January 24, 2012 | 8:30am
So MVP Dirk Nowitzki is at some weight-loss farm near Dallas as his NBA world champion Mavericks try to pull it together in this strike-abbreviated season.
Go figure, the desperately trying-to-pull-it-together Phoenix Suns visited Texas last night, and still lost a tough one to the Dirk-less Mavs, 93-87.
It was a bit of a love fest for the old guys on both teams, as former Suns forward Shawn Marion had a season-high 29 points, reprising his Matrix past with an array of spinning and twisting baskets with that odd shooting release of his to lead the Mavs to the win.
For the Suns, classy Grant Hill had 19 points in his own season-high, though to no avail as Phoenix lost for the sixth time in the last eight games. Downside: Hill had eight flippin' turnovers, which has to be a career-high for the onetime Duke great, or so we hope.
Though Phoenix obviously is going nowhere this season, we continue to be impressed by the drastic uptick of Marcin Gortat, who dominated at times during this game and finished with 19 points and 17 rebounds. He plays very hard, and is more skilled in all aspects of the game than we had suspected.
Dallas is one of favorite NBA champion teams in recent memory, having blown out the allegedly mighty Miami Heat in last year's finals.
But the Mavs lost a bunch of players in the off-season to free agency, and with Nowitzki's possibly temporary fall from grace (a bulky knee and maybe too many cold ones during the down time that lasted until Christmas because of the labor situation), Mark Cuban's team is likely to struggle to win a playoff series this season.
As for the Suns, they are well-coached by Alvin Gentry, and have (for now) a Hall of Fame coach-on-the-floor in Mr. Nash. To say they are a "work in progress," however, is being a bit too kind.
Phoenix at present just doesn't have the horses to compete with the best that the NBA has to offer. And to think, just a few short years ago, our local franchise was on the cusp of getting to the finals.
Such is life in professional sports.