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Dirk Nowitzki cherishes 20 seasons, content to help Mavs rebuild

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DALLAS (AP) — Dirk Nowitzki made peace years ago with the reality that spending his entire career with the Dallas Mavericks would likely mean little or no chance to win a second championship.

The most accomplished European player in NBA history never seriously considered leaving the franchise that courted him as a teenager in Germany and drafted him five days after his 20th birthday in 1998.

Now in his 20th season, Nowitzki is comfortable with the idea that he led the Mavericks to their first title and can try to help a younger core build toward making Dallas a title contender again.

“I just think I pride myself with this city, with this organization, whatever this city or this franchise goes through, I want to push it through,” Nowitzki said. “I want to be there for it. If it’s rebuilding, I want to push it through and help as much as I can. If we’re playing for a championship, then I’ll do that.”

The Mavericks haven’t won a playoff series since beating Miami in the Finals in 2011, LeBron James‘ first season with the Heat. They had a woeful start for the second straight year, all but assuring that they will miss the playoffs with consecutive losing seasons for the first time since Nowitzki’s first two.

The slide out of contention means little to the context of Nowitzki’s career: a 7-footer who changed the game with his 3-point shooting, the first foreign-born player to reach 30,000 points and the distinction with Kobe Bryant (Lakers) as the only players to spend 20 seasons with the same franchise.

“I think the reality is that when you see this kind of consistency of greatness, there’s a tendency to take it for granted,” said Rick Carlisle, in his 10th season as Nowitzki’s coach. “And we must be careful about taking this for granted. We’re seeing a generational player that’s changed the game.”

Nowitzki still starts – Carlisle pretty much declared earlier this season that he will start as long as he’s playing – but often sits at the end of close games. He’s probably the fourth scoring option, behind Harrison Barnes, Wesley Matthews and even rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr.

But the 39-year-old played the first 54 games, an important measure for him to feel he’s contributing. Nowitzki, the only 7-footer to win the 3-point contest that’s part of All-Star weekend, is in position for the best shooting percentage of his career from beyond the arc. The number of attempts isn’t far off from his prime either.

“I wish he can play forever,” said Washington coach Scott Brooks, who was at Oklahoma City when the Thunder lost to the Mavericks in the 2011 Western Conference finals and beat them in the first round the next year.

“You know the time is winding down, you don’t know how many more years he has. He probably has maybe six or seven more left in him,” Brooks said, trying to keep a straight face.

Nowitzki has already said he is considering a 21st season. Barring a dramatic improvement through a trade, the draft or free agency, that likely means another year of helping turn Smith into a point guard that can guide a champion the way Nowitzki credits Jason Kidd for doing in Dallas.

Assuming the Mavericks stay near the bottom of the West standings, they’ll have another high draft pick after getting Smith at No. 9. That will be another young player who sees the work Nowitzki does away from the court to stay in shape, and a 13-time All-Star who is frequently the last player to quit shooting after practice.

J.J. Barea spent his first five seasons with the Mavericks and was still a relatively young guard at 26 when the Mavericks won the title.

“I used him a lot,” said Barea, who returned to Dallas three years ago. “If I work half of what he does, I’m going to be all right. These guys, they really didn’t get him at his best like I got him. But they still see how hard you’ve got to work to be able to play out there with us.”

Nowitzki doesn’t mind admitting that practice isn’t quite as fun as it used to be.

“But once the ball goes up, it’s still great,” said the 2007 MVP, who has career averages of 21.4 points and 7.7 rebounds. “I still love to compete. I still love to be out there for the guys and trying to help them with my experience and spread the floor for them and maybe getting some timely scoring here and there.”

Always big on self-deprecation, Nowitzki quips that he can’t help the younger players by showing them any moves. He doesn’t have to be joking to acknowledge that his patented one-legged fadeaway jumper isn’t nearly as dangerous as it was when he was Finals MVP.

What Nowitzki can offer is work ethic and experience, not to mention longevity. He became the sixth NBA player to reach 50,000 minutes Tuesday night at the Los Angeles Clippers.

“It’s been two decades of fun and competing,” Nowitzki said. “Getting to 20 years is special. There’s not a lot of guys that have done it. Not a lot of guys have done it with one franchise. I’m proud of that, but want to finish the season strong.”

Nowitzki always finds a way to steer the conversation back to the present – and future.

