The Mavericks are back in the post-season, and after a road loss in Game 1 to a less-experienced (but more talented) Hornets team, questions are once again being raised regarding the toughness of Dirk Nowitzki. There were actually two plays from this game involving Dirk where you might have reason to re-open this discussion, but here's the one that most people are pointing to.
(I'm sorry, before I get to the analysis, I just have to comment on Michael Cooper. "Pimp slap with a back hand?" Forgetting the fact that that's a completely inappropriate comment considering that Cooper coaches the WNBA's Sparks, I'm willing to bet that his scrawny, high-pitched ass has never done any such thing. And by the way, the next time there's a shot of Los Angeles during a national broadcast, and they show people in the sunshine playing at the beach while much of the country is suffering through inclement weather, maybe remembering that this is the level of local sports that we have to endure will make you hate us a little less.)
Okay, I feel better. Now, back to the question of whether or not Dirk should have responded.
If you look at the expression on West's face and the words coming out of his mouth, it doesn't look like he's being aggressive towards Dirk or trying to disrespect him. It looks to me like he was explaining to Dirk the reason for the foul, and that maybe Dirk was catching him in the face inadvertently, so West was letting him know to watch it, but in a somewhat calm and polite manner. That's why Dirk didn't respond.
Plus, what would you have him do, throw a punch and get suspended? It's just Game 1, and New Orleans only did what they were supposed to by winning at home. It was a no win situation: if Dirk hits him and gets suspended, the Mavs have no chance in Game 2, and he's "out of control" and "selfish." He does nothing (because West's actions -- if you watch closely -- didn't warrant a response) and now he's "soft" again? Please. Dirk did not get punked by David West. If you want to look at a play where Dirk might have been pushed around a bit, it's this one involving Tyson Chandler.
Chandler had made the determination to "man up" on Dirk, so much so that he was nose-deep in Dirk's armpit. Now that's committing yourself on defense. It's also asking for a foul, which Chandler received as soon as Dirk put the ball on the floor. But after the whistle, Chandler then shoved Dirk to the ground, resulting in a technical foul. If there was a play where Dirk was punked, that was it. Physical-as-hell defense followed by a shove to the floor after the whistle ... that's an attempt at intimidation.
Did it work? Maybe a little, but I'd say Game 1 was more a result of Chris Paul's dominance and the Hornets' home crowd than it was a result of Dirk and the Mavs being intimidated. Now if Dirk comes out in Game 2 and gets similarly pushed around while his team gets blown out, maybe then we can wonder about his post-season toughness. But not responding to a play that was clearly non-threatening doesn't make Dirk soft; it makes him a smart basketball player.