If you’ve watched the Mavericks for a decent length of time, chances are you have a stronger opinion of Dwight Powell than you normally would of a 31-year-old backup center with a career scoring average of 7.7 points per game.
Longevity is part of it: Powell joined the Mavericks in December 2014, roughly a year and a half before Dorian Finney-Smith, Dallas’ second-most-tenured player, arrived. So is his $11.1 million salary, which ranks seventh on the team this year ahead of fourth-quarter mainstays Reggie Bullock and Maxi Kleber. At the risk of generalizing, and often through little fault of their own, players who stick around for a while at a cost surpassing their visible production tend to get segments of a team’s fanbase hot and bothered.
But poll people around the team, and you’ll hear near-universal acclaim for who Powell is and why he matters to the culture Dallas is building. Yet that still doesn’t do much for the average fan. The nature of that work is blurry by nature—generations of academics, media, and government officials have toiled in service of analyzing and defining culture—and often occurs behind closed doors, well out of public eyeshot. The glimpses we do get are anecdotal by nature and, sports being what they are, liable to become garbled into cliché. You can see the outsider’s frustration: why should anyone care as much about nice sentiments they broadly hear about as much as they do with the rebounding battles they’ve seen Powell lose or the defensive rotations they’ve watched him flub?
That’s why this postgame clip from last night’s win over Utah is important. In it, Spencer Dinwiddie, probably the best talker on Dallas’ roster, provides the most succinct and insightful explanation I’ve heard for what Powell brings to the table:
Maybe you agree. Maybe you don’t. Either way, the Mavericks have long believed that Dwight Powell matters far beyond what he does on the floor. Last night, one of them found the perfect words to match the sentiment.