Dirk Nowitzki talks Thunder series, Warriors and Kobe Bryant’s farewell

Dallas Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitzki took part in a conference call, during which he had the chance to speak about the NBA Playoffs, focusing on the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Golden State Warriors. The 37 year-old also commented on the Dallas Mavericks’ season, on the German national team and on Kobe Bryant’s farewell.

Dirk Nowitzki: It’s been a great year again. It’s been a little bit of up and down for our Mavericks. We’re happy with the playoffs. We had some injury problems all year long. We fought through them. And we had a great finish here to the season, winning like five or six in a row to squeeze in the playoffs.

So, we’re thrilled that we’re back in the playoffs. The 15th time in 16 years is a pretty special run. Oklahoma [City] obviously is a very good team with two of the best players in this league. And let’s do some questions.

Q: You have lots of memories of OKC – most of them probably from 2011. Maybe you can tell us a bit about your memories of the Conference Finals from 2011 and why you are positive on reaching the second round of the playoffs this year.

Dirk Nowitzki: I think Oklahoma [City] has played a great season and has two of the best players that we have in the league. But we have played some good games against them and I think three out of the four we lost were quite close, and we could have won those if the end of the game is a bit different. So we have to approach this full steam and have to fight like we have done it in the last 2-3 weeks of the regular season. We have to play together and then we will see what happens.

I don’t think we can take something out of 2011. We have a completely new team. The only ones left are me and J.J. [Barea]. We all know that Oklahoma has an explosive offense. [Russell] Westbrook is very fast on the fast break. I hope that we will be able to handle the ball well and won’t have too many turnovers. Hopefully we force them into a set offense and they won’t be able to do many fast breaks and then we would have better chances.

Q: Do you recall any other seasons since you were in the NBA in which the championship was tougher to win than in this one with the Warriors, the Spurs, the Cavs, even the Thunder?

Dirk Nowitzki: I feel like the top of the league has gotten better and better over the years. The talent pool just keeps getting better in these good teams. And, yeah, I mean it’s really, really hard these days to win it up there.

I mean, look, San Antonio has an incredible year, only lost like 14, 15 games and they still finished five, six games behind the Warriors. It’s an incredible amount of talent these teams have. And it is a fun playoffs, exciting playoffs; exciting for the league, exciting for our sport.

Q: Can you tell us what happened after this big blowout loss against Sacramento? I guess it was something like two-and-a-half weeks ago. Afterwards, what happened in the locker room? What did you guys tell each other that you made this amazing run afterwards to finally get into the playoffs?

Dirk Nowitzki: Yeah, that was pretty much our lowest point of the season. We didn’t play well. We didn’t compete well. We got outplayed. And I think just the whole team was embarrassed about it.

We came together. We had a team meeting the next day, I remember, in Denver. We played the next day. And we had a meeting and we just said, ‘Hey, it’s now or never. If this means something to you as a team, as an individual, then we got to fight. We got to fight harder. We got to fight together. We got to play better defense. We got to rebound better.’ And we had some coaches really going at us and I think the players responded the right way.

And, plus, we lost [Chandler] Parsons, which obviously hurts. He was on an incredible run once he got healthy. We lost Deron Williams there for a good two, two-and-a-half weeks. And we did that basically without two of our starters, which was an incredible run the last few weeks of the regular season. And it’s been fun. So, hopefully, we can carry some of that fight, some of that spirit, some of that playing style into the playoffs. And we’ll see what happens.

Q: A question concerning the Warriors. I think they have such a special style of playing basketball. Can you describe their style and what makes them such an outstanding basketball team?

Dirk Nowitzki: They have unbelievable shooters. Usually a team has like one Steph [Curry] or one Klay [Thompson] or whatever. But to have two of those caliber two shooters, two scorers like that on the court at the same time is unbelievable. One of them can go for eight to 10 threes on any given night. And they’re just fun to watch.

And I think the rest of the team is just built perfect around them. They got rebounders. They got some athletes. They got some defenders. They’re really, really good in every position. They’re deep. They’ve got length. They’re just a really, really good team.

