The championship still motivates me. We were so close in 2006 in the Finals against Miami … It’s so much fun playing in the playoffs … playing right until the end … on the big stage …
It’s no secret that not every NBA player prepares so hard in the summer. How do you deal with it when a teammate does not invest as much time and sweat as you during the summer for the common goal?
I know I’m not in an individual sport. If I were in track and field maybe I would have won something big by now. But I am not. I decided for a team sport and I always had more fun in a team. I tried the other way with tennis. That’s what makes it a challenge, playing away from your weaknesses or attacking those of your opponents. That’s what makes a team sport attractive. Finding a way to win despite your own weaknesses is important. But, sure it’s bitter sometimes when a teammate doesn’t invest the necessary time.
After the Olympics, your second dream is winning an NBA title. Can you imagine not doing that with the Mavericks – and maybe not as the go-to guy, but a role player?
Of course it would be more exciting to do it in Dallas and being the franchise player. The best thing would be me carrying the team to the title. But the other teams have gotten so strong, also through some unfair trades – Pau Gasol to Los Angeles and Kevin Garnett to Boston. Maybe I will see if it helps changing teams in like three years. Maybe it won’t be fun any more or I can’t keep up with the athleticism anymore. Maybe I will in Europe again. I can imagine all of that.
Looking at the German national team, a dream of yours came true last summer by reaching the 2008 Olympics. From a sports standpoint, things didn’t go as you had dreamt …
You’re right. From a sports standpoint, things were unfortunate and a little disappointing. We had an absolute high at the qualification tournament in Athens in June. We played our best basketball there. Then everybody had a week off and celebrated a little. And it’s very tough to reach that same level again right away. We didn’t have our top form in the Olympics, we just couldn’t keep it up. That was aggravating. Of course, the main thing was being at the Olympics. That’s why we celebrated so much in Athens.
Were the Olympics off the court how you had anticipated?
The things I thought beforehand would be awesome ended up being awesome. I will never forget the Opening Ceremonies and walking in carrying the flag, and life in the Olympic Village. When you got back from the late game at 2 a.m. there were still 2,000 sitting around the cafeteria when you arrive. Those were the things I wanted to experience the most. And I will never forget them.
When you look back on the basketball tournament in Beijing and compare it to past successes for Germany, could you tell that the team had gotten older and couldn’t afford to do certain things?
Honestly, I would say all of the other teams have gotten better. I also said that at the 2007 EuroBasket in Spain, where we were a bit lucky to finish fifth. Even then, I had the feeling that all the other teams had taken a step forward. Younger players had been integrated and even the 12th players had earned minutes and were scoring off pick-and-rolls. Everyone can do everything. A year ago I thought: “We didn’t get any worse, but we also didn’t really get any better. We kind of stood still.”
And in 2008?
Chris Kaman of course brought us some fresh air. It was important that he was in Athens. Despite an injured foot and him being slightly overweight, he really cleaned up under the basket. I can clearly remember some important rebounds against Brazil and Puerto Rico. That was certainly important. He may not have played a great tournament, mainly because of his injury. But even with him, it was clear to see that we as a team are no longer near the top in the world. We wouldn’t have deserved being in the top eight in the world at the Olympics. The way that Greece and Spain took us a part showed that there are two class levels.
What about the fact that the Spaniards started the 17-year-old Ricky Rubio at point guard.
I really don’t know how the Spaniards keep bringing out those kinds of players. Or Italy. One of their players was picked No. 8 in the NBA Draft (Danilo Gallinari), who I didn’t even know. He wasn’t even at the 2007 EuroBasket in Spain. I had to ask Sven Schultze who he was and what he can do. That is really crazy how other countries can come up with young players who can really ball. For us (Germany), not too much has come out in the past few years even though we did have a couple of new guys last year which was really fun. Like Tim Ohlbrecht for example. Being just 19 years old, he worked his way into the roster during the preparations. So that gives us some hope. But over the past few years, young talents have never really challenged the veterans for their spots in the national team.
Do you talk to German national team coach Dirk Bauermann or the officials with the German basketball federation (DBB) about the long on-going problems with the youth development in Germany? Do you try and find out what’s being done for the youth in Germany?
Well, I’m pretty far away. When I hold a couple of camps in the summer it’s nice and helpful. But it doesn’t really do a lot on a wide scale. I talked to (DBB) sports director Wolfgang Brenscheidt about the youth here. But it is a tough topic. The DBB and the (German league) Bundesliga have not really worked together optimally in years – some times even against each other.
This summer there is the 2009 EuroBasket in Poland. Say you don’t play, should fans worry about the German national team falling into a deep hole? Chris Kaman would likely also not play and many veterans have already retired or said they are thinking about it. A newly-formed team would likely only be second-class and have major difficulties qualifying for the 2010 World Championships. Wouldn’t that be the end of your German national team career? Or would you want to play again in 2010 in a EuroBasket qualifying tournament?
I think that I definitely need a break this summer. The problem is not really the tournaments. It’s more the five or six weeks of preparations ahead of time that I do with Holger Geschwindner. That is getting more and more difficult for me over the years. In an interview with the (German tabloid daily) Bildzeitung, I was misinterpreted. It sounded like I would play if I didn’t have to take part in the preparations with the team. That’s not what it’s about. My personal preparations are the problem. It would be great if I could just come to the team and say: “Here I am, I’m the greatest. And I’ll take care of everything.” But of course it doesn’t work like that. I need to train for weeks and really hard to be top fit for a big tournament. And at the moment, finding that motivation for those weeks of preparations is the problem. It has been okay the past two years. Last summer I only had one week off after the NBA season before I began preparing for (the Olympic qualifying tournament in) Athens. But that was okay because I had my sights set on my big goal, the Olympics. I know the whole situation with Chris Kaman. And that’s really a shame. But I really need a break. In one or two years I have to see how I feel physically. A lot depends on how long I am in the playoffs with the Mavericks. Of course, I hope we don’t get bounced in the first round again.
Are the 2012 Olympics in London a goal for you?
The Olympics were so much fun for me. Of course it’s a goal! If I am healthy and I’m still having fun, then I would definitely like to try again. If we have to go to the EuroBasket qualifying and then head to deep Russia for a home and away series, well that won’t exactly be fun, but whatever it takes.
While you were in Beijing, did you as a team talk about the future and the past?
Yeah. After the game against the United States, we bid farewell to Patrick Femerling and Pascal Roller, who had said they were retiring. There were some hugs and we remembered some of the good times we had together over the last few years. Besides Patrick and Pascal, Demond Greene also said he wouldn’t play anymore because of his two kids. And I think Robert Garrett will probably retire too. Steffen Hamann will definitely keep going. And Jan Jagla too. And Sven Schultze told me he wanted to stay in the team. And now it’s time for the young kids to come in.
Who will take over the leadership role in the team when you’re not there?
Steffen will have an important role as playmaker. He has to distribute the ball and also score more points and go to the basket more. Jan has shown that he can score at the European level. Those two will probably be the focal points. And then there is Sven, who for me is the best role player around. He is always in a good mood and positive and firing up his teammates. He is an important factor and hits his shots when he is open. And he uses his will and desire to make up for the problem that he’s not really a small forward or power forward. Against the U.S. he even gave Dwyane Wade problems. And Dwight Howard during the game said something like: “Man, you can’t be pushing me around!” You can always use a guy like Sven.
Source and Full Interview: http://www.5ivemag.com/nba-coaches/the-big-dirk-nowitzki-interview-part-i/