DALLAS – Dirk Nowitzki anticipates the last month of the season being just like what he’s given the Dallas Mavericks since he recently started feeling better.
More than anything, although he hasn’t announced whether or not he’s retiring after this season, Nowitzki did say this about what to expect from his 40-year old body over the next four weeks.
“I’m just trying to get everything out of this body that’s left and just go for it,” Nowitzki said after Monday’s practice at the Lympo practice facilities. “Have fun.
“(I’m) competing obviously way better than in December when I first came back.”
What Nowitzki was referring to was the recovery from surgery on his left ankle last Apr. 5 that spilled over into this season, eventually forcing him to miss training camp and the first 26 games. The 21-year veteran didn’t play his first game this season until the Mavs were matched up against the Suns in Phoenix on Dec. 13.
Since then, Nowitzki has been doing everything he can to get his body to act right. Some days feel better than others.
“I said it 100 times now, my foot kind of messed up the entire season for me,” Nowitzki said. “I was hoping to feel like this in November and December after 20 games in.
“But sitting out six or seven weeks right during the training camp, during the season, just threw my whole season off. But I can’t complain.”
Nowitzki can’t complain because he knows he’s had a treasured career. He was fortunate to spend 21 years with the same organization – no other NBA player can make that claim.
And Nowitzki has been a 14-time All-Star, a regular season Most Valuable Player along with taking home MVP honors of the 2011 Finals when he led the Mavs to their only world championship.
“This is season 21 and I’ve been pretty much injury-free my entire career, so I can’t sit here and complain about a little inflamed tendon,” Nowitzki said. “So, it was what it was.
“I kept fighting through it, but going through it obviously was not fun — coming back in the middle of the season.”
Nowitzki was never one of the fastest players in the NBA. So as he was fighting through this season, trying to get his legs under him was a challenging proposition.
“The game nowadays is super fast, super skilled,” Nowitzki said. “So me coming back in December being a step slower than I already am was extremely tough and frustrating at times.
“But the only way was to fight through it and keep moving and keep going and keep working hard, and here we are.”
Where Nowitzki stands today is 35 points away from passing Wilt Chamberlain and becoming the No. 6 all-time leading scorer in NBA history. Back in the day, he could reach that total in a game or two, yet he knows those days are long gone.
In the meantime, fans across the NBA have been clamoring to see Nowitzki one last time, see him make one last bucket, see him give them one last curtain call, one last one-legged fadaway jumper that they can store in their memory bank.
However, while Nowitzki have been humbled by all of the league-wide attention he’s received this season, he doesn’t feel pressured to make an announcement about his basketball future just because tributes keep pouring in from around the NBA.
“It’s been amazing, it’s been emotional at times,” Nowitzki said of the numerous tributes from well-wishers. “I’ve been very appreciative.
“But at the end of the day it’s going to be my decision (concerning his NBA future). It’s how the body reacts the last couple of weeks.”
And how did Nowitzki’s body react Monday?
“I obviously feel a lot better, movement-wise, than I did in December, so I’m pleased with that,” Nowitzki said. “But I’m still working every day. I lifted and ran some today.”
The lingering question remains, is this the beginning of the last days of lifting weights and running wind sprints for Nowitzki as an NBA player? Only he knows for sure.