A look at what is trending in the NBA:
Cirque du Dirk
A Dallas Mavericks resurgence was unexpected enough after the team’s 3-15 start. They are 12-13 since then.
More unexpected, 39-year-old Dirk Nowitzki has been a huge part of making it happen. Nowitzki entered Saturday night shooting 42.1% from three-point range, matching his career high, and averaging 12.5 points a game.
And he is doing it on a heck of a pay cut, dropping from a $25-million salary in 2016-17 to this season’s $5-million deal.
There has been mutual loyalty with Dallas and Nowitzki, who passed Karl Malone’s Utah run (1,434 games) last week to be No. 2 on games played with one team. Entering Saturday, Nowitzki’s 1,435 games with Dallas is second only to another Jazz great’s run in Utah — John Stockton with 1,504 games.
Nowitzki even has an outside chance at passing Wilt Chamberlain for fifth place on the scoring list, if he averaged 16 points for the remainder of the season.
Durant reached 20,000 career points Wednesday at a younger age than any NBA player except LeBron James.
That gives Durant and James the best shots at displacing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer.
Durant, 29, and James, 33, could each catch Abdul-Jabbar at age 38 by averaging 25 points without injury. Each has a career scoring average of 27 points a game.
Durant lost most of a prime scoring season three years ago when he only played 27 games in 2014-15 after right-foot surgery. That cost him about 1,500 points.
Durant is only the 44th player in NBA history to reach 20,000 points but he should quickly get into the top 25 by 2020. He reached the 20,000-point milestone at 29 years and 103 days, which was 19 days younger than Kobe Bryant did it. James reached it at 28 years and 17 days.
Jaylen Brown’s intelligence and introspection is no surprise. He picked California over traditional college basketball powerhouse programs. He took a graduate course as a freshman. He is a chess master and an avid reader.
So on his Celtics’ victorious Thursday trip to London, the insight that Brown offered The Guardian was no surprise. At just 21, Brown is sharing his social consciousness.
He discussed the good fortune of his position as a rising NBA star after being the No. 3 pick in the 2016 draft.
“Just because I’m the outlier in my neighborhood who managed to avoid the barriers set up to keep the privileged in privilege, and the poor still poor, why should I forget about the people who didn’t have the same chance as me?” Brown told The Guardian.
He also said President Trump is “unfit to lead” and has made it “acceptable for racists to spread their mind.”
“Racism definitely still exists in the South,” the Marietta, Ga., native told The Guardian. “I’ve experienced it through basketball. I’ve had people call me the N-word. I’ve had people come to basketball games dressed in monkey suits with a jersey on. I’ve had people paint their face black at my games. I’ve had people throw bananas in the stands.”
Aldridge requested trade
There was not much surprise to confirmation that Spurs power forward LaMarcus Aldridge asked to be traded from San Antonio in the offseason, except for the source. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich revealed it in a pregame conversation with reporters Thursday.
It came with the perspective that the Spurs and Aldridge are now in a much better place.
Aldridge is arguably having the best season of his career at a time San Antonio needed it, with Kawhi Leonard missing most of the season because of thigh injury.
“I was very candid with him,” Popovich said. "I told him I would be happy to trade him. ‘You get me a talent like Kevin Durant and I will drive you to the airport. I will pack your bags and I will drive you there,’ and he laughed. And I said, ‘Short of that I am your best buddy, and you are here for another year and you ain't going nowhere because for you, talent-wise, we are not going to get what we want, so let's figure this thing out.’ And we did.”
Golden State at Cleveland: Monday at 5 p.m. PDT. TV: TNT.
The Christmas version of this NBA Finals rematch lacked full pop because Stephen Curry did not play and Isaiah Thomas had yet to join Cleveland, which shot 31.8% in Golden State’s 99-92 win. This holiday version will end the season series as the meat of a TNT triple-header sandwich on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The Warriors have reestablished themselves as the class of the NBA while Cleveland’s re-earned respect took a blow with last week’s consecutive losses at Minnesota and Toronto by a combined 62 points. Thomas, a January newcomer, went five for 26 from the field in those games.