By Marc Stein
But Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki isn’t ready to think about playing abroad in the event of an extended lockout.
Two weeks into his training for the upcoming EuroBasket tournament in Lithuania with the German national team, after a month of championship celebrations that he says went by way too fast, Nowitzki told ESPNDallas.com in a phone interview Thursday that he plans to wait until after the European championships before he thinks seriously about playing in a foreign league.
Spending the week in Berlin to combine a commercial shoot with private training sessions with longtime mentor Holger Geschwindner, Nowitzki said: “I’m going to play the Euros and then see where the lockout is after that. Until then, I’m not going to look at playing anywhere else.”
The EuroBasket tournament runs from Aug. 31 to Sept. 18. Keeping a promise he made to the German federation to try to lead the country’s next generation of basketball players to a berth in the 2012 Olympics, Nowitzki agreed last month to rejoin coach Dirk Bauermann’s national squad. Nowitzki’s commitment then triggered the participation of Los Angeles Clippers center Chris Kaman.
Germany must finish in the top two in Lithuania to secure automatic qualification to the London Games. The minimum target for Nowitzki & Co. is a top-six finish, which would put Germany into a last-chance tournament shortly before the Olympics start next July.
It was a third-place finish in the last-chance tournament in 2008, secured with a victory overJ.J. Barea’s Puerto Rico, that sent Germany to the Olympics for the first time in his career. Nowitzki ultimately was selected as Germany’s flag-bearer for the opening ceremonies in Beijing, and regards the experience as the other major highlight of his basketball life, alongside the championship won by the Mavericks in June.
Nowitzki and Kaman are scheduled to join the national team for an Aug. 19-21 exhibition tournament in Bamberg, Germany. But Nowitzki began workouts with Geschwindner and resumed his strict playing diet last week, meaning that he’ll have played eight straight weeks of basketball by the time EuroBasket is over.
As such, Nowitzki undoubtedly will want to take another break afterward.
But he reiterated Thursday that an extended lockout ultimately will prompt him to play overseas somewhere. He is determined to play in 2011-12.
“I’ve always said I’m too old to sit around for a whole year,” said Nowitzki, who turned 33 a week after the Mavs’ title-clinching Game 6 in Miami. “I still can’t see this being a long lockout, but if it is, I’m going to find somewhere to play.”
Bayern Munich, known worldwide for its soccer prowess, is trying to make its first-ever splash in German basketball circles and has been chasing Nowitzki for months in the knowledge that a lockout was likely forthcoming. Sources close to the situation likewise say free-spending Zhejiang — which also reportedly is courting Miami’s Dwyane Wade — is among the Chinese clubs that are offering more than $1 million per month to try to convince Nowitzki to play there.
Nowitzki told ESPN.com in February that he would not limit himself to considering offers in his native country if NBA players had the legal freedom to play elsewhere during a work stoppage. He typically travels extensively in his offseason and has expressed curiosity about what it would be like to play in Greece, just to name one of his frequent destinations.
FIBA, basketball’s world governing body, announced last week that players with NBA contracts are allowed to play elsewhere during the lockout as long as they make a signed declaration to return to their respective NBA teams when the lockout ends.