Maxi Kleber of the Dallas Mavericks spoke to the media about various things, including his friendship with Dirk Nowitzki, his thoughts on the team’s rookie Luka Doncic and more.
Q. We’ve talked about your jumping from starter to DNP to backup last season. Do you get the feeling you’ve found a steady place right now?
MAXI KLEBER: Of course. You know, that’s one thing, but at the same time, I know I have to keep working because playing time in the NBA is never guaranteed. You have to work for your spot, so what I’m doing is trying my best in practice to keep improving. I did a lot this summer. I know I’m a reliable person on defense, so that’s what gets me into the games. I wanted to work on my offensive game, and that’s like key for me to get more playing time.
Q. You were talking about your offense; how have you seen your shot improve? I know you worked on your three-point shot this summer. How do you feel going into these first games?
MAXI KLEBER: So the first games went really well for me. I had a lot of time to work it out, and when you change your shot, you want to get as many reps as you can. Unfortunately the last week or week and a half, we didn’t have that much practice time. I try to get as many shots as I can every time we don’t travel and have a gym because for me, it’s still key. I feel very comfortable with my new shot now, but I still have to get as many reps as I can, and those three days we had now were very helpful to get back to the routine that I always had.
Q. Joining the Mavs this year, two [international] rookies, so Luka [Doncic] obviously is the headliner, but also another one is Ryan Broekhoff. As someone who has made the transition to the NBA quite recently, have you been doing anything to help the two of them with the change?
MAXI KLEBER: You know, it’s not just me, it’s basically everybody on the team. When they have questions, everybody can answer and talk to them. They don’t pick a specific person, but they just talk to everybody.
You know, by the way that Luka plays, you can see that he’s been a professional player for years now, playing with adults, against adults. I think this is not very new to him. Of course it’s a different style of basketball, but he adapted pretty well. I think also Ryan did a great job this preseason. He’s doing his work in practice. That’s basically what I did last year, too. Then at one point you get your shot, and I know that Ryan can use it, too, because he’s a very good player, very smart, and he does the right things. Rick [Carlisle] likes that.
Q. This is about Dirk Nowitzki, you being from the same town. I want to know about your relationship and how he’s been helping you with your career.
MAXI KLEBER: So before the NBA, I didn’t really have a big relationship with Dirk. You know, every once in a while he texted me when I was injured and couldn’t play for the national team, but since I’m here, we became very good friends. The first season I was here very early because they wanted me to do some rehab stuff and work on my body. He did the same thing in the summer, so we had a lot of time to spend together. He invited me to his house with his family, which was pretty cool because I didn’t know anybody here, and also we talked a lot about the NBA, what I have to expect as a rookie, what the life is like and all that.
So we could talk a lot about that, and it helped me a lot to adapt to the NBA and to the American lifestyle, what is expected of me. I’m very thankful because I think there are not many guys out there like him. He has also so much experience, and there’s nobody who can teach better than him.
Q. You just spoke a little bit about Dirk, and we know how big he is in Germany. Now you get to play with Luka every day. And we know Dirk is arguably one of the best European players ever to play in the NBA. So what do you think now that you get to play with Luka every day? What’s his ceiling, and do you think he can take Dirk’s place, as they say?
MAXI KLEBER: That’s a good question. I think it’s kind of early because you really have to respect what Dirk did in this league. He played here now, it’s his 21st season, and what he has accomplished is amazing. How he won his title with this team as an underdog is amazing. He’s a very good teammate and all that. Luka is a super talented player and he has so many skills, but it’s kind of early because he only played a couple of games in the NBA, so you have to see where that’s going Of course he has the talent to be like one of the best if not the best European player ever, but I think it’s too early to say something like this, so we should just let him develop. My opinion is that he doesn’t have a limit. Luka can do whatever. You can already tell now because of the way he plays and how efficient he is. You can tell that he’s a very special talent.
Q. You’re working on your shot with Dirk, discovering coaching legend Holger Geschwindner over the summer, and it seemed to pay off. This season you were able to improve your three-point shooting from a little over 30 percent to almost 40 percent. What is Holger’s role in this improvement, and how was he able to help you?
MAXI KLEBER: So over the summer, the main guy I was working out with was Stefan Weissenbock, and he lives like an hour away from my hometown. I’ve been working with him for four years, I think. I know him through my agent, and we had a good chemistry, so that’s the guy who I worked out with this summer. But when I came back to the Dallas Mavs, Holger was here at the beginning of the season. Every time I shoot he sees something, so he comes up to you and he tells you a little bit about what you can change and what still is not perfect. So obviously when my shooting coach is not around and Holger is here and he sees something, that helps me a lot because the more you shoot, the more likely is the chance that you’re bringing in a new mistake. Holger sees stuff like that immediately, and then he wants to change it.
