Dirk Nowitzki‘s legacy is locked in: NBA champion, greatest Maverick in franchise history, best shooting big man in NBA history, greatest European player ever in the NBA, a guy who helped change the NBA and how big men play. He’s a lock first ballot Hall of Famer.
The only question now, how much longer he plays.
As he has said before, Nowitzki said he’d like to play out his current two-year contract, but he will see how his body feels after this one, the German told Marc Spears of The Undefeated (in a story that covers a lot of Nowitzki’s life and is worth the read).
“I signed on for two more, so hopefully I can play those two,” Nowitzki said. “Last year with the Achilles [injury], I missed almost two months. It was frustrating and disappointing. Hopefully, injury wise it will be a lot better this season and maybe I’ll play another one. We will see how it goes this [season]. We will see how the body feels.
“As long as I enjoy competing and enjoy the games. … So many practices are tough to motivate yourself for. Games will always be fun. Competing will always be fun.”
Nowitzki sounds like a lot of greats who recently retired — Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, etc. — in that the difference was they didn’t want to put in the work to get their body ready for the practices and the grind. Guys always love the games and the camaraderie, it’s the other stuff that they are no longer willing to put in the work for. Nowitzki seems to be on that path.
Nowitzki is not the player he once was, but he’s still very tough to defend when he gets to his spots on the floor, and he’s still efficient. He’s also a draw and the talisman player for the Mavericks — as long as he wants to play, Mark Cuban will make sure he can.
After winning the Eastern Conference the last eight years, LeBron James leaving the Cavaliers for the Lakers has created a power vacuum in the East.
The Celtics, Bucks, Wizards and Pistons have staked their claims as teams ready to fill the void. The Raptors announced themselves with their trade for Kawhi Leonard.
But 76ers forward Ben Simmons isn’t ready to put Philadelphia atop the Eastern Conference hierarchy.
Simmons, via James McKern of SportingNews:
“We’ve got to get past Boston, those are the guys at the top right now. Beating them, that’s our next goal,” Simmons said.
“Obviously getting further than the second round and winning the Eastern Conference Finals and then moving on to the Finals.
This is a surprisingly restrained approach by Simmons. Many of his peers are talking bigger.
But the 76ers belong behind the Celtics, who beat Philadelphia in the second round last year. The 76ers could pass Boston. They just must prove it. In the meantime, Simmons is paying the Celtics proper deference.
Don’t forget about Toronto, though. Though Boston and Philadelphia were poised to own this next era in the East, Leonard reinvigorates the Raptors. If he’s healthy, they belong at the top with the Celtics.
Pistons big Jon Leuer underwent meniscus surgery, leaving plenty of doubt about his availability for next season.
Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:
After losing Anthony Tolliver in free agency (to the Timberwolves), Detroit needs Leuer as a stretch big off the bench. Unless Henry Ellenson is ready for rotation minutes, which…
If Leuer isn’t quite ready for the start of the season, Stanley Johnson could play small-ball four, but that weakens wing depth.
The Pistons’ best hope is Leuer getting healthy on schedule.
Mocking Dwight Howard‘s frequent team changes has become commonplace around the NBA.
It even has crossover appeal.
On “Last Week Tonight,” John Oliver opened his monologue on President Donald Trump’s trade war with a few jokes at Howard’s expense. Suffice to say, Oliver doesn’t believe Howard will transform with the Wizards.
(warning: rest of Oliver’s speech contains not-safe-for-work language)
Paul Pierce was stabbed 11 times at a Boston nightclub on Sept. 25, 2000. He suffered a collapse lung and underwent emergency surgery. But Pierce famously played all 82 of the Celtics’ games that season. That feat was seen as a testament to his resolve.
Really, it was a coping mechanism .
Jackie MacMullan of ESPN:
Long after he was released from the hospital, Pierce remained nervous, jittery, anxious. He couldn’t sleep. The Celtics urged him to seek counseling, but he waved them off. “I thought, ‘I can do this myself,'” Pierce recalls. “I didn’t want anybody else in my business.”
But as the weeks dragged on, moving around in public spaces became almost unbearable for Pierce. The trauma of the event had stripped him of his confidence. His anxiety spiked while dining at Morton’s restaurant in Boston just a few months after the stabbing, when the manager approached him with a house phone and said a friend was insistent on speaking with Pierce. He picked up the receiver, and a menacing voice sneered, “I’m going to kill you.”
“So now I’m really paranoid,” Pierce says. “I don’t want to go anywhere. The police sat in the front of my house for months. I was a mess.
“I think that’s the reason I got back on the court so fast. Me sitting at home thinking about [the stabbing] didn’t work. I went to every practice, sat on the sideline for hours, because that’s where I felt safe. I didn’t want those practices to end because then I had to go back out there in this world that really scared me.”
“I should have opened up earlier than I did,” Pierce admits. “It was eating me alive. Once I finally started talking to a family member, it helped me.
“I realized, ‘I should have done this sooner.’ I would tell everyone to get the help they need. My depression was bad — really bad. I never want to feel that way again.”
This is one small excerpt of MacMullan’s incredible piece on mental health in the NBA. I highly recommend reading it in full.