There’s not a great way to classify Dirk’s 2012-13 campaign. It started with the incredible personal highlight of being able to play in Germany in an exhibition game. Concern then started to circulate as he had issues with his knee, which ultimately led to surgery. He missed more than a quarter of the season due to the surgery. When he came back, he had doubts about whether or not he could actually return to the form everyone is used to seeing from him. The doubts eventually went away as he swagger returned. Unfortunately, there just wasn’t enough time for Dirk to help get the Mavs into the playoffs.
A pivotal summer is on the horizon for the Mavs. Dirk will be ready to do whatever he can to help the franchise get back to the playoffs and make this year more of an aberration than the new expected norm.
Here is the final exit interview of the season. Here is Dirk Nowitzki’s exit interview.
Have you started to reflect on this season? “I did plenty of reflecting really over the last couple of weeks. It was what it was. I missed basically almost 30 games for the first time in my career with knee surgery. I thought that kind of messed the season up a bit. I figured if I was healthy all year, looking at it before, had a shot at making the playoffs. I missed too many games, I thought. Once I came back, I wasn’t in the shape I needed to be to really help the team. It really almost took me until the All-Star game to get halfway where I wanted to be.
“I thought we put in a heck of a finish. We fought. At some point, we were ten games under (.500). We came all the way back and made it interesting with the playoff picture. Just overall, we weren’t consistent enough, not winning enough of those close games. We were losing too many games in overtime when we were there. Just overall, we were not really consistent enough to get into the playoffs. I’m proud of the guys over the last couple of weeks with how we battled, how the veteran guys didn’t give up and showed the younger guys how you compete even though there’s nothing to play for this last week.”
What changes need to be made so the team can get back into the playoffs? “Well, I think we had nine one-year players, so I think the roster is going to look different again next year. It starts with the draft where we can get a young talent fairly high. We’ll see how the draft is looking this year. With July, it’s a big free agent period for us this year … I think we all know that Donnie (Nelson) and Mark (Cuban) are going to explore all of these options. They always find ways to make stuff happen. We know that. Their track record is great. We’ll just have to go from there.
“It’s a big summer for us. Having the 12-year playoff streak snapped is disappointing. Like I said, Mark has said this is a big summer for him, as well. There will probably be a lot of changes but it’s hard to predict now. We can probably use help in every area of the court so there’s work to do.”
What’s your wish list for types of players who they can bring in this summer? “I mean, I guess it’s kind of early. We’d love to get Dwight (Howard) and CP3 (Chris Paul). I guess it’s too early to see what’s really out there. The season for those teams is not even over, so they probably don’t even know what they’re going to do next year. We’ll just need to let the season play out. We’ll let June and the draft roll in and then July then see what you can do. All the speculating is for nothing. You don’t really know who is going to be on the market and who wants to come. We can sit here and talk about a million people but we really don’t know what is going to happen.”
What kind of skill or game do you need from a point guard who is going to play alongside you? “Well, CP3 is obviously the complete package. I don’t know that you can find another player like that. He’s probably the best in the league right now. You’d love to get a point guard that can score, can get in the lane a little bit, create his own shot but also is a good passer, a guy that loves to compete on a high level, make his teammates better. You want all the good stuff that you’d like to see in a point guard, really.”
How much recruiting do you plan on doing? “Well, I’m here if that’s going to bring a big free agent in here. For me to fly somewhere, I’ll fly somewhere. I don’t have a problem with that. I’ll be here most of the summer, probably. I have to go home in June a little bit, but I’ll be back somewhere in the last week of June, then I’m probably be here for the rest of the summer. I’ll start working out again like I did last year somewhere in July. If Mark and Donnie want me to do anything, I’m more than happy to.
I’ll be in the war room for the first time for draft day and see what that experience is like. I heard they order pizza and stuff, and sit there and talk basketball. I’ll fit right in.”
