Q&A: Dirk Nowitzki on why everyone is rooting for Stephen Curry

Dirk Nowitzki says Stephen Curry makes the game "look effortless." AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

DALLAS -- Dirk Nowitzki knows a little bit about revolutionizing the NBA. He's a 7-footer who finessed his way to the sixth spot on the league's all-time scoring list, a pioneer of perimeter-shooting power forwards.

There was no such thing as a "stretch 4" before Nowitzki started drilling 3s for the Dallas Mavericks.

But even Nowitzki is wowed by the ways that record-setting Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry -- who has all but wrapped up his second straight league MVP award -- warps the game.

ESPN.com had a discussion with Dirk about the Steph spectacle before the Mavs and Warriors get set to meet on Friday night at the American Airlines Center:

Tim MacMahon: What do you think of what you're seeing from Steph Curry right now?

Dirk Nowitzki: I mean, I don't think this league has ever seen anything like it. His range is basically as soon as he crosses half court. He's making shots look routine that no other player can even make in practice consistently. He just makes it look effortless. He just kind of goes up from the dribble in one motion, doesn't waste any effort there. Incredible.

He's so much fun to watch. When he's in the zone, I catch myself screaming at the TV, 'Shoot! Shoot!' as soon as he crosses half court. It's so much fun to watch.

You know, we've had some great athletes and specimens in this league, but that's not him. He's a smaller guy. Obviously, he's quick, but the way he makes it is with skill. That's why everybody is rooting for him, because everybody can relate to him.

MacMahon: Are you more impressed with his ability to shoot and his range or his ability to create shots when everybody is trying to stop him from getting those shots up?

Nowitzki: The thing is, he shoots it so quick off the dribble that you never really know when he's going to pull up. He's kind of like here [Nowitzki pretends to dribble a ball], and then next thing you know he comes up with the ball out of his dribble and the ball is gone within a split second. Obviously, he's still pretty quick off the dribble, so the guy has got to be worried about him just driving by. But he's in such a great groove right now that it's almost better to let him drive by and lay it in. At least that's only two points, you know?

MacMahon: You changed the way people think about the power forward position. Before you, power forwards didn't shoot 3s. Now, if they can't, it's considered a flaw. Do you see him changing the way the point guard position is played?

Nowitzki: Yeah, I just don't know if we'll see that again. Obviously, a lot of kids now are going to try to imitate that and shoot 3s from deep. Maybe in a few years, that's normal. I don't know. If kids start shooting at an early age, start hoisting runners from 40 feet, maybe 10 years down the road you do have to move the 3-point line back. But as of now, he's really the only guy that can make those over and over and over. If you watch his pregame, he does that all the time. He's a freak.

MacMahon: How much has he changed the dimensions of the way you have to play defense?

"When he's in the zone, I catch myself screaming at the TV, 'Shoot! Shoot!' as soon as he crosses half court." Dirk Nowitzki on Stephen Curry

Nowitzki: They're just so smart with it. Draymond Green running up there and setting those step-ups at half court, and [Curry] comes full court at the big guy full speed. It's just tough to guard when he can stop on a dime and pull up from wherever. They're a smart team, a veteran team. That's why they're the champs. They're tough to match up [against]. They're also really good on their defense with their small lineup. Klay [Thompson] has been great. They're a really good team.

MacMahon: You say we've never seen anything like Steph before, but do you see shades of Steve Nash in his game?

Nowitzki: For sure, for sure. Some of the flashy, behind-the-back passes and how he pushes it on the break and pulls up. When they do get in the lane, they kind of get caught in the air and make stuff up, up in the air. That's special. He's obviously a lot better shooter off the dribble and scorer than Steve ever was, but I see some of the movements, some of the drives, some of the behind-the-backs in traffic and stuff like that that Steve definitely had.

But I think Steve never looked to shoot as much. He was always a setup guy first. Even sometimes, we had to force him to shoot, because he was such a great shooter. With Steph, if he has any daylight -- or really, no daylight -- that thing's going up. It's so much fun to watch.