And I was happy for them they broke the record. They’ve been incredibly fun all year. Just to lose nine games an entire season, that’s incredible and that record might never be touched again. I’m happy for the guys and they played an incredible season, for sure.

Q: I know you’re a big soccer fan and I wanted to know what was your reaction during the 2014 World Cup when Germany beat Brazil by 7 to 1? And who do you think is more dominant, Germany at soccer or the Golden State Warriors?

Dirk Nowitzki: Well, since we won the World Cup [in 2014], we’ve been struggling a little bit. I saw we had some tough losses in some friendlies. We didn’t really play great in the Euro qualification from what I saw.

But that was unbelievable. I was able to follow every game here in the U.S. and then actually for the final, back in the days, I was in Germany. So I remember watching them with my family and when [Mario] Gotze scored the game-winning goal in overtime, I kicked almost the table over with all the drinks on it. And that was an incredible experience for the whole country. Seeing everybody happy and celebrating, that was unbelievable.

And, yeah, the Warriors kind of built a little dynasty here the last few years. They won the championship last year. They break the record this year. Like I said, they have a great team and they’re fun to watch.

Q: I wanted to ask, since you were involved in the farewell for Kobe with the little statements, how do you think the Lakers handled the whole spectacle of Kobe’s last game? And do you expect the Mavericks to do something similar for you one day?

Dirk Nowitzki: I don’t think anybody will get something like that again for a while. Kobe’s meant so much to not only the Lakers, but to the league, to basketball worldwide. He’s been an ambassador. And, obviously, I always say he was the Michael Jordan of our generation and very deservedly got an unbelievable send-off yesterday. With ex-players being there, with his teammates giving him the ball over and over, wanting him to score, and then him winning the game basically at the end, scoring the last, I don’t know, 15 points straight. And, basically, the fans never sat down anymore in the last quarter, just chanting his name. I actually had goosebumps just watching it and I was really happy for him.

Knowing how much Kobe, like I said, has meant to the league, but also how hard he works, his dedication to the sport and just everything, what he meant and what he put in, all the hard work he put in. So, I was happy for him. It was great to watch. And then, they came back to win. It was kind of like the perfect script to a movie ending to an incredible career, for sure.

Q: I’d like to know, how do you anticipate the future of German basketball and could you imagine being a part of it as a functionary, for instance, as a trainer of the national team in years to come?

Dirk Nowitzki: Well, we’re going to sit together again and figure that out. I think I always said German basketball is obviously close to me. I’ve played it my entire international career. I grew up playing there. I played nationally 10-plus years. I had some great success, some great experiences with great coaches and teammates.

So, I think once my career is over we can sit down with the national team and kind of talk about what their future plans are and see if I can be of any help. But I think that’s, obviously, a few years down the road. I still want to compete a couple more years probably in the NBA, the way things are going. So I think we’re going to have a little time.

But the national team already had reached out to me, especially after we didn’t get the pre-Olympic tournament; so, basically, no Olympic Games for us this year. So, they had reached out to me with the news. And then we left it at having a meeting this summer, maybe sit together, have a dinner and kind of go over some things that they could see possible in the future. But, like I said, it’s something to me that’s a few years out. I still feel like I can play a few more years at a high level and everything else will fall in place after that.

Q: We know that a lot of NBA players are being more conscious of financial management and discuss all their financial businesses going on. So, what’s your plan for the fortune you’ve made? And if you were to start your own business, what would you do?

Dirk Nowitzki: Well, I’ve been doing stuff on the side, obviously, my entire career. I take my foundation work very serious. I’ve got a foundation in the U.S. I’ve got a foundation in Germany. And that’s something I will continue to do even after my career is over.

Other than that, I still love basketball and I’m sure that, after my career, I’ll stay involved with basketball and do some stuff there. Other than that, I don’t think I have many plans as of now. But we’ll just see what life after basketball still brings for me. I know I’m going to be excited to spend some time with my family and see the kids grow up. But anything else will fall in place after.

