Thursday, February 16, 2012
Updated: February 17, 12:46 PM ET
Mavs' Europe plans please Dirk Nowitzki
By Jeff Caplan
DALLAS -- Dirk Nowitzki heard the news that the Dallas Mavericks will play two preseason games in Europe next October, one in Berlin in his native Germany and another in Barcelona, but sounded as if he might not actually believe it until owner Mark Cuban personally tells him so.
The Mavericks and the league have not yet made it official and dates are not set, but a source has confirmed the trip. Nowitzki, who has long hoped for the team to be included in the NBA's international preseason schedule, has been left disappointed because Cuban has always declined the league's overtures to play overseas.
"If that's really the case, I think it's awesome. I think it's been long overdue," Nowitzki said. "A couple years ago there was a game in Kolnarena [in Cologne, Germany] where Phoenix played Philly and everyone was like, 'Where are the Mavs at?' So it's been disappointing to see all these teams go over there and play and we were never a part of it. I think it's going to be great."
For years, the league has wanted the Mavs to travel overseas, but Cuban has been reluctant to do so because he doesn't believe the difficult travel during training camp is especially beneficial.
"I asked him, why are we never a part of it?," said Nowitzki, now in his 14th NBA season. "He said he doesn't like the travel and he loses a preseason game, basically. Those were his reasons and I understood."
But now Cuban doesn't have the option to decline. The league changed the rules and so Nowitzki will finally play a game, albeit a preseason one, in a Mavs uniform in front of family and friends on his home soil.
"Obviously, the travel always sucks, especially if you're only over there for a week and it usually takes a couple of days to adjust and the next thing you know you're leaving again," Nowitzki said. "But I think it's going to be an experience for all the guys to see something new and get out of the hotel some and see a different country. Berlin is a fun city. Barcelona, to me, is one of the best cities in Europe, so if that's going to happen then I think it's going to be a great trip."
Said Cuban: "I could pass on the trip. I just wanted to do it for Dirk."
Nowitzki said it is too bad that the league can't play more regular-season games in Europe instead of meaningless preseason ones when star players might not even play much. He recalled a game a few years ago in Berlin when the fans booed because the teams' star players didn't play long and the score was lopsided.
The reigning NBA Finals MVP acknowledged that travel makes it difficult to stage annual regular-season games overseas, although the NBA did hold games in London last season and two games were canceled for March because of the compressed schedule. When Nowitzki entered the league in 2000, he said he remembers commissioner David Stern laying out grand plans to land NBA teams in European cities.
It seems to be a topic of discussion every year when the commissioner makes his state of the union address during All-Star weekend, although plans always seem to be another decade or so from materializing.
"When I first got in the league he said in 10 years we might have some teams in Europe and that was like 2000," Nowitzki said. "It might be another 10 now, but I wouldn't hold my breath on that. It just sucks with the traveling. The time difference is a beast and I just don't see that happening."
Jeff Caplan covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.