After the Mavs’ season came to a close in early June, Kleber took a brief respite to travel to his home country of Germany where he focused on healing his body and mentally rejuvenating after a grueling season.
“I mainly did recovery rehab in Germany because I had all those issues at the end of the season,” Kleber said, referring to the lingering Achilles soreness that limited him during the final weeks of the season.
“So I wanted to make sure that once I started working out again, that I was fully healthy. I think I still have to watch out a little bit, but I feel a lot better and I’m excited to get back at.”
Last week, the 6-10, 240-pound Kleber arrived back in Dallas to continue workouts and preparations for the upcoming season. The NBA season is slated to start the second week of October, giving Kleber exactly 10 more weeks to prepare his body.
“I was pretty beat up at the end of the season,” said Kleber, who acknowledged how strenuous the compressed schedule was on his body. “So I took time to just do rehab stuff and recover. I am a lot better now. I’m not 100 percent, but I’m starting to do basketball stuff again and normal movement. I’m feeling great. As long as it doesn’t get worse and I keep making progress, I’m happy.”
The 29-year-old German said he also returned to North Texas to spend more time in the community, something he’s been passionate about since first joining the Mavericks.
Kleber got his first chance of the summer to interact with local youth at two Mavs Academy Hoop Camps that took place in Grapevine and Plano last week. He took part in various drills, played games and delivered motivational words of wisdom to the 100-plus children at the camps, and he also stressed the importance of hard work and character, both on and off the court.
“My advice to them is just to have fun,” Kleber shared. “When I was a kid, all I cared about was having fun and I spent every day in the gym not thinking about anything in particular and just played. Obviously, when you get older, there are certain things you need to work on like dribbling, passing, shooting, and they’re all important. But my main advice at this stage is just for the kids to have fun.”
At both camps, the youngsters were in awe of Kleber and had plenty of questions for the five-year veteran, ranging from his height to “who is the toughest opponent you ever faced?”
No questions were off-limits and after thinking for a few moments, Kleber said Kevin Durant was probably the toughest person he’s ever faced.
The kids seemed thrilled to have an NBA player join them for one-on-one sessions and the Mavs’ big man was equally inspired to work with the future generation of ballers.
For Kleber, it was also a chance for him to reflect on his own memories as a child. He’s the first to admit that being around the youth reignites his love and passion for the game. It also gives him the chance to pause and reflect about his own journey as a basketball player, starting as just a young child with really big dreams.
This is one reason reason that Kleber is dedicated to going the extra mile for young people. Before hitting the court for camp, Kleber went to a classroom near the gym and spent an hour signing hundreds of posters to make sure that all Mavs Academy campers had a souvenir to take home.
“It’s fun, it’s great to see that kids enjoy basketball that much,” Kleber said with a smile. “In Germany, we try to grow the (game of) basketball, too, and here you can see that everyone is so excited about the sport. Seeing little kids who want to play the same sport as you is a great feeling and it gives you a lot of energy.”
Later, the media met with Kleber to discuss his optimism for the upcoming season under the direction of new Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd. He said Kidd reached out to all the players right after he was hired, and Kleber finally got the chance to meet the Hall of Fame point guard in person last week.
“Once he got signed and it was official, he reached out immediately and we talked a little bit,” Kleber said. “I really appreciated that. I got to meet him yesterday for the first time and talk to him in person. We didn’t talk any specific basketball stuff, but he seems to be a really great guy.
“It’s been not too long for him since he was a player, so I think he’s going to be a player coach with a lot of understanding of how things work. He was a great facilitator when he was a player, so I think it is going to be fun to watch Mavs basketball with a lot of team play in the upcoming season. I’m excited moving forward.”
Kleber said when the pair met, they didn’t talk basketball specifics, but the excitement and enthusiasm was there.
“I think he’ll do a really good job as far as getting us together as a team,” Kleber added. “I don’t know his style and what he wants to do with us offensively and defensively yet…but I think just knowing what type of player he was, a facilitator, a great team player…I think it’s going to be exciting for us as a team.”
In the meantime, Kleber will spend the remainder of his off-season getting in workouts and preparing his body for the upcoming season. He’ll also dedicate more time giving back to the game, next heading to Philadelphia to work with young athletes at Jalen Brunson’s skills academy.
His other plans include a little time near the TV set watching the Olympic Games in Tokyo as he cheers on Germany.