Q: I hope you don’t mind if I creep in this question. Your good friend Marvin Willoughby has helped team Hamburg Towers and they’re doing quite well in the playoffs right now. They have a quite good run, 2-1 up against Gotha, and tomorrow they have a match going at home and Hamburg is very excited about it. And, do you follow the Towers and, yes, maybe you can say something about them?

Dirk Nowitzki: Well, obviously, Marvin is a very close friend of mine. We basically played national team together since we were 13, 14 years old. So, I’ve been knowing him over 20 years. We played together in Wurzburg for two years. And he’s doing some great, great charity stuff there in Hamburg. So, I’m happy for him. And anything he touches, basically, I’m happy for him. We keep contact over the phone every couple of weeks; we text each other. And so if he’s happy, I’m happy for him. And, hopefully, his Hamburg team does well.

Q: After the decision of DeAndre Jordan last summer and the Chandler Parsons injury, Dallas is still there in the playoffs. So can you describe this Mavs team? What are the motivations and the keys of your success this year?

Dirk Nowitzki: Yeah, I think we had some injury problems, but we fought through them. Every time somebody goes down, another teammate has to step in and fill that role and compete and play well.

I think we have one of the best coaches in the league. He motivates us every night. He puts us in position to succeed with the game plan. If we execute it, we usually are in pretty good position to win the game. And, just guys have played well.

I think Deron Williams coming over from Brooklyn; not knowing, had two ankle surgeries the last two years. And he had a great year for us. I think Wesley Matthews came back from a tough, tough Achilles injury and has played really, really well in parts and lately he’s been great.

Zaza Pachulia has been a find for us after the whole DeAndre Jordan debacle last summer. We didn’t know who was going to start for us at center and we traded for Zaza. And he’s played a really solid year for us on both ends of the floor. So, I think we just had a bunch of guys play well at right times. J.J. Barea has been on fire for us for weeks now.

So, it’s just been certain guys stepping up at the right time for us to make the run here in the playoffs. This is always the most exciting time of the year. It’s warm out. The fans are more excited.

Q: You say you envision yourself playing a few more years. I was wondering, what kind of role do you imagine for yourself? Kobe went from being superstar to basically a mentor to a group of young players. And you’re still the guy in Dallas. So, what kind of role do you envision for yourself in this next couple of years?

Dirk Nowitzki: Yeah, I always just adjust to whatever is needed. To me, I always saw my role as a team leader. I need to do whatever is asked of me to do any given night, and that’s try to help win. Some nights that might be just sitting on the bench and letting some young guy who’s having a great game, and I’m struggling, maybe let him finish out the game and let him win. And I’m cheering for him. Some nights it might be some more scoring. Some nights it might be just getting some rebounds.

I always looked at myself, when we win the game I’ve done my job. Whether I scored 20 or whether I scored five points, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if I score or rebound or whatever as long as we get the job done, we get the win. Then I did something right. And that’s how I always looked at it.

So, the last couple years I don’t think anything will change. Maybe my minutes go down as I get older. Maybe my shots go down. It doesn’t matter. I want to be there for the team. I want to help win. And, really, everything else is secondary. I don’t play for records or numbers. I’ve always played to compete and to win with my team. And that’s how it’s going to be the last couple years.

Q: How important has J.J. Barea been to the team and the chemistry?

Dirk Nowitzki: He’s been the man. He has stretches this year where it feels like every shot is going in. And right before he got hurt again here with his groin, he carried us. He scored over 20 every night.

And he’s our little spark plug. He’s a little guy, but he’s got a huge heart. He loves to compete. He’s got pride. And he just comes in there and gives us instant scoring, usually off the bench. And he’s a very close friend of mine, so I’m very happy. We obviously signed him for four years. He just had another baby, so things are going really well for him on and off the floor, and I’m really, really happy for him. He’s a close friend. Obviously, the championship a couple years ago brought us together as friends and as teammates and he’ll forever be family to me.

Watch the 2015-16 NBA Playoffs live on BT Sport or via NBA LEAGUE PASS at www.nba.tv.

Source: Pitch London
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