Have you already had the MRI on your knee? “I already did. I had some ankle problems here of the last couple of the weeks of the season, actually. Some bone spurs stuff that really hasn’t bothered me in years which is great. It’s not good news that they’re flaring up. We’re going to have a doctor checkup (to end the week) and get some x-rays and see if my feet have gotten any worse. It should be fine. We did the left knee MRI already so we’ll talk about that (this week). But I don’t see any problems. Here and there, something is going to hurt. I’m going to be 35 this summer. Once in a while, things are just going to tweak a little bit here and there. If it’s something like the bone spurs, I can deal with it. I don’t think it’s going to be a problem going forward.
Have you thought about how much longer you can perform at a level you know you’re capable of playing or have shown over the last few years? “This was a tough year for me, being out and starting from scratch. Getting back into game shape obviously took me a lot longer than I expected or everybody expected. I guess that shows how important summer work has been me that I’ve put in for 15 years. I want to obviously avoid surgery during the season at all costs the next couple of years. If there’s something that needs to be addressed, we need to do it now in the summer because that period was not fun for me. It wasn’t fun for the team. Once I was in good shape I felt like I good some good basketball. I wasn’t quite consistent enough as I would have liked. With a summer of hard work and being ready in October, I still think I’ve got a couple of good years left. How good and how long, we’ll just have to wait for the next couple of years.”
Does how long depend on the quality of talent the franchise brings in during the next year or so? “I still think I can play decent basketball until I’m about 38 or 39 but we’ll just have to wait and see. I’ll finish out this contract strong and then I’m 36. Like I’ve said the last couple of weeks, I’ll sign one more deal, two or three-year deal, and then probably call it a day after that. I’m just going to see how the body holds up. I’ll see if it is still fun. I’ve always said basketball, to me, is a sport. It’s supposed to be fun. It’s never really work to me. So by the time the fun is all gone, I’d rather stay at home and raise some kids.
“We’ll just have to wait and see how long I love to compete. I think that’s the main thing. I’d love to compete for a championship. We don’t pride ourselves here on the Mavericks with competing just to make the playoffs. That will be a big part of us being successful, obviously.”
Clarifying on if things don’t get right in Dallas that you might want to leave and play somewhere else: “Honestly, I can’t really see myself going anywhere else but here. Really, the pressure is on Mark and Donnie to get this franchise back to where it belongs, and they know that. Then we’re all good, everything’s fine.
“I mean, I belong to this city. That’s just the bottom line. I could never see myself playing for another franchise, putting another jersey on. That would be probably the hardest thing I’d have to do in my life. I want to stay here, but I also want to play at a high level with a good team that we can be proud of and represent this city and this franchise.”
Are you making sure not to leave town in order to help out this summer? “I’ll be here a lot more than I’ve actually been this summer but it’s also because we have a baby on the way … It’s a big summer. I would have probably been here in July regardless to knock on Cuban’s bunker suite every other day and see what he’s got cooking.”
Can you be the persuasive type when it comes to recruiting? “Not really. I can try, but I’m really not the most positive person. I guess that’s a German thing. If I can talk about my experiences here and the city, which have been great, I think this is one of the most attractive cities on the NBA circuit, to be honest. The climate is great. If I can talk about my experience with Cubes, Donnie over the years and coach, I’m more than happy to share those feelings and see if that helps.”
What is your basketball sales pitch? “We have a great owner and a great GM in place. We have a great coach in place that coached us to win the championship. We’ve got a couple of veterans (Shawn Marion and Vince Carter) still under contract. We’ve got some veteran leadership already, and then we’ve got a lot of roster space.
“We’ve got some cap space and we can get some players in here that can help and win. I think all those three experienced guys, they’ve still got something left in the tank. Come on in, we’ll see how far we can ride it out.”
Due date for the baby? “It’s later on this summer. I’m not going to throw that out there. Once I come back in October, it should be here.”
Bryan Gutierrez writes about sportsmen. He is a contributing writer for Mavs.com. Bryan also attended Ball So Hard University. You can follow him on Twitter @BallinWithBryan.