View Full Version : Nowitzki's Rise Is Only a Footnote in Germany

06-20-2006, 05:08 PM
From the New York Times: Nowitzki's Moment a Footnote (http://select.nytimes.com/2006/06/19/sports/basketball/19araton.html)

Nowitzki's Moment Is a Footnote Back Home
Miami, IF attention at home was what Dirk Nowitzki had in mind, his timing could not have been worse, a German basketball star playing a leading role in the N.B.A. finals while his countrymen play host to that foot-fetish convention called the World Cup.

Holger Geschwindner, credited for making Nowitzki the best non-American player in the world, has recognized a few German reporters here stalking his protégé.

Good luck to them, he said, getting more than a few words into print.

• "Germany is a soccer country, and during the World Cup, we talk about soccer and we talk about soccer and then we talk about soccer,"

Geschwindner said before Nowitzki and the Mavericks lost again to the amazing Dwyane Wade and the Heat, 101-100, in overtime, to fall behind, 3-2, with the series returning to Dallas tomorrow for Game 6.

"And then," Geschwindner added, "after soccer is over, we talk about soccer."
Maybe they will take a moment today in Germany to discuss the cold-blooded jumper Nowitzki hit over Shaquille O'Neal with 9.1 seconds left in overtime to give Dallas a 1-point lead before Wade's 42nd and 43rd points, from the free-throw line (off the most gentle of nudges by Nowitzki), broke the Mavericks' hearts, if not their spirit. They go back to Dallas now with a home-court championship chance, what Nowitzki dreamed of 12 years ago when he attached himself to Geschwindner, 60, a one-time captain of the German Olympic basketball team who knew more about physics than he did about coaching.

Geschwindner moved Nowitzki far from the rim, from the area where German coaches reflexively stationed their tallest players to do, as he said, "the dummy work." He taught him to shoot high-arcing jump shots by preaching the advantages of what he called the "optimal shot curve." He told him to fence and row to make him more mobile, encouraged him to raise his "broadband literacy" by learning saxophone and guitar.

"Lots of people in Germany thought everything I did with Dirk was nonsense, but here we are," Geschwindner said.

Here we are, at that point in the playoffs when the only advancement is into the history book, when the loser, after two months of hitting nothing but net, becomes the season's most prominent footnote and its best player is typically reminded of the ring that eluded his grasp.

Asked about how that designation will fit Nowitzki if Miami wins once more, Geschwindner countered that the Mavericks, with Avery Johnson in his first full season as the coach and with several young, emerging players, had actually made the finals ahead of schedule.

"We have a saying in Germany," he said. "If you tumble on the way up the hill, it's fate. If you fall down the hill, it's bad luck."

He also acknowledged that European axioms probably fall on American deaf ears. There, he said, it is all about the team. Here, we worship Mr. Big when he wins and make him shoulder all the blame when he doesn't.

Those are the rules — enforced to varying degrees, depending on the player and the market — which Nowitzki plays by, the accountability he has assumed no matter how much he tries to be one of the guys.

"I would never sit here and say I'm a great player," he said last week. "That's not my personality."

You can bet Mark Cuban's bankroll that the Mavericks' brash owner is praying Nowitzki will commune with his ego now that the Mavs are facing elimination, with Wade bursting with postseason stardom (and the Mavs' coach, Johnson, refusing to double-team him last night, at least until overtime.)

There are X's-and-O's analyses to explain Nowitzki's finals ordinariness, his mere 20 points last night. Start with own willingness to pass the ball, to set high screens, to let Josh Howard and Jason Terry carry Game 5. How selfless, how European, of him. But at this stage, in a series involving Pat Riley, in any discussion involving a European player, the dialogue will inevitably veer into the realm of fallback intangibles.

"How can you not be tough when you've made it to this point?" Johnson said. "There's nobody else that eliminated the world champions but us on their court."

And nobody but Nowitzki blew by the Spurs' Bruce Bowen, one of the game's premier defenders, to convert a 3-point play with the Mavericks seconds away from bowing out in Game 7 of the second round.

Nigerian-born Hakeem Olajuwon was the hub of two Houston championships in the 1990's, but he played college ball at the University of Houston.

Argentina's Manu Ginóbili co-starred in last year's finals for San Antonio, but Tim Duncan was the most valuable player. As Nowitzki attempts to become the first born-and-bred European star to bring his team home, this series outcome will no doubt serve, in part, as a referendum on foreign capability.

American soccer players deal with legitimacy issues in Europe, but the discussion here occasionally veers beyond provincial bias and into the dicey subtext of race, of white men (and black men) from afar elbowing for position in the sport African-Americans long ago imposed on-court control.

"Dirk is not afraid -- otherwise he wouldn't be here," Geschwindner said, before Nowitzki proved it with his jumper over O'Neal. Then Nowitzki played a little soccer of his own, punting the ball into the stands, out of sheer frustration over the end-game bailout -- and that's exactly what it was -- that put Wade on the line for his 24th and 25th free throws with 1.9 seconds left.

In Dallas, where soccer will be talked about only when the basketball games are over, there will be much discussion about the end of Game 5 if Nowitzki and the Mavericks do not win Games 6 and 7.

07-15-2006, 10:29 PM
What that guy says is true, not only about Germany but about almost every other country in the world.
"We talk about soccer and then we talk about soccer and then we talk about soccer again".

That's pretty much how it is everywhere where soccer is a religion.

King Bowser Koopa
07-16-2006, 10:48 AM
credited for making Nowitzki the best non-American player in the world
This guy actually thinks there is an American player (or maybe several American players) better than Nowitzki. :D