There have been many highs and lows for the Dallas Mavericks this year. It all started when Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson made the decision to let go of key role players like Tyson Chandler and J.J. Barea to clear up cap space in preparation for the future. The Mavs have dealt with a few injuries as well, notably to Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and Delonte West. This is without even mentioning the acquisition of Lamar Odom from the Los Angeles Lakers in a move that seemed like a great upgrade, but ended up a major disaster with him now off the team.
Somehow the defending NBA champions find themselves currently in the No.7 spot of the Western Conference playoff race, looking poised to take on the Los Angles Lakers or the Oklahoma Thunder next week in the opening round of the playoffs. Nowitzki gives his thoughts on what has been a wild lockout shortened NBA season for the defending champs. Dirk Nowitzki joined ESPN Dallas with Ben & Skin to discuss his initial impressions of the Dallas Mavericks heading into this season, the mystery that was Lamar Odom’s time in Dallas, Ron Artest’s elbow on James Harden over the weekend, dealing with a lockout shortened season and looking forward to the Mavericks free agency plans this summer.
How did you feel about the team entering the season?
“Yeah, it was supposed to be a down year, but I think I got to give our management credit the way they brought Lamar in, a bunch of other guys with experience so they still put us in a position where we still had a good team and we could still compete. The whole Lamar thing was just unfortunate. I think he had some problems off the floor. Obviously he sat out plenty of times and I don’t think he was necessarily ready to play. We tried working on it and we worked out and we played games, but I just think he never got to the point I think where he wanted to be and we needed him to be and it was unfortunate that it didn’t work out. I think as a franchise we made a decision to move forward with the guys that we have and we’ll move from there. It’s been kind of a weird up-and-down year from facing injuries on top of that in a short lockout season, so it’s been a strange season. I kind of actually believe 65 games already gone it’s been a crazy year. Just looking forward to the playoffs now and seeing what we can do there.”
The Lamar Odom thing is the bermuda triangle to us. It’s the biggest mystery. We can’t figure out what happened?
“I think there are millions of reasons. One could be that he had a rough off-season, but maybe one thing was that he wasn’t mentally here. Maybe he didn’t like our system. I bet there is a million things you can speculate on and you guys are probably better at that than me. I don’t think nobody really knows the answer about Lamar, so everyone else can just speculate and throw some stuff out there, but nobody really knows what the truth is. Truth is it didn’t work out and we moved on. We’ll see what we can do in the playoffs now. We are excited to start if off this weekend.”
Did you see the elbow Ron Artest landed on James Harden?
“I just saw the footage. I didn’t see the game cause it was beautiful out, but I did see what happened and it was just an unfortunate play. I think those kind of plays have nothing to do with basketball. We all know we compete at the highest level and the game can get emotional and like he was for sure after that dunk, but I don’t think a play like that belongs in our sport.”
How have you dealt with a lockout season?
“Well, I mean it was tough. I mentioned it a bunch of times and it always sounded like I was whining, but for an older team it was tough to get going with basically a couple days notice, and oh boy the way the season starts then and I thought camp was only two weeks and usually we have a good month to prepare, so it was tough to start the season off like that and so that’s why I think we started off extremely slow and then we hit the stride a little bit, got better with the new teammates. They started to play well and get the grasp of what we were trying to do and then we had some injury problems.
Then I had to sit with my knee stuff for a week and then Jason Kidd had some problems; was out twice for like a week or 10 days. I thought Delonte played phenomenal and then he missed five weeks, so I think if we would have played injury free we would maybe be in the top four cause the games are so close together, but that’s not how it worked, so unfortunately we got to start on the road and we’ll see what we can do, but from that stand point it’s been a tough year. I mean the toughest stretch was probably right after the All-Star break with 9 games in 12 days. I don’t care how old you are. That’s a tough stretch. It’s been some ups and downs. We really haven’t been consistent enough to be a top four seed, so that’s why we gotta start on the road.”
I know you are focused on the task at hand, but do you ever allow yourself to look forward and wonder what if we get this guy in free agency? Do you have those thoughts at all?
“Well I think it’s a little too early. I think anything is possible this summer, so we’ll have to wait and see. I don’t really like to get involved in all of this speculation cause like I said nobody really knows what is going to happen. I don’t think two or three years ago nobody ever thought LeBron [James] would go to Miami, so all of these things are just wide open. We are going to finish this season off strong here and hopefully have a great playoff run and we’ll just see what happens in the summer. That’s not in my control. I think we all know Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson will make the best decisions for this organization and we’ll see what happens. A couple of months ago everyone said Dwight [Howard] was in the market and then he’s off now. He signed that one year thing, so anything can change with a heartbeat. We’ll have to wait and see who’s out there this summer and I am sure Donnie and Mark are going to look hard making this franchise better like they always do.”