DALLAS (AP) - Dirk Nowitzki was talking about the NBA championship capping his career wish list and how much it meant after all the heartbreaks along the way.
In a somber voice, he wondered aloud about trying to find something else that could push him to continue a work ethic that routinely includes returning to the gym for nighttime shooting drills.
Then he stopped, laughed and said, “I’m not going to retire or anything if that’s what you think.”
While the Mavericks know they’ll have the finals MVP back next season, it remains to be seen who will be part of Nowitzki’s supporting cast. Starting center Tyson Chandler, valuable guard J.J. Barea, injured scorer Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson, Brian Cardinal and Peja Stojakovic are all free agents. The NBA’s uncertain labor status further complicates things.
So instead of looking ahead, the Mavs are focused on savoring the first title in franchise history _ especially the free agents-to-be.
“If I get focused on that (contract) stuff, I can’t enjoy it,” Chandler said. “I’ll probably go home and Slip ‘n Slide. … Just run up and down and slide on the front lawn. Any kids are welcome to join me.”
That was the tone at the team’s annual exit interviews Tuesday: fun, loose, relaxed. Since none of the players had ever won a championship, it was the best season wrapup they’d ever been through. The team’s PR staff even got in the spirit, too; the daily email with the team’s schedule read, “The World Champion Dallas Mavericks …”
Interviews were held on the team’s downstairs practice court at the arena. Jason Terry stole the show by strutting down the stairs in a white terry cloth robe, sunglasses and a baseball cap, carrying a fat, unlit cigar and his invitation to the ESPY awards for the Mavericks‘ nomination as Team of the Year.
Terry wore his old one _ featuring a Mavs logo and his jersey number _ to team meetings, breakfasts on the road and whenever else he could. After losing a few games in a row, Carlisle said something along the lines of, “You’re not focused. Get that robe out of here.” The replacement delivered Tuesday is white terry cloth with the finals logo on one side of the chest, gold leaves in front of the NBA logo on the other.
“The robe is back, baby!” Terry said.
The glory of winning a championship comes in many forms.
For team owner Mark Cuban, it was walking into his kitchen Tuesday morning and seeing the Larry O’Brien Trophy on top of a counter.
For Barea, it’s planning to take the championship trophy to his native Puerto Rico. President Obama was in his native land on Tuesday and said of the tiny guard: “That guy can play.”
For Donnie Nelson, the team’s president of basketball operations, it’s a congratulatory text from his dad, Don Nelson, who started the Mavericks down the path to a title when he took over the club in the late 1990s. The elder Nelson won five titles as a player, but none in a long, distinguished career as a coach and executive.