The Dallas Mavericks’ franchise player took time this Valentine’s Day to join Jim Rome’s radio show ‘The Jungle’ and dish out his high quality commentary.
Dirk Nowitzki has previously appeared on Rome’s television program, but never his radio show and both were very thrilled to have each other’s company today.
Rome kicked it off asking about Dallas’ ability to win six of seven heading into the All-Star break including the physical, defensive win against the East-best Indiana Pacers.
Dirk: That was a big win for us, because they have a very tough front line; they’re long at every position and we kept battling. We had a tough loss the night before in Charlotte, we talked about how we wanted to be better defensively, we needed to compete harder on both ends of the floor. Any time we feel we defend and rebound well, we give ourselves a chance…if we don’t we’re usually in trouble.
Dallas faced the Pacers prior to the break and will host the Miami Heat on Tuesday after the season hiatus. Rome wants to know whether Dirk and the Mavs approach the two teams as next game on the schedule or statement games.
Dirk: Usually you look at the schedule before the season and you circle some games and those two are definitely on. Miami and Indiana are both great teams in the East, and will probably end up playing in the Conference Finals. Plus, with them being in the East you only play them twice…in Dallas once. Miami comes in next week, the only time, and I know the crowd will be ready. We had a little thing going, we beat them in ’11, they’ve won the last two years, they’re a great team and I know our crowd and fans will be ready…one we have circled on the calendar.
Jason Terry was a guest on ‘The Jungle’ previously and mentioned he still hates the Heat despite beating them in the Finals. Does Dirk share the same hate for Miami or is it just a Terry thing?
Dirk: That’s a Jason Terry thing, I don’t really hate anybody. I think rivalries or big matchups are great for this league. We played the Spurs almost every year in the playoffs for years back in the day and it was always a fun rivalry. Both teams respected each other, but once the ball went up it was physical, hard playing. Those are great and great for the league, so I don’t necessarily hate much, they’re just fun rivalries.
Rome: You don’t run on that kind of fuel, we know the Jet does. [Gets a chuckle out of Dirk]
As a 12-time All-Star who did not make the team last year, does it mean more to get back there this season?
Dirk: Yeah, I put a lot of work in. These last two years were disappointing for me starting with the lockout season. All these games; My knee started to act up and last year I thought I’d be fine and then right before the season I ended up needing knee surgery and almost missed 30 games so it’s been a tough two years and I wanted to put a lot of work in to get ready. It’s paid off, been uphill to play at a high level and that’s where I wanted to get back at, helping my team win every night. Missing the playoffs last year and watching from home was tough on me. We had made the playoffs 12 years in a row, it motivated me again and that’s why I’m here. With 30 games left, we hope to finish strong.
Dirk recently eclipsed 26,000 points in his career and could possibly crack the NBA’s top 10 all-time scoring list by season’s end. What would that milestone mean to you?
Dirk: That’s insane, really. If you think about when I first got here as a 7-foot guy that weighed barely 200 pounds, didn’t really know if I was gonna make it in this league with all these athletes the way they play. 16 years later knowing the crazy ride we’ve been on; the All-Star games are tough, the championship run in 2011, it’s been an amazing ride. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it and if I were to end up in the top 10 in scoring that’s an amazing accomplishment. Those things and accomplishments are great once your career is over and you look back over your entire career at what you’ve done. So far chasing and competing every other night it’s not as important, but in 10 years when you’re showing your kids what you’ve done, all those things are unbelievable.
When he entered the league, the power forward position was in the mold of guys like Charles Barkley. Dirk defined the stretch-four term used frequently in today’s game. Dirk describes his evolution from his NBA beginning to present day.
Dirk: It was just really tough for me, I wasn’t strong enough. [Laughs some before retelling one of his common early NBA stories] When a ‘four’ or power forwards caught the ball on the block and I was guarding him, I would hear the whole [opposing] team yell, “Go at him! Please go at him! Kill him!” It was always in the back of my mind that I have to get stronger, you don’t have to be a great defender but you have to be a smart defender, team defender and help your team if they need you. So I got stronger, my base, my legs to keep guys out of the post more. Then the rule change from few years ago changed the game to more of a flow and not as much iso and post ups. Fours now need to be able to run, jump, shoot a little bit. Even the fives now need to be able to shoot a little, I think the game has evolved away from the one-on-one pounding into more five-on-five with ball screens and flow.
You get stronger and your game evolves. Others NBA greats like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Kevin Durant start emulating the trademark Dirk one-legged fadeaway. What do you think of having a move so unique other guys are trying to copy it?
Dirk: That made me proud, to know that some of the best in this game are using that move and what’s good about that shot is you can always get it off. You could be stuck somewhere on the wing, no dribble, all you do is create a little separation, step back and you’re able to get your shot off. That’s how I started to shoot it more, because as you get older you don’t want to drive as much and take the pounding. All you do is take one little step back, have decent balance, lean back and get the ball over. Obviously, it helps me that I’m 7-foot, I can still get that shot off over anybody. It’s really helped me still score a lot of points even though I can’t drive as much anymore and I’m glad that some of the best are putting it in their [arsenal] even though it’s not their main weapon, I think it’s a big weapon to have.
Dirk provides insight on his role in all these classic music video parodies the Dallas Mavericks create for him and his teammates. Fun times.
Dirk: I’m not that talented in other things besides basketball, but I love making a fool out of myself, always have. The Mavericks always come up with fun stuff for me to do. I mean the camel commercial [Spoof on Gieco's Ad] when I walk through the office and yell “GAMEDAY!” Stuff like that…the fans in Dallas have really soaked up over the years and people only see me on the court when I’m really fired up, they don’t really know how I am off the court so those kind of things let them know I have fun and am really laid back. All those videos and clips just show that I’m a fun guy, I love to have fun, but I don’t think I have a career in singing once I’m done.
Tennis was and is a part of Dirk’s life. Is he a baseliner or one to charge the net? Prefer serving or playing the volley?
Dirk: I did try to serve and volley a little bit. I used to love Boris Becker growing up in the nineties, he was the man, he was our hero in Germany. I even went to the hair salon and said I want a hair cut like Boris Becker [Rome laughs] so I was a huge fan. I had a big serve for my size, I used my serve well, had a big forehand, my backhand was struggling, but I like to come forward and make the points shorter. If you’re a tall tennis player, the less you have to move the better, the less court in the back you have to cover the better, so it’s better for us to move in and keep the points short.
Rome: “That was a great interview Dirk, you do a great interview Dirk. What a blast, that’s so much fun, such a good interview. Literally, one of the best guys ever.“
Dirk is known for his one-of-a-kind fadeaway jumper. It’s time more people found out about his one-of-a-kind personality on and off the basketball court.
Photos provided by NBA.com; ‘Mavs Music Mix’ by Dallas Mavericks; Quoteboard content collaborated from Jim Rome’s CBS Sports Radio interview with Dirk Nowitzki (02/14/14)