Dirk Nowitzki is in Johannesburg, South Africa gearing up for the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders Africa Game on Saturday, where he will be a co-captain on Team World. You may have seen pictures of him working out with Kristaps Porzingis and other NBA stars this week. Back in Dallas, however, the Mavericks are slowing piecing together their roster as they prepare for training camp and next season.
Recently, the Mavs signed Brandon Ashley, who was a standout during the Mavericks’ deep run during the Las Vegas Summer League. Ashley, at 6-foot-9, started every game at center, averaging 11.5 points and 3.7 rebounds. Also joining the Mavs after a nice run in Vegas is Gian Clavell, who suited up for the Miami Heat in the desert. Clavell, a 6-foot-4 guard, averaged 12.4 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.4 assists while shooting 40.6 percent from deep.
Dallas also signed Maxi Kleber, who hails from Würzburg, Germany, Dirk’s home town. Kleber, for one, is happy that he’ll get to build a relationship with the man who put Würzburg on the global basketball map.
“We text each other once in awhile but we don’t have really a close friendship just because of the fact we’ve never played together,” Kleber said in an interview with HoopsHype. “I wish I could have played with him on the National Team but I never got to do that. I’m really happy that I can play with him in Dallas, I can learn so much from him now. But yeah, I’m from Würzburg, he’s from Würzburg, so it’s going to be special, there’s going to be a good friendship. He’s the king of the city and can really walk outside when he visits and he was my hero when I was young.”
For his part, Nowitzki is also excited about the upcoming season, especially when it comes to finally getting to spend time and build a relationship with Dennis Smith Jr.
“He came to Dallas and then I had left, so I didn’t get to meet him yet,” Nowitzki said during a conference call from Johannesburg. “I didn’t get to see him play but I’ve seen highlights of course on Twitter and stuff. I mean, what an unbelievable athlete he is. Just playing above the rim, getting to the paint whenever he wanted in the Summer League, even finishing when he’s not dunking, nifty finishes with the left. I think we’re going to have a lot of fun with this kid, a lot of fun. He’s got a great drive to the basket, and he’s just going to get better from here.”
Smith Jr. spoke about what he can learn from the Big German on draft night, back in June, when he was asked about how he’ll enjoy running the pick and roll with Nowitzki.
“With Dirk and Nerlens, it's going to be great,” Smith Jr. said. “Dirk can teach me a lot of things even though he’s never been a ball-handler in the pick-and-roll. He can teach me a lot because he knows the ins and outs of the game, and I'm looking forward to learning from him.”
While there’s every indication that the players are ready to get back on the court, there’s also a reminder that even though the Mavericks roster is filling out, it’s still incomplete. Dallas still has yet to re-sign restricted free agent center Nerlens Noel. And with each passing day, Noel and the Mavs look no closer to a deal than they did a month ago.
“The whole Noel situation is still a little unfortunate, I think,” Nowitzki said on the same call. “We traded for him last year to obviously keep him for the long run. I’m not sure what the latest is there since I’ve been traveling for a month. I haven’t heard, but I’m hoping that things will work out and that he’s coming back to the Mavs.”
No matter how much the Mavs have built toward the coming season and the future of the team, the specter of the Noel situation looms heavy. So much so that even Nowitzki is taking notice from the other side of the planet.