By Tim MacMahon
A year after deciding to re-sign with the Dallas Mavericks with little drama, Dirk Nowitzki has a difficult decision to make in the wake of his first NBA championship.
Nowitzki, the Finals MVP, is debating whether to play for the German national team this summer. Nowitzki said during an appearance on ESPN 103.3’s Ben and Skin Show that he would make the decision within the next few weeks.
“After a long, long season, one side is the rest factor and going strong into next season,” said Nowitzki, a 13-year NBA veteran who turned 33 on Sunday. “On the other side is obviously my national team that’s been good to me.”
The German national team needs to finish in the top six of 24 teams at the EuroBasket tournament, which begins on Aug. 31, to have a chance to qualify for the 2012 Olympics. The German team will begin training in the middle of July, giving Nowitzki a deadline for his decision.
Over the last decade, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has repeatedly expressed his reluctance about NBA players participating in international tournaments. Nowitzki did not play for Germany the last two summers due to a mutual agreement he made with Cuban, who declined comment when contacted Tuesday by ESPNDallas.com.
Nowitzki ranks playing in the 2008 Olympics, when he was his country’s flag bearer during the opening ceremonies, alongside beating the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals among the highlights of his career. He has not played international basketball since then.
“I basically told them I was going to rejoin them and help them get to the Olympics one more time,” Nowitzki said. “I made my dream, going to the Olympics, and a lot of the team is new now. We’ve got a lot of young guys and they haven’t been there. A lot of the old guys basically retired after the last Olympic run, so I told them I was going to help a lot of the young guys reach their dream as well.
“That was my goal the last three years, obviously not knowing that [the Mavericks] would be playing until mid-June. I was hoping, but you never know.”
Nowitzki has not picked up a basketball since the Mavericks clinched the franchise’s first championship with a Game 6 win in Miami on June 12. He has done some cardio work and played tennis since then, but he readily acknowledges that he has spent most of the last nine days celebrating the Mavs’ title.
Nowitzki is recovering from a torn tendon in his left middle finger, an injury suffered during Game 1 of the Finals. He also still has a cough from the sinus infection that forced him to play Game 4 with a 101-degree fever. He joked that frequent partying — and singing Queen’s “We Are the Champions” over and over again — hasn’t helped him get over the cough.
“I’m just going to see how my body feels” Nowitzki said, regarding whether he would play for Germany this summer. “I still have that splint on my finger and just see how I recover here these next couple of weeks. Then I think we can make an educated decision.”
Tim MacMahon covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.