Jan. 19 (UPI) — One player is a 13-time All-Star and former NBA MVP, while the other has never averaged more than 12 points per game in 14 seasons.
But there are similarities between Dallas Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki and Miami Heat veteran Udonis Haslem. They both have a championship pedigree. Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle explained the other shared traits Thursday night before taking on the Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami.
“If you want a day-to-day example of how to approach your job as an NBA player, if you’re around Dirk Nowitzki, you’ve got as good as there has been in the history of this league,” Carlisle said. “Just in terms of a full commitment; everything from diet, to strength training, to the rituals that great players follow religiously. ”
Haslem, 36, is averaging 7.9 minutes per game and has 27 points this season. Nowitzki, 38, is averaging 13.3 points per game, the fewest since his rookie season. He’s also shooting a career-low 40 percent from the floor, after shooting 44 percent last season.
Haslem has been around for three Miami Heat NBA championships. Nowitzki’s sole ring came in 2010, over Haslem and LeBron James ‘ stacked Heat squad.
“He’s one of the really, really greats that ever played the game,” Carlisle said. “You know, Miami has kept Haslem around for a lot of the same reasons. Haslem hasn’t had the same kind of career in terms of scoring points or being a star or anything like that, but he’s a guy who sets a phenomenal example for culture and what these guys are about. I was just talking about Haslem with one of the scouts from another team out there and as long as they keep bringing him back, it’s a good deal for them, because of what he stands for…what he’s been through. And the tone that he sets. ”
Nowitzki is a sure-fire Hall of Famer. The combination of his imposing seven-foot frame and wet jump shot from anywhere on the court ensured that. He has maintained that retirement is an option after this season. He’s due $25 million this year and has another option in 2018 at that same rate.
While Nowitzki’s 47,000-plus minutes played, 1,357 games, 10,000-plus field goals, and 9,200-plus defensive rebounds all rank as the most for any active player, its that same jump shot that magnetizes fans to the court-side in pregame. The one he’ll save for some last shooting session. Eventually he’ll turn his back one final time. He’ll spin around quickly, before squaring up to the glass, fading away, and kicking up his leg, watching the basketball seemingly skim off the rooftop of an adoring arena.
For now Carlisle, who has coached or played with legends including Larry Bird , Clyde Drexler, Reggie Miller , Bill Walton, Kevin McHale , Patrick Ewing , and Robert Parish, is along to watch another colleague sink into the nets of Springfield, Mass.