NBA Hall of Famer Larry Bird joined Ian Fitzsimmons and Matt Mosley of Galloway and Company on ESPN 103.3 FM on Wednesday to talk about Rick Carlisle and Dirk Nowitzki. Here's what he had to say:
On Carlisle: "I know how Rick coaches. I coached with him; I played with him. I know his demeanor. I know what he’s thinking. He’s in a perfect situation. He’s got a group of guys, most of them are veteran guys that have a goal in mind, and they play the game the way he wants to play. They play together. They play smart. They don’t get caught up in all the other stuff and they’re coachable. If you have a team like that and you’re able to coach them, you’re going to have success.
"He asked a lot of questions, I know that. Rick was a guy that was very astute of the game and he was the type of individual that always studied whatever he was going. Rick can play piano. Rick’s a good golfer. Whatever he does, he goes all out. Coaching was pretty natural for him. It’s just great to see that he had the type of team that he always wanted and they proved that they are the best team in the world."
On the Celtics: "We were good. Actually, it’s the best team I’ve ever seen. We were strong. We had a lot of big guys, we had good guards. We felt we were a smart team. And it was all because of Scottie Wedman, Jerry Sichting and Bill Walton coming off our bench. We were deep. It was just a good team; it was easy to play for. I knew when we started training camp if we stayed healthy we were probably going to win a championship. I never had that feeling before. We won a lot of games and we took care of business when the playoffs came around.
"What was amazing to me was, when it came time to practice, there was some goofing around but the practices were very serious. We played hard, played aggressive in the game. We really went after one another in practice. If some of the starters had big minutes the night before, when we went into practice, we couldn’t wait to get in and play against Walton and Sichting and those guys because it was their game. They didn’t get to play a lot, early, and they needed the practice time to sharpen their skills. It was fun because everybody was tuned in for one goal. We knew we were good so we just had to get the job done."
On Dirk Nowitzki: "I can see a lot of the same things that he does that I did. We both were tall and able to shoot from outside. We rebound the ball pretty well. We’re dedicated to the game. There are a lot of similarities between us. I watched Dirk play in high school, also, and I go, “Wow – this kid does it all”. He had 38 points, 21 rebounds, 7 or 8 assists. He does everything. And that’s why they compare us. Because we’re big, we can shoot from outside and we’re not only scorers – we try to do it all."
On Dirk/Bird comparisons: "I don’t get into that. That’s for other people to debate. I just know that I love his game. I like his demeanor on the court, the way that he loves to play. You can compare him to me if you want to. I’m just happy for the young man and it’s an honor for me to just have his name mentioned with mine."
On meeting Dirk: "It was just a couple years ago. I’ve always been impressed with Dirk. You know him better than I do because you’re around him a lot more. He’s a gentleman. He knows the history of the game and he wants to do whatever he can do to get better. If it’s something that someone says, or whatever to motivate him, he’s listening. Jason’s been around a long time, he knows the ins and outs. It was a lot of fun because I got to meet him and talk to him for an hour, hour-and-a-half, and I was very impressed with the young man."
On Dirk's shooting: "I’d shoot anything. He has it mastered. I’d just throw up stuff, make a couple in a row and just try anything.
"Never seen anything like it [Dirk's one-legged fadeaway]. I’d say you probably will [see this again], but he’s got that shot mastered. Some of that stuff he throws in the hole is pretty amazing. I’m glad I’m out of the league, to tell you the truth."
On trash talk: "I would probably be thrown out of the games now. The game has changed. Everybody talks about that now, but I don’t really remember a lot of it.
"I had a problem with my elbow and it kept swelling. We won those first 2 games at home and I couldn’t extend it. After shootaround, we go back and K.C. Jones says you’re not playing tonight. I said I’m playing tonight. He said, “Naw, this is going to be a long series and I can’t let you play. The doctors won’t let you play”. I stayed back at the hotel and I’m watching the game. They start chanting my name and they beat us. So the next day at shootaround I told them they’re going to get both barrels tonight, guns blazing. And when I got to that arena, man, it was unbelievable. They had security all over me. And, luckily, we won the game. (Jogging on court) – That wasn’t good. That really got them riled up.
"You’d better back it up. The thing is, you get nervous, you get all this energy, you’re pumped to the max, you have this adrenaline flowing. And anything can happen. I don’t mind guys talking and all that, but when it comes down to it you’d better get the job done. I’ve seen guys guarantee victories and all this and it never happens. If you’re going to go out there and talk, you’d better be able to play. And, really, every game that I went into I didn’t know if I was going to play well that night or not. You really just had to be on top of everything. You didn’t know if your shot was going to fall, if you’re going to be able to rebound. So if you say something, you’d better back it up. I know that. And Jason – I watched him – I laughed because he’s talking to LeBron James. And boy, did he play good. He backed it up."
On LeBron James' postgame comments: "I’m a poor sap myself. He brought a lot of it on himself. Here’s the way I feel about LeBron as a player – I think he’s as good as anyone that’s ever played this game. I think he’s going to win a lot of titles. I think he’s going to continue to get better. To me, he’s an amazing athlete. He’s never been hurt. He’s got the body of a football player and he’s got skill. I just think he’s off-the-charts good. And I think his time is going to come. I thought they did a remarkable job in Miami this year by bringing that team together and getting to where they got. They’ll get better next year. His time is going to come if he stays healthy and he’s going to have a lot of success in this league and will win championships.
"I think team basketball always beats individuals if you stay together. You’re never going to have the perfect games. But when it comes down to the end of the games, ball movement always beats individuals going one-on-one. I thought Dallas played as well as they possibly could have played. And they were lead by Dirk. When they couldn’t score, he scored for them. That had to be a joy for Rick to coach that team.
More on Rick Carlisle: "I just texted Rick. He made me feel proud. I’ve known Rick for a long time. I know his goals. I know he’s a heck of a coach, I’ve always known that. But to finally have a group of guys that he believed in, that he trusted – and the way they played together, I was very happy for him. And I told him. It wasn’t a very long text. I told him that I was very proud for him; he makes me proud, our family’s proud for him. My daughter’s upstairs, yelling and screaming. My wife’s in the bedroom, yelling and screaming. I’m sitting in the living room, nervous as heck. We were pulling for him.
"I can tell you one thing – in the playoffs, Rick will try anything. That was great timing. The kid came in and played very well for him. I’ve seen Rick do that before. He thinks about it. He was probably nervous about it. But what a move. That changed the tempo of everything. Even Brian Cardinal coming in, doing the dirty work and getting a couple minutes here and there. I thought he pushed all the right buttons. Because Miami is good. Dallas didn’t beat a second-rate team. They’re a very good basketball team. And you have to push all the right buttons to win."
Any stories on Carlisle? "Actually, in Boston, you’d think they’d give you a lot of gear but they never gave us anything. We had an equipment manager that was there when the building opened in ’32. He didn’t like rookies, especially Rick. I didn’t know why, but he didn’t like Rick. He left his door open and the guys went in there and got socks and jerseys everything else and stuffed them in their bags. After the game, we told Walder that we think Rick’s stealing stuff out of the locker room. And goes over and opens that bag up in front of all the reporters. It was not pretty. And Rick didn’t know what the heck to do. It’s stunning because Walder was mean; he was brutal. The things he was saying to him – we got a thief in the locker room, you’re a thief, you’re a stealer, they should throw you out – right in front of the press. It was not pretty."
On winning an NBA title: "They can never take it away from you. You have it for the rest of your life. And you’re in a club with a lot of great players. And I’m happy for both of them."