The inevitable Dirk Nowitzki-Larry Bird comparison questions popped up again Sunday during the Dallas Mavericks’ annual excursion to TD Garden.
This time coach Rick Carlisle added a new wrinkle to his answer.
Before Sunday’s Mavs-Celtics game, Carlisle admitted that he gave Nowitzki something priceless after he became the Mavs’ coach in 2008.
“When I first came to Dallas I went over to Germany for a trip and brought a DVD that had about three or four minutes of Bird stuff on it,” Carlisle said. “Some things that I really felt would be good for [Nowitzki] to develop on that right post iso[lation] area that Larry was so great at.
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“[Nowitzki’s mentor] Holger Geschwindner and Dirk worked on that stuff, and it’s one of the reasons their diligence in developing that stuff over there is one of the things that led to him coming up with the one-legged fade, which now guys are copying.”
Nowitzki didn’t grow up watching Bird play. But he’s obviously aware of his legendary status.
“He was a little too early for my day,’’ Nowitzki said. “I started really watching basketball in the ’90s when I started playing, but then obviously over the years when I got older I watched all his games.
“I learned to appreciate his game — really with zero athleticism — just making things happen on skills and smarts. Yeah, he was one of a kind.”
Carlisle was a teammate of Bird’s from 1984-’87 and has coached Nowitzki since 2008. So if anyone can speak of the comparisons between the two legends with firsthand knowledge, it’s Carlisle.
“There are a lot of similarities between Nowitzki and Bird,” he said. “The biggest thing is their drive to win, their meticulous approach towards preparation, work ethic and those kinds of things.
“The big difference is Dirk didn’t have the number of Hall of Famers around him that Larry did, so in many ways he’s carried — over the course of his career — a bigger load than almost any star player has in recent history. And so for that reason I think it just goes to show even more why this guy is one of the top 10 or 12 greatest players ever.’’
Owner Mark Cuban said he didn’t see any similarities between Nowitzki and Bird.
“Larry could shoot, obviously, and Larry could play all-out,” Cuban said. “But Larry talked a lot of crap, and Dirk’s not really the talker.
“Larry wanted you to know that he was in your face, and Dirk wanted you to be shaking your head while he’s running down the court.”
Carlisle noted there’s always one question reporters want to know when the Bird-Nowitzki comparisons come up.
“I frequently get asked between him and Bird who’s better, and there’s no one guy that’s better than the other,” Carlisle said. “They’re both great, but they’re both very different.
“And one thing I know, I still talk to Larry quite a bit, and Larry is a big fan of Dirk’s, and vice versa. So it’s a cool thing.”