After a year of unprecedented scrutiny, the Miami Heat are one series away from an NBA Championship and the ultimate redemption. All they have to do is stop Dirk Nowitzki.
Of course, that's all the Lakers had to do. That's all the Thunder had to do. And despite all the attention, so far in the 2011 Playoffs, nobody's been able to do anything. Even against great defense and double teams, Dirk Nowitzki's been unstoppable. He can shoot over you, he can go around you, he can draw fouls, and he can murder you from the perimeter. For Miami, this means they'll have to do two things--throw different looks at him, and pray.
Over at ESPN, Kevin Arnovitiz highlights a few different options for guarding Dirk Nowitzki. Chris Bosh has the height and quickness to give Dirk trouble, but if he spends the entire game chasing Dirk around the court, it'll almost certainly cost him on offense. On the other hand, Udonis Haslem has been here before, in the 2006 Finals, when he earned the label "Dirk Stopper."
But with Haslem coming back from injury and Nowitzki looking better and more confident than he did in 2006, Haslem's ability to shut down Dirk in the rematch is an open question. Beyond that, who's left?
That would be LeBron James. He's got the height and length to bother Dirk on his jump shots. He's got the quickness to cut off Dirk's drives. He's got the strength to hang with Dirk in the post. And he's proven all playoffs long that for all the offense he provides, his greatest value to Miami might just be on defense. In other words, in the battle for supremacy between Dirk Nowitzki and LeBron James, there's a good chance we could end up watching LeBron James guarding Dirk Nowitzki. It's a pipe dream for now, but if Haslem's not effective, LeBron might be Miami's best option.
But for Dallas, here's a question without an answer: Who guards LeBron James?