DALLAS -- If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, a four-time scoring champion copying your unique training program is about as high a compliment as can be offered to an NBA player.
Durant, the MVP favorite whose Oklahoma City Thunder might face Nowitzki’s Dallas Mavericks in the first round, has gone so far as to hire a Holger Geschwindner pupil to put him through workouts similar to those that helped Dirk develop from a skinny kid in Wurzburg, Germany, to the 10th-leading scorer in NBA history.
“I'm not even sure if he needs it,” Nowitzki said. “I mean, he's one of the best players on the planet. He's already got the whole package.
“Credit to him that he loves working out, he loves getting better. And he's already one of the best players ever or in the league now. He's constantly in the gym, working out on the road, working out at home. That's a credit to him being hungry and constantly improving.
“To me, he's got the whole package. He can shoot off the dribble, he can post, he can shoot from 3 anywhere. He's already pretty good.”
Pretty good, of course, is a great understatement with Durant. Once his fourth scoring title becomes official at the end of the regular season, Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain will be the only players in NBA history to have more. At 25 years old, Durant is almost halfway to the exclusive 30,000-point club, which Nowitzki could join as the sixth member in a few years.
Durant is blessed with explosive athleticism Dirk could only dream about, but they do have some dominant attributes in common. They are probably the two sweetest-shooting 7-footers in NBA history.
“He’s the next generation guy who can run the floor and can dribble the ball,” Geschwindner said of Durant in a late March interview, making an unprompted KD-Dirk comparison.
OK, maybe Durant is only 6-foot-11, but he’s definitely taller than his listed 6-foot-9. And he has the wingspan of a pterodactyl, making his shot extremely difficult to block, especially when he launches the one-legged fadeaway he admittedly stole from Nowitzki.
The big German became one of the all-time greats because of his size, sweet stroke and strong work ethic, not necessarily in that order. Durant clearly has all of those characteristics, but Nowitzki doesn’t see many more similarities between the two.
“He's just a workhorse that loves to work out, and if you work out a lot, you're obviously going to get better,” Nowitzki said, noting that Durant has significantly improved as a ball-handler, pick-and-roll decision-maker and off-the-dribble shooter during his seven-year NBA career. “And now one-on-one he's close to unguardable.
“But I don't think we're ever similar as players. He's a two-guard basically in a 7-foot body. That's the stuff he can do out there. Nellie and Avery back then had me on a one-dribble max. So we're completely different players.”
They’re different players with a similar workout program, which says a lot about Durant’s determination to maximize his immense potential and the incredible respect Nowitzki has among his peers.