2016 Exit Interview: Dirk Nowitzki
Mavs F Dirk Nowitzki addresses the media following the conclusion of the team's 2015-16 season.
Exit interviews can at times be a little run-of-the-mill, but seeing as this Mavericks season was anything but typical, you knew there would be some good moments as the players addressed the media for the final time.
Let’s get right to it. Dirk Nowitzki just completed his 18th NBA season and has a player option in his contract for next season. Moments after the team’s season-ending Game 5 loss to Oklahoma City, Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle said the organization can’t take Nowitzki’s loyalty for granted and must recruit him to come back for another season. When asked both that night and during his exit interview, the German said he plans to honor his contract and return to the Mavericks, so long as the club doesn’t enter rebuilding mode. That isn’t gonna happen.
Somehow, though, a narrative sprang up suggesting Nowitzki might consider retiring. I suppose it’s not unreasonable to think that a soon-to-be 38-year-old would mull over his future, especially now that he has two young children and enough individual accolades for two careers, let alone his own. But Dirk put that rumor to rest pretty quickly.
“I definitely won’t retire. That’s out of the question,” he said. “I felt great this year. I feel like I can still play efficient enough to be there for the team. So no, retirement is not a question at all.”
(As for the accolades, he needs only 509 points to reach 30,000 for his career, and one more playoff run should easily move him past Magic Johnson for 13th place on the all-time postseason scoring list.)
As for this offseason’s outlook, Nowitzki declined to comment specifically on free agency, but did lend a little insight on what he’s thinking the team needs to compete for a top-four seed in the West, earning homecourt advantage in the first round.
“A team like this — I think we were the oldest team in the league — and obviously that’s part of the reason why injuries caught up with us,” he said. “That’s a lot of games to play for an older team. I think our average is over 30. It caught up with us a little bit. So you want to get younger, you want to get more athletic, you can never have enough shooting, a big guy in there that can block some shots.”
2016 Exit Interview: Chandler Parsons
Mavs F Chandler Parsons addresses the media following the conclusion of the team's 2015-16 season.
Presumably the Mavs’ primary recruiter when free agency heats up, Chandler Parsons, will likely be a free agent himself this summer. It’s believed he will opt out of the final year of his contract and enter the open market, but, all things being equal, he said he would like to remain a Maverick. And the sooner he signs a contract, the quicker he can hit the recruiting trail.
“In the back of my head, Dallas is home to me and I loved it here,” he said. “I came here to be a great player and to win a lot of games, and I’ve yet to do that here. I feel like I have a lot of unfinished business here that I would love to continue, and grow into the player I saw myself being when I signed here. So the quicker we can get that done allows me to start recruiting and doing that whole thing.”
Regarding Parsons’ health, he just recently began doing some stand-still shooting after undergoing season-ending surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee, the same one which required hybrid microfracture surgery last offseason to address an issue which likewise ended his 2014-15 campaign prematurely. The forward bounced back from that significant operation to play some of the best basketball of his career, though, averaging nearly 20 points per game for more than a month before suffering the meniscus injury.
While Parsons said it was “devastating” to miss the playoffs again and not be able to help his team make a run, he can now focus his attention completely on rehab and getting ready for next season, when he hopes to be even better.
“I obviously have a lot of time now, with not rushing back to play in the next round or Western Conference Finals or anything like that, so I can gradually work my way and not rush anything, which is good because I have a lot of time on my hands,” he said. “But I feel great physically. I’m gonna keep ramping up the rehab every single day, every single week, continue to do more and more. Start jogging, start running, and be 100 percent probably in July when I can start training and really start doing basketball things for next season.”
Fellow free-agents-to-be Zaza Pachulia, Deron Williams (he has a player option), and Raymond Felton all said they would love to come back to the Mavericks. Felton said he even plans to buy a home here and move to the city regardless of where he signs this summer. Williams, meanwhile, is originally from The Colony, so his roots run deep in this area as it is. The point guard has said multiple times throughout the season that he’s happy here, and his teammates have noticed that as well. Williams didn’t specify whether he plans to opt out of the final year of his deal.
Those two had plenty of big games for this team, especially in the postseason, but it was Pachulia who delivered one of the best quotes of the day. He and Nowitzki forged a strong bond this season, sharing the frontcourt starting duties for most of the season and connecting off the floor as well.
“I really mean that, from the bottom of my heart: I had a lot of good games, personally, a lot of good wins, and there was the All-Star situation, on and off the court, double-doubles — but the best thing that happened to me this year, it was to play with this guy, number 41,” Pachulia said. “And I mean that. It was an amazing experience. I learned so much, and seeing his work ethic, his professionalism, his jokes, it was priceless. This is something that’s gonna stay in me, in my mind, in my heart, forever. Basketball is temporary but friendships go forever. I’m really glad to call him my friend and our relationship is gonna continue no matter what, if we’re gonna be teammates or not next year, because he’s a great person, a great guy, a beautiful family. I’m just really honored to share the locker room with this guy on and off the court.”
You won’t find a player in the locker room with a bad thing to say about Pachulia, and you also won’t find anyone with a nicer thing to say about Nowitzki.
2016 Exit Interview: Wesley Matthews
Mavs G Wesley Matthews addresses the media following the conclusion of the team's 2015-16 season.
Though Wesley Matthews gave the German some respect, he couldn’t help but joke about him one more time.
“It’s pretty remarkable what he does night in and night out, especially if you guys were to see him walking into film sessions after games,” Matthews said. “There’s no way that this dude can… like, ‘We’re relying on you right now? God, I don’t know if we’re gonna make it!’ And then he comes out and he goes for 32 and 11. So it’s just a testament to him and the time he puts into his game and his health and his body.”
Nowitzki has a legendary level of commitment to remaining ready to compete, but Matthews doesn’t fall too far behind in that category. After suffering a ruptured Achilles last March, Matthews bounced back in what must have been record time to start for the Mavericks on opening night, less than eight months later. He hit the third-most 3-pointers in a season in franchise history and played relentless defense on a nightly basis. Now that he has a full offseason to focus solely on basketball and not so much on the rehab process, could Matthews become even better?
“I’m gonna be a better player. I’m not worried about any of that,” he said. “My body of work before I got here is what it is. I can’t think of too many people that are gonna do, or that could do, what I just did. I was talking to my mom last night and she just hugged me and said, ‘It’s a blessing that you were able to play.’ At this time last year I was in a cast. Next year is supposed to be the best year. Next year is supposed to be the year that you feel the best after the Achilles surgery, so I’m excited for that. I’m excited to get back to my normal routine. I’m excited to grind again. I’m excited to get the season going.”
Matthews’ approach to the rehab process pretty well sums up the Mavericks’ collective attitude this season. It was all about grit, toughness, and a fighting spirit. Those are the qualities they had to adopt, after all, as both reserves and starters missed a significant number of games this season due to injuries that were mostly out of their control. It takes skill to compete in this league, of course, but it takes a bit of luck, too. But while the chips didn’t necessarily always fall the Mavs’ way, that didn’t stop the players from putting their heads down and pushing even harder.
From Matthews to Nowitzki to Parsons, every player within the organization approached the season that way. Now it’s time for them, and for the front office, to attack the summer with that same spirit.