You know, it was good that he was talking to me about that, too.
Q. I’m going to ask you more about your team. The expectation was obviously high before the season started obviously, but now it’s not as well as expected, I’m sure. What was the expectation, and what are you guys working on now to change or to turn around the season? And also, the last question is have you forgiven DeAndre Jordan?
MAXI KLEBER: Well, you know, it was kind of a rough start. The Phoenix game was a game that we wanted to win, and we didn’t come out with the right energy. Then we advanced to 2-1, which was good for us. But we gave up some games like Atlanta and at home, New York, that we should have won, and it hurts a lot. It’s still early in the season and I think we have the chance to turn it around, but we have to be better than that because we have too much talent to waste it like that.
You know, those three days we had now were good for us to practice and get back to our basics. We watched a lot of video, analyzed everything, because the way we played and showed up, it’s just not the way we want to go out there, especially for our fans. They deserve better.
We have to do a better job on that, and we’ve got another chance tomorrow.
And well, the rebound was not on me, so I think the second question is more for Luka.
Q. I want to ask you, how does it feel to land in the NBA, quote-unquote, like you’re a sophomore even though you’re 26 years old?
MAXI KLEBER: I mean, you know, it’s a dream. When I was young, I was watching all NBA highlights and game recaps and all that. I was always saying, “Man, it would be so cool to play in the NBA,” seeing all those stars. And now finally I made it and being here and participating, helping the team out to play and win. It’s just an amazing feeling.
You know, like everybody who has a childhood dream and it becomes true, it’s just amazing. I can’t really describe it because every day I wake up, it’s still like, man, this is amazing, and I just enjoy every day of it.
Q. With what you’ve been showing since the beginning of the season in terms of a lot of energy, defense and shooting, do you think you proved to the other GMs and coaches in the NBA that you are not in the NBA only because of your connection with Dirk?
MAXI KLEBER: Well, in the first place, it was not Dirk who made it happen, actually, because the Dallas Mavs were actually interested. There were some other teams, too. But I know my role, and I know the way I play, and it’s always — it comes from energy. The more energy I have that day, the better I play, I would say. Some days you feel a little bit tired, so you have to force yourself to go out there and give your best, but I know that I’m an energy player. I’m not the one who’s handling the ball and getting the most iso plays. So I have to do it through defense and the right plays and the right decisions.
And of course, you know, I want to establish myself in the NBA, so I guess other GMs see that, too.
Q. I want to know, I want to talk about the high-scoring games in the NBA this season. There’s been a lot of high-scoring games, and also Dallas scored over 100 in every single game so far. What are the reasons for the offensive boost in scoring in the league right now?
MAXI KLEBER: It’s become faster paced — the teams are running up and down way faster. There are more possessions. With us, we try to take more uncontested threes than contested twos, which is for statistics the better shot, and I think those are the reasons why there’s so many high-scoring games, also. There’s so much talent out there. It’s tough to defend and really stop teams, and when they get hot, they just make shots. But I think it’s mainly the higher pace that causes that.
Q. I would like to ask you, big five European players, your idea, all-European lineup in the current NBA season?
MAXI KLEBER: Oh, wow. That’s a tough one. I’d probably have to think about that too much. The only guy I would put in there for sure is Luka. Luka is here sitting next to me looking at me. That’s why I paused for a second. Yeah, I’d probably have to think about that too long. But Luka is for me one guy I would put in there. All the other guys you can speculate.
Q. My question is specific to the Philippine market, and it’s related to your knowledge of the international basketball landscape. I just wanted to gain your insight, having international experience playing on the German national team, what do you think the undersized Filipino national team can do to actually take it to the next level when it comes to international competition?
MAXI KLEBER: I don’t think that being undersized is a problem anymore because if you look at the way the game changes, you see more and more small 5 guys that can also shoot. You can solve a lot of problems on defense by switching. That’s what a lot of teams do, so you expect smaller guys to be able to guard bigger guys.
I think being an undersized team doesn’t mean that you have to back off. Sometimes it’s even tougher for other teams because a switching defense confuses and makes it tougher to score. If they are not used to it getting hectic, that might happen also in the European competitions since maybe some teams are not prepared for it or not as skilled to use the advantage of mismatches like that.
I think there’s no reason to hide just because you’re undersized.
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