CHARLOTTE – By all accounts, Dirk Nowitzki never had a really good chance at winning the 3-Point Contest on Saturday night at the Spectrum Center.
“They got me early,” Nowitzki said, referring to the announcer. “I was still waving at the crowd (following the introduction) and all of a sudden I’m hearing three, two, one.
“I was rattled. The first rack (of five balls) was awful, and it took me a while to get going.”
In other action on Saturday, Luka Doncic was eliminated in the second round of the Skills Challenge by Trae Young, ironically who is the player who he was traded for on draft day last June. Jayson Tatum won this event by defeating Young in the finals.
Also, former Dallas Mavericks guard Dennis Smith Jr. finished second in the Slam Dunk Contest, losing to Hamidou Diallo in the championship round, 88-85.
Nowitzki didn’t get out of the first round and wound up tied for sixth place with 17 points. Meanwhile Joe Harris upset the hometown favorite, Stephen Curry, in the finals, 26-24, to win the 3-Point championship.
“In the second round the crowd got going, thinking I was going to run the table,” Curry said. “I did, too. The last rack was in-and-out. It’s a make-or-miss league, a make-or-miss competition.
“It’s a tough way to end it, but Joe shot the lights out. It was a great show. Knowing how strong the field was going into this, whoever won was going to have to earn it, and that’s what happened.”
The slow start did Nowitzki in, as the never quite recovered to make a serious run at getting out of the first round. He even had a couple of airballs, which is so un-Nowitzki-like.
“Most people thought I wouldn’t make it in a minute, so I rushed a couple because I always had that in my mind, ’You got to finish, you got to finish,’ “ Nowitzki said. “I was hustling harder in between racks than I did on transition defense.”
After defeating Kyle Kuzma in the first round, Doncic also was hustling hard, but couldn’t overcome Young in the ensuing round.
“I just didn’t care about winning,” Doncic said. “I was just having fun out there.
“It’s always fun to play that type of game against (Young). Normal games, too, is kind of fun, with our kind of history.”
Doncic even had his doubts about upending Kuzma in the opening round.
“I thought I was going to lose,” Doncic said. “I thought he was going to make one of those shots.
“Then I made mine, so I was kind of surprised.”
Doncic also was surprised with the high volume of entertainers, actors, actresses, music moguls and other Hollywood types who ventured out to All-Star Saturday.
“This is my first experience here, so it was great and I’m looking forward to more of that,” he said. “Today, seeing all of the stars and the famous people, and I was kind of surprised that they’re watching me.”
Nowitzki, meanwhile, will compete in the All-Star game in Sunday. It will be the 14th and final All-Star game for the 21-year veteran, and Nowitzki gave the scouting report on what to expect from him.
“Not much, honestly,” Nowitzki said. “I don’t want to take much time away form some of these players hat obviously got voted in and that deserve to be on this stage.
“I’m obviously honored and appreciative to come one more time to be around these guys and be on this stage, but I’m not going to play 20 minutes. That’s for the guys that are carrying their team and their franchise. If I get a few minutes here and there and if I make a three, that would be fantastic, but this is more about the guys that are doing it.”
Nowitzki knows his days of “doing it” like he did it in his prime are in his rearview mirror. Still, he’s soaking in and enjoying every minute of his final All-Star Weekend.
“It was fun to be a part and be in the locker room with some of greatest shooters we’ve ever had in our game, and just interact with some of these young guys knowing that this is obviously my last time on this stage,” Nowitzki said. “I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately I couldn’t make it to the finals. I should have started off a little harder.
“I look forward to the game tomorrow and close this weekend out on a high and then go back home and hopefully finish the season strong. We want to finish it strong and see if we can get (to the playoffs) down the stretch.”