Pre-Finals Dirk Nowitzki Interview
The NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks starts tonight. Here's what Mavs star Dirk Nowitzki said to the media yesterday:
Q. Just wondering before we get to the basketball talk, how do you think Germany is going to do in the World Cup on your home soil?
DIRK NOWITZKI: Obviously very excited about it. You know, everybody in Europe has actually paid more attention to the soccer World Cup than The Finals, which is a little sad for me. (Laughter) obviously it's the big stage over there, and hopefully Germany will do great. You know, they have a young team, and they have got a new coach that's trying to do some stuff. So I'm excited about it, and I'm just sad I can't be there to support the team and I can't really watch too much because I'm really focused on The Finals. Hopefully we'll get to the final and that's July 9 and I'll be there.
Q. To follow up on Germany, we noticed fans who arrived from Germany today to back you. They were out there with the German flag and one guy was wearing a Speedo, not sure what that means. (Laughter) can you talk about the German people that support you and how much of an impact you've had on the game in your country?
DIRK NOWITZKI: It's been great, obviously when I first got here eight or nine years ago, nobody was really paying attention over there. I'd come home from the season and walk around wherever I wanted and no one really knew what was going on. It just started when Mark bought the team, we started to get better, I started to be an All-Star and obviously everybody started to pay attention more. The hype got so much bigger over the last couple of years and everybody is respecting what I do for the team here in the U.S. They love it. The fans in Germany, they obviously pay attention and write letters and e-mails. It's been great and it's been a fun ride and hopefully we can top it off with a championship.
Q. Are you flattered and are you surprised that people from your homeland have come here just to see you?
DIRK NOWITZKI: Yeah, obviously, I know that Germany will always be a soccer country, but to know that there are fans out there that support the sport I do, even last year, the European Championship, we had fans travel to wherever we played and supported us and pushed us all the way to the silver medal.
It's been great that Germany is supporting me in what I do, and it's been fun.
Q. Speaking about Germany, on the national team, you pretty much had always been the guy, everybody goes through you, and your success there is basically on you and now once Steve Nash and Michael Finley left, did you pick up the same mentality with the Mavs that you had with the national team?
DIRK NOWITZKI: I think the national team really helped me over the year with leadership-wise and just talking to the players and, you know, in the league, we always had other guys that took that role, like Steve and Mike were very vocal and I think I learned from them and I learned a lot from my national team experience where a lot of people were looking at me. And once I traveled to another country to play, it wasn't Germany; it was Dirk was coming. So a lot of people know to pay attention, the pressure was there.
I think I learned every summer how to handle myself and how to be a leader and I think I learned something obviously in the playoff experience where I made some mistakes as a leader and more than anything, I wanted to relax this year in the playoffs and still have fun out there and be a bigger factor for my team and be consistent for them and just be there for them. I'm still not the most vocal leader there is. There are other guys that talk a lot and have been leaders on other team, but more than anything, I'm trying to go out there and be as consistent as I can be for my team.
Q. Pressure you faced being a star with them, is that similar or more now on this stage?
DIRK NOWITZKI: Well, this is the biggest stage there is. There's nothing compared to this. Obviously I played in the World Championships, I played in the European Championships, I played in Germany, but this is as big as it gets. Just walking around the court today and seeing the court surrounded by so many people, it's obviously a fun situation to be in. I think that the pressure is going to be equal on everybody to perform. So I'm not going to even worry about that. I know once the tip is up, it's still basketball. I'm still going to do all of the same things that got us here, and that's being aggressive, trying to play a solid, all-around game with rebounding and some scoring and some passing and a little bit of defense. So it's -- once the tip goes up, it's still the same, but obviously the stage is a lot bigger and a lot more people are paying attention. It's an exciting time. It's probably the most exciting time of my life.
Q. How would you describe Jason's personality, and what has he meant to this team?
DIRK NOWITZKI: Well, he's been great. We have a locker room next to each other and he's been a fun guy, fun to have around. He's got a great personality. He's always funny, he always has a joke on his lips. Obviously I was a little sad when we lost my boy, Nashy, obviously, but when I heard we got Jason, I knew we had a proven scorer in this league. And I didn't even know anything about him yet, but I was excited to have him on board to run the team and he exceeded all of my expectations. He's been great on and off the court. He's one of best crunch shooters I've ever seen in big games, and like I said, he's a great guy off the floor. You want to spend your time -- he's a gym rat like I am, we shoot a lot. Sometimes we come back at night and shoot together.
We really connected and bonded from day one and he's been great to have around.
Q. Avery mentioned the impact of the play you made at the end of regulation in Game 7 against the Spurs, that was almost a watershed moment for this team; that he has been telling you that, that, you know, the 25-foot fade-away or the pick-and-pop is not what you have to do in those moments. Can you reflect on that and what that means for you?
DIRK NOWITZKI: Yeah, I think Avery is doing a great job pushing me to play more of an all-around game. I think once I first got in the league, obviously I was strictly a jump shooter, pick-and-pop guy and opponents, when they took that away my game was pretty much over.
Over the years and with Avery now, he's pushing me to play more of an all-around game, get some points in the paint, post up some more, get some easy shots to the basket, drive a lot more ask get to the foul line and just play an all-around offensive game and be in attack mode all the time and not just settle for jumpshots. That's what he forced me to do.
Obviously in Game 6, we were in a similar situation, we had 30, 35 seconds to go, we were down three and I kind of forced that shot out of the corner against Fin, which was a bad look, and it ultimately, you know, didn't go in and we lost the game.
I told myself and the coaches obviously talked to me the next day about it; if I'm ever in this situation again and there's still so much time left, I'm just going to drive as hard as I can and just make something happen. If they would not have fouled me, we would have had a one-point game and still had enough time to foul or try a three or drive it and foul it again. At this point there was so much time left, I thought, I've just got to go in there as hard as I can and obviously we were lucky that Ginobili fouled me and the ball went in.
But I think you always learn from mistakes that you made and I made that mistake in Game 6 and I learned from it.
Q. Your first few careers in the league and maybe through last year, you seemed to wrestle with the notion of being a great player and you used to always say, I'm not a great player. Where are with that now?
DIRK NOWITZKI: Well, I would never sit here and say I'm a great player. That's just not my personality.
I grew a lot over the last couple of years, like I said, with my all-around game, and it's been fun to play, obviously, for Avery. He gives me a lot of freedom and let's me do my game.
So, I mean, really, I don't see myself arrived yet. I think I still have some improvement to do, a lot of things on the court and that's why I'll go back probably this summer whether we win it or not, I'm probably going to take a couple weeks off and be right back in the gym in July and work and play for the German national team in Japan. Just always try to get better and that's my style.
Q. A couple years ago, Larry Bird raised some eyebrows when he said he really thought more than anything, the NBA needed some new white superstars. Do you give any validity to that? Do you think fans care either way as to who is leading these teams?
DIRK NOWITZKI: I'm not getting into all that. You know, that's up to you guys to make that up or figure that out. You know, I'm just trying to be as aggressive as I can be and help Dallas win the Championship. I think the franchise and everybody waited for this a long time.
Other than that, to me, if you're on the court, it doesn't matter if you're white, black, yellow; I think you have to fit in your team, you have to play as a team, it's a team sport. You've just got to get the job done no matter where you're from.