 

Report: Mike Woodson close to joining Suns coaching staff

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The Phoenix Suns are bolstering their coaching staff. After spending most the 2017-18 season under interim head coach Jay Triano, Phoenix finally settled on Igor Kokoskov as their top man.

Now, it appears they’re adding some veteran talent to the front row.

According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Suns are in talks to bring former New York Knicks coach Mike Woodson in as Kokoskov’s right hand man. Meanwhile, ArizonaSports.com is reporting that the decision has already been made to hire Woodson.

Via Twitter:

Woodson, 60, was last on the bench with the Los Angeles Clippers from 2014-2018. He was head coach of the Knicks from 2012-2014, and helmed the Atlanta Hawks from 2004-2010.

This is a smart hire for the Suns, who have needed some legitimacy after firing Earl Watson just three games into the season this year. Phoenix has been in a bit of a freefall since letting Jeff Hornacek go in 2015. Indeed, despite for one outlying 48-win season in 2013-14, Phoenix hasn’t been a very good team in this decade.

With a solidified coaching staff and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, there’s hope yet for the Suns. Now, the question is who they take with that pick. Luka Doncic? Deandre Ayton? The draft continues to intrigue.

Andre Iguodala out for Game 4 Tuesday vs. Rockets

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“When we’re right, when we’re playing how we are supposed to play, Andre’s right in the middle of it. His defense and being smart, making good decisions. Andre is one of the guys who seems to set the tone for that for us.”

That’s Warriors coach Steve Kerr on Andre Iguodala

The Warriors are going to have to be without that tone Tuesday night, Iguodala will miss the game with a knee contusion.

This is a blow to the Warriors, who have started small with Iguodala through the first three games of this series. The Warriors have been 4.3 points per 100 possessions better with Iguodala on the court through the first three games of this series.

Expect Kevon Looney or Nick Young to start, with the rest of the minutes divided up between Shaun Livingston, Jordan Bell, and David West.

Whatever Kerr and the Warriors go with, expect James Harden and the Rockets to attack it.

 

WNBA team rehearses ring ceremony at practice of team it beat in Finals

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The NBA does petty very, very, very, very, very, very, very well.

The WNBA is trying to give the NBA a run for its money.

The Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks have met in the last two WNBA Finals, the Lynx winning last year and the Sparks winning the year before. Minnesota hosted Los Angeles in the season opener Sunday, and the Lynx unveiled their banner and presented players with rings.

Before that, while the Sparks were practicing in Minnesota, the Lynx played their video for the event.

Holly Rowe of ESPN:

The Sparks beat the Lynx on Sunday, but I don’t think that’s enough to override Minnesota’s power move.

Kobe Bryant on Kanye West’s comments: “What the hell are you talking about?”

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Kanye West, the President Trump backing hip-hop star, drew a lot of backlash for his comments on TMZ:

“When you hear about slavery for 400 years — for 400 years? That sounds like a choice. You were there for 400 years and it’s all of y’all. It’s like we’re mentally imprisoned.” 

Mentally, maybe in some cases. But more so physically, with guns and whips and attack dogs and a whole lot more weapons that were all on one side. Nobody chooses slavery.

Tuesday, Kobe Bryant surprised a group of about 300 high school students at WE RISE — a 10-day pop-up festival dedicated to sparking a movement for change in the mental health system — in Downtown Los Angeles. One of the students asked him about Kanye’s comments. Kobe is not down.

“I’m sure (I feel) the same way everybody else here in this room feels. What the hell are you talking about? I think that was my reaction as is everybody else’s reaction….

“The thing about our country is that you have the right to say whatever it is that you want to say…that’s the beautiful thing about living in a democracy. I think, for him, he’s one of these entertainers that’s always in a constant state of growth, he’s always challenging … himself, doing a lot of questioning internally himself…so I just take it for what it is and completely disagree.”

If I need to explain to you why Kobe is in the right here, you need to take a basic American history course again.

Good on Kobe for his comments. More importantly, good on Kobe for taking the time to promote mental health awareness.

“It’s easy for us as people to kind of ignore the emotional side of it,  especially when it comes to things that deal with negativity, things that deal with insecurity, things that deal with fear,” Kobe said. “It’s very easy to take the fear and just push it down, try to act like it doesn’t exist. The reason why it starts with imagination is because you first must imagine the life that you want to have. You must first imagine what it is you dream of becoming.”

Kobe did that, and now he’s got an Oscar. Oh, and a few basketball awards, too.