Dallas Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitzki is entering his 19th season with the organisation and in that time, the Wurzburg native has become an icon, not just in Germany, where he is one of their most recognisable athletes but the world over.
Nowitzki is currently sixth on the all-time scorers list in the NBA and the highest ranked international scorer in history – and he has done it all with the same club.
So what are his expectations for the new season that started in the early hours of today? What does he make of the Golden State Warriors, the team-mates he has had over the last 19 seasons and his hopes post-retirement?
On the Golden State Warriors
“They are just awesome. They had 73 wins last season – that’s never happened before. And now they get one of the best shooters in the world. If they gel well and let the ball move, it will be very hard for their opponents. Playing against them you always have hard match ups. What do you do against Durant? What do you do against a pick and roll with Curry? What do you do when they have five shooters on court? When they start running it gets hard.”
“It was not a good pre-season, that’s for sure. But we had a lot of new people that we had to integrate. Plus, at the beginning I decided to give myself a slow start and didn’t play at all in the first three games. We have to improve as a starting five. But I believe we have potential when we start playing more together but first of all we have to develop better shooting, we’ve had big problems with that . Our defence is way better, thanks to the addition of Andrew Bogut and we already have Wesley Matthews.”
On the Mavericks first games against the Indiana Pacers and the Houston Rockets
“You can tell many teams are trying to play the Golden State Warriors style – play faster. So our goal has to be to not allow so many free three pointers. The whole league shoots unbelievably good from outside and you have to have one hand at the shooter, otherwise you’re in trouble. For a slow team like ours it’s a huge task.”
On the NBA changes in the last 19 years
“In the beginning it was way more one-on-one. It was very physical, lots of dribbling, lots of isolations. Then the European style got in more and more – the ball was moved more, everything got faster, player got more athletic and the 3 pointer was more and more important. Now nearly everyone can shoot 3 pointers, even the centers. That was different back in the day. The game has also developed technically, now more points are scored. Furthermore the rules changed which has led to the ball being moved more and three pointers have become more important. For me obviously it was a big advantage that I was able to shoot more from outside and facing the hoop.”
On the number of teammates he had in his career
“I think it’s about 200 teammates I’ve played with here in Dallas, maybe even more. It would be crazy to keep try and track of this. But most importantly: I still have tons of fun, that’s why I am still going on. But outside the court I do my own thing.”
How do you compare with Michael Jordan in terms of the end of your career? At the end of his career he was less athletic and changed the way he played successfully.
“I actually never was athletic so this is not a big issue for me. But for sure I’ve got smarter, I know where I have to stand to compensate for my lack of speed. But it’s also about giving other guys space using my knowledge: Where do I have to block, where are my team mates most effective? You understand these things better when you’ve been around for a long time. But back on defense it’s hard to hold against younger and faster player, that’s for sure.”
On his future
“My goal is to fulfil my contract. In the summer I signed for two more years. But I also have to check on my health. No one knows where I will go later, but I think that I’ll always have a home here in Dallas. I have been here for 20 years now, my wife for ten. If I want to, I would get a job at the Mavericks so I think we might stay here after the end of my career.”
On a possible career as Head Coach
“Becoming a Head Coach was never my goal. A Head Coach not only needs to have basketball knowledge, he has to evaluate characters, has to mix them, to motivate – even yell at someone once in a while. That is not part of my personality. I am not the person to stand somewhere and hold a 20 minute speech. I think player development is more my ideal role; I sure learned a lot from Holger Geschwindner about that in the last 20 years. But Head Coach? No way.”