Dirk Nowitzki says he is in shape, nobody scares him in West

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Dallas is off to a slow start in its title defense, hasn’t looked the part of a contender and has looked old. Especially Dirk Nowitzki.

Dirk has taken to the offensive on those that question him and his team. He thinks they’ll be just fine.

Nowitzki — who has been sitting out the last four games because of a sore knee and because his coach and owner said he needed to work on his “conditioning” — first fired back at the idea he is out of shape. From the Star Telegram.

“No, I don’t know why coach threw that out there,” Nowitzki bristled when asked about his conditioning. “I didn’t have any problem with conditioning at all. You can never work hard enough on conditioning, but that wasn’t holding me back.”

If it wasn’t conditioning, then it was the knee everybody kept trying to downplay as not that big a deal. One or the other, folks.

Dallas is 11-8 now (current sixth seed in a very tight West) and it’s a good bounce back from a 1-4 start. The Mavericks are feeling good. Dirk is feeling really good about their chances, he told ESPNDallas.com.

“I haven’t seen one team in the West that I’m scared of,” Nowitzki said. “I really haven’t. I think we can compete with all of them.

“Oklahoma City has probably the best record, but I think we’ve played them well every time we’ve seen them and everybody else has been up and down.”

Like last year, Dallas is going to need almost everything to go right to get deep into the playoffs. They are not better than Oklahoma City at its best. And in the end, they still may miss Tyson Chandler and his defense. But if you are the defending champion, you shouldn’t be afraid of anyone. I get that.

Jazz boost international bona fides with new minor-league coach

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Martin Schiller has been named coach of the Salt Lake City Stars, the Utah Jazz’s NBA G League affiliate.

Schiller previously served as an assistant coach of MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg in Germany and replaces Dean Cooper. He was an assistant coach for the Artland Dragons from 2010-15.

Schiller has also been an assistant coach on the German National Team since 2015, where he worked with Jazz assistant coach Alex Jensen.

Schiller hails from Vienna, Austria, and Stars vice president of basketball operations Bart Taylor lauded him for his international experience and player development background.

The Jazz organization is known to have close relationships with the international basketball community. The Jazz currently have eight international players.

Kyrie Irving will wear No. 11 with Celtics

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BOSTON (AP) — Newly acquired guard Kyrie Irving will wear No. 11 in Boston because the Celtics already have retired the numbers he wore in college and with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Irving wore No. 11 at two New Jersey high schools before switching to No. 1 at Duke. He wore No. 2 with the Cavaliers for the first six years of his NBA career.

The Celtics retired No. 1 for founder and original owner Walter Brown. They retired No. 2 for former coach and general manager Red Auerbach.

In all, the Celtics have retired 21 numbers, with Paul Pierce’s No. 34 next in line for the TD Garden rafters.

 

PBT Extra: Cavaliers’ new GM aces first big test with Kyrie Irving trade

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Everyone in the NBA — heck, nearly everyone living in the Western hemisphere — knew Kyrie Irving wanted out of Cleveland. That should kill the Cavaliers’ leverage and make it hard to get enough quality back.

New GM Koby Altman — the guy thrust into the job when David Griffin was shown the door — pulled it off brilliantly.

That’s what I talk about in this new PBT Extra. With Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder, the Cavaliers remain the team to beat in the East this season. The Brooklyn Nets pick gives them flexibility going forward, whatever LeBron James decides to do next season.

First time at the plate in the big leagues and Altman crushed it to straight away center field.

Cavaliers-Celtics deal first offseason trade involving players who just met in NBA Finals or conference finals

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The Cavaliers and Celtics played in last year’s Eastern Conference finals. The teams were widely expected to meet there again.

Yet, Cleveland and Boston just completed a blockbuster trade – Kyrie Irving for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Nets’ 2018 first-round pick.

That seemed odd.

In fact, it’s unprecedented.

That is an incredible fact, one which speaks to LeBron Jamescachet. The Cavs are emphasizing this season, LeBron’s last before a player option, by loading up with veterans Thomas and Crowder. With LeBron still reigning in Cleveland, the Celtics are delaying their peak by acquiring the younger Irving.

Adding to the intrigue: the Cavs and Celtics are still favored to meet in this year’s conference finals. At minimum, they’ll face off in a(n even more) highly anticipated opening-night matchup.