Mark Cuban said it several times – trading Steve Nash is one of his biggest mistakes as Mavericks owner. Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash weren’t only a tremendous fit on the court; they were and still are great friends of the court. You can’t ask for a better foundation of a championship team. Out of all the years the Nash-Nowitzki Mavs players, the 02/03 team had the best shot of doing something special.
The two future MVPs had Michael Finley to round up their core trio and a great mix of youth and experience in their supporting cast – Nick Van Exel, Avery Johnson, Raja Bell, Raef LaFrentz, and Shawn Bradley, to name a few. After dealing with Blazers and Kings in the first two rounds of the Playoffs, they had the Spurs waiting in the Western Conference Finals.
These Spurs had a still very young and inexperienced Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, and David Robinson was on his last leg, but it didn’t matter. Tim Duncan was at his peak, and that meant the Spurs had a chance. Both teams finished the regular season with a 60-22 record, and everyone knew a clash of titans was about to happen.
Simmons: If you stay healthy, I think you could’ve won the title that year.The Bill Simmons Podcast
Nowitzki: I know we could’ve. I got hurt in Game 3 or 4; I can’t remember. We stole Game 1 in San Antonio, which has a great side story. Did you know we missed the first free throw that night and went 49/49 after? Game 1 in San Antonio, we shot 49/50 to steal Game 1.
Dirk hoped he could return for Game 7. He knew his knee wasn’t going to be 100%, but there was a chance he could rehab it enough not to be a liability. Unfortunately, despite the fact the Mavs were up 15 going into the 4th quarter of Game 6, Dirk never got the chance to play in a Game 7.
Pop dusted off Steve Kerr, and obviously, we had to trap Tim Duncan all the time. Steve came in, he hadn’t played all season and had 5 threes in the fourth quarter, and they end up winning Game 6.Dirk Nowitzki, The Bill Simmons Podcast
The Spurs went on to beat the New Jersey Nets in 6 games to win the title. Still, shooting 49/50 from the charity stripe has to be one of the wildest stats ever. The current Mavs could use some of that magic. They are up 2-0 in their series against the Clippers despite the fact they shot 13-24 (54.2%) from the free-throw line in Game 2. They’re called “free” for a reason.