from his eyes the black strands of spaghetti that function as his hair.

The foreigners are not tough in the manner of Carmelo “Don’t Snitch” Anthony or Steve “Don’t Play” Francis.

They are not edgy in the manner of LeBron James, who called out Gilbert Arenas at the free throw line and then, after Arenas missed the second free throw attempt, had the intellectual deepness to say, “[Bleeping] wimp.”

My, my. It sent shivers down the backs of so many leaning towers of testosterone.

What a bad man, a very bad man. Bad, bad LeBron James.

To be fair, Andres Nocioni is sort of tough, if not overly liberal in applying his elbows to others. But that is a list of one, possibly two, if you count Eduardo Najera, both from south of the make-believe border.

They certainly do not make them like they used to in Old Europe, mostly because the natives do not bother to reproduce anymore, which is good news to the imams there.

Before Nowitzki motioned to the trainer to bring a stretcher and ambulance to the floor, the clowns in charge of officiating the contest assessed Tim Duncan with a sixth foul.

Duncan could not believe the call because it was a lousy call. Nowitzki stepped on Duncan, not the other way around, and so this was included in David Stern’s approximation that 5 percent of the calls are missed.

Stern is being charitable, no doubt, because he has a lot of product to push. The officials have missed about a zillion calls this spring, and it is fair to assume that most have the seeing capacity of Mr. Magoo.

It is not nice to point out the obvious, and so Stu Jackson of the NBA undoubtedly is preparing to send a fine in this direction.

The anemic call against Duncan prompted his removal from the game and steadied the shaky fortunes of the Mavericks, who were desperate to lose the game.

Before Nowitzki boarded a flight to Germany, he limped to the foul line and hit two free throws. And he continued to limp around the court. In fact, he was limping almost as badly as Chester, Matt Dillon’s deputy.

Nowitzki limped to the end. He beat a triple team with a pass to Jerry Stackhouse, who actually completed the shot without threatening to shut it down.

Nowitzki also grabbed an offensive rebound and drew a foul on the put-back attempt that resulted in two more free throws.

This was not bad work for a one-legged player who was thought to be on his way to Germany, although the beginnings of it was encouraged by the seeing-impaired, which, of course, will increase the quality of the fine from Jackson.

The Mavericks won the game to take a 2-1 series lead on the Spurs, and Johnson issued his platitudes, as only he can in his helium-filled voice.

The sight of the limping Nowitzki was not the stuff of Willis Reed, who at least had the good sense to limp at Madison Square Garden, the sacred temple of basketball before James Dolan, Isiah Thomas and Larry Brown put their considerable intellects together.

Yet Nowitzki’s was still a quality limp. Perhaps he is not as soft as advertised.

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