As Dirk Nowitzki heads into his 16th season, he's coming off his lowest points per game average since his first full year, saw a dip in rebounding and health is now becoming a factor. ESPNDallas.com will explain five reasons why it’s too soon to say Dirk’s demise as an elite player has arrived.
You can question whether Dirk Nowitzki can still be an elite player, but you can't question his work ethic. When players of Nowitzki’s stature get that elusive championship, like he did in 2011, there’s nothing they want more than to get another.
The commitment can already be seen. Nowitzki has started his offseason workout regimen. No, he’s not touching a basketball yet, but he’s making sure his legs are healthy and strong in order to avoid repeats of the last two seasons.
The fact that he’s already working should not come as a surprise. Nowitzki’s secret is he still loves the game and it simply doesn’t feel like work to him. During the regular season or the playoffs, it’s a given that Nowitzki is the last player to leave the practice court, getting shots up after a rigorous session. When the team is on the road, he’ll get set up at the team’s hotel and find a local gym to get shots up.
At home or on the road, Nowitzki will engage in one-on-one shootouts with teammates. Whether it’s a new or older guy, they marvel at how Nowitzki motors through his shots. The competitiveness comes out during and after those shootouts. You’ll either see him slam the ball to the ground if he loses or give a loud yell with an accompanying fist bump if he’s victorious. The competitive nature and will to win has always been there, but it has taken on a new form this summer.
For example, Nowitzki joined Mark Cuban in Las Vegas during Tiger Wood’s celebrity poker tournament. No one would confuse the face of the franchise as the next part of the poker boom. One could assume that he was there to help in the recruitment process of Chris Paul, who was also in attendance at the tournament. Why is that a big deal? Where was Nowitzki during the pitch for Deron Williams last summer? He was in Germany.
Nowitzki has developed a unique stature over his career and has earned the respect of his peers. Now, he’s putting it to good use as he steps up as a recruiter. More importantly, he has realized that he simply has to participate now. Last year was different in the sense that Jason Kidd was the pitchman. Nowitzki now knows he can’t afford to sit on the sidelines anymore.
It’s an important summer for the Mavs. It’s clear that Nowitzki is doing his part to ensure the club can put together a club that can play at a high level for the city he “belongs” to, as he mentioned at the start of the offseason.
Activity breeds prosperity. Hard work and a competitive spirit have paid off for Nowitzki and his career. Turning 35 later this month, whether he’s putting up shots or getting on a plane, he’s still willing to put in the work.
Bryan Gutierrez currently covers the Dallas Mavericks for The Two Man Game, an ESPN affiliate blog on the TrueHoop Network. Gutierrez, who has covered the Mavs since 2010, studied journalism and psychology at Texas Tech University.