Great expectations for The Diggler

Updated: October 20, 2004, 9:27 AM ET
By Marc Stein | ESPN Insider
DALLAS – Five observations from Dallas Mavericks training camp, based on an Oct. 10-11 visit:

Another vote for Dirk: Don Nelson is already on record as saying he expects Dirk Nowitzki's best-ever season individually, even after the free-agent departure of Nowitzki's best friend Steve Nash.

Michael Finley?

Expecting the same.

"With Steve or without Steve, I thought Dirk was on the verge of a breakout year," Finley said. "You saw glimpses of that at the end of the last season.

"I personally have put a little pressure on Dirk to have his best year. The way I figure it, if Dirk is considered one of the top five guys in this league, then we have a legitimate chance of being a pretty good team."

Nowitzki has been reminded by Finley and several coaches that he won't ever get a top-five or even a top-10 designation unless he improves his defense significantly. Nelson, though, insists that he can already see an improvement in Nowitzki's movement on defense, after the German put in a hard summer of fitness training.

Marc Stein | email

ESPN Senior Writer
• Senior NBA writer for
• Began covering the NBA in 1993-94
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