Feb 26, 2012, 10:00 AM EST
What do you do after you’ve done the best you can? Where do you go after you reach the apex? You spend 18 years of your life working towards something, and then, finally, after so many failures and disappointments, you walk away with proof of success. What do you do after that?
For Dirk Nowitzki, who has long been one of the most focused, dedicated players in the league, returning to the floor was hard. He’d endured so much, worked so hard to win a championship. In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Nowitzki admitted that after winning the Finals last summer, he didn’t have the same kind of enduring drive he’s had for so much of his career.
“I know one thing changed, and that was my motivation was gone for a little bit,” Nowitzki went on. “And I really had to fight to get it back and get the fun back.”
And you can tell. Nowitzki entered the NBA season out of shape for the first time, ever, and had to take a four-game break to rest his knee and go through his usual conditioning issues. To put it short, Nowitzki was not done celebrating. Even after a longer layoff than normal with the lockout, there wasn’t enough time for him after winning the championship to validate his career.
Part of that is because almost immediately, he was forced to jump into the European Championships to try and qualify for the Olympics with the German national team. The team flamed out, and Nowitzki told SI that bit too much into his ability to enjoy the title.
“Now I reached both goals, and it was just hard in the beginning,” he said. “The Euros came too quick, right after the [NBA] championship. I only had, like, a month off. I needed more time to get away and enjoy the championship. If I would have had a couple months off to enjoy it, party, get everything out of the way, then start slowly back up — that would have been the way to go. But I decided to play, to try my best, and we didnt qualify, unfortunately.”
Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could wind up seeing your field goal percentage drop by six points, apparently.
Nowitzki came into camp out of shape and still wishes he’d gotten to party more. No wonder Cuban wants to get his guys out of the international competitions.
You can’t blame Dirk. You work so hard, you want to enjoy it. But that’s not how his career works. You can tell the lift is gone from Nowitzki, and it’ll be interesting to see if he is able to regain it. Nowtizki in his usual reasonable, humble way, admits in the interview that winning another title will be difficult and the tone reflects a kind of resignation. He knows how long it took him to make his run, and how special that was, how different this team is. Hard to fault a guy for wanting to take a minute to just savor a life-long accomplishment.
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