Not only did the Mavs defeat the Utah Jazz in the first round of last year’s playoffs after Luka Doncic missed the first three games of that best-of-seven series with a strained left calf. But the Mavs went on to surpass even greater odds when they smashed the top-ranked Suns in Phoenix in a winner-take-all Game 7, 123-90, en route to advancing to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2011 when they captured their lone NBA championship.
With the Mavs’ training camp set to start Tuesday, Nowitzki told Mavs.com of the upcoming season: “J-Kidd is going to have the boys ready. I really like what he built last year, the principles he put on both ends of the floor.
“I think you can tell the guys have fun playing and competing for him. So hopefully we can continue that and build on that and hopefully it’ll be another fun year.”
Speaking Sunday at the Fifth Annual Dirk Nowitzki Pro Celebrity Tennis Classic at SMU, Nowitzki was all giddy about what the Mavs were able to accomplish last season. And he sees even brighter days ahead for the team he played for from 1998-2019.
Nowitzki lamented the loss of former Mavs guard Jalen Brunson, who signed a four-year, $104 million free agent contract with the New York Knicks over the summer.
“Losing Brunson is always tough,” Nowitzki said. “He was a huge part in what we were doing the last few years.
“He’s a great combo guard. We wish him luck. He really deserves that contract, but both sides had to move on.”
Still, Nowitzki believes the Mavs can overcome the loss of Brunson because of the presence of Spencer Dinwiddle and Tim Hardaway Jr. – the latter underwent season-ending surgery on Feb. 1 to address a fracture to the fifth metatarsal in his left foot.
“I think we have some guys who can step in, and that’s always important to have shooting and playmaking at the two-guard spot,” Nowitzki said. “Hardaway missed basically half of the season last year, so him coming back and being fully healthy is exciting.
“I think with Spencer having a tremendous year when he came last year, I think we’re going to make up for that loss (of Brunson) by guys stepping in and hopefully having a good season.”
“We’ve got some length, and I think Wood is going to fit in great,” Nowitzki said. “What I like about Wood is he can do a little bit of both. He can pick and pop, he can roll, and he can make some plays in the middle.
“Obviously the game is going smaller and smaller and everybody is switching, but you still need to have somebody in the paint to protect at times.
Nowitzki actually played the 2015-’16 season with McGee. However, McGee averaged just 5.1 points and 3.9 rebounds in only 10.9 minutes that season while being limited to only 34 games due to multiple injuries.
“He’s grown a lot,” Nowitzki said. “He’s going to be a great rim presence for Luka on both ends — another roller.”
Another player Nowitzki expects to continue rolling is Doncic, who has been an All-Star in three of his four seasons and is generally regarded as one of the top three players in the NBA.
“Obviously, Luka is going to be Luka,” Nowitzki said. “He’s going to initiate, obviously, most of the stuff.
“But I’m looking forward to hopefully another fun season.”
NOWITZKI’S CELEBRITY TENNIS CLASSIC: Dirk Nowitzki’s annual charity tennis classic was back this year for the first time since 2019. The event was cancelled the past two years because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Tennis players Andy Roddick, Mark Knowles, John Isner and Luke Bambridge were on hand Sunday, as well as former Mavs guards Steve Nash and JJ Barea, current Mavs guard Luka Doncic, and actors Boris Kodjoe and Ben Stiller.
“We raised a lot of money last night at dinner. We have incredible support for these celebrities coming from all over the world. Luka flew in yesterday just for this. We have people flying in from all over to support, and that means the world to us. It’s really a fun event.’
Nash, who coaches the Brooklyn Nets, even came to support Nowitzki, even though his team has their annual Media Day on Monday.
“That means a lot to us,” Nowitzki said. “He’s a tennis freak. Now he loves tennis. We’re excited that he came in to support.”
All proceeds from the event benefits the Dirk Nowitzki Foundation, which awards grants to organizations that focus on children’s health, education and well-being.