Three days have passed since Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki took his place among the top 10 scorers in NBA history, and the buzz hasn’t stopped.
As the Mavericks prepared to play Thursday night, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich recalled when Nowitzki was an unknown, — other than to then-Mavericks coach Don Nelson — in the days before the 1998 NBA Draft.
“Ever since he got here from Day One when nobody knew who the heck he was, except Nellie, he’s done a lot of great things,” Popovich said. “He started out a bit slow until he got used to the deal here, and then he became Dirk, a Hall of Fame player and somebody who’s arguably the best pure shooter we’ve ever seen.
“And he’s done it with class. He’s showed up every minute he’s available, he plays hard all the time, great teammate, he’s somebody special.”
Nowitzki scored 21 points in Tuesday’s 95-83 victory over the Utah Jazz to move past Oscar Robertson into 10th place on the all-time list. The efficiency in which Nowitzki carved up the Jazz is what got coach Rick Carlisle’s attention.
“Going 9-for-11 from the field to do it just kind of validates everything,” Carlisle said. “This is just how it’s done, and he’s just been one of those guys that’s been ridiculously good. It’s a rare feat and if he can keep playing, which it looks like he can, he’s going to catch more guys.”
Spurs forward Tim Duncan, who also has built a Hall of Fame career, marvels at what Nowitzki has been able to accomplish in his 16 years with the Mavericks.
“It’s an unbelievable career,” Duncan said. “He’s been amazing and obviously very consistent throughout the years. He’s a very good leader on the court, and it’s just a testament to where his career has been.”
Popovich, meanwhile, acknowledged that Nowitzki put in a lot of hard work developing his craft. Especially that one-legged, fallaway jumper that has become so popular with many of today’s great players.
“He didn’t get that shot — he didn’t wake up with it,” Popovich said. “He’s obviously got some natural skills and all that kind of thing, but he’s worked to be the player he is now. He’s put in a lot of time.”
Ledo getting ready
Fresh off spending practically the entire season with the Texas Legends of the NBA Development League, guard Ricky Ledo made his way back to the AAC on Thursday, but not to play for the Mavericks.
Ledo averaged 13.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 39 games for the Legends, whose season has ended. Ledo’s time with the Legends allowed him to develop his skills after he sat out his freshman season last year at Providence because the NCAA ruled him academically ineligible.
“It was a good experience,” said Ledo, who shot 42 percent from the field and 32.8 percent from 3-point range for the Legends. “I definitely felt like toward the end of the season and in the last month I played like I’m used to normally playing. I had the confidence, and I just felt like I was on top of my game again.”
Ledo was chosen with the 43rd overall pick in June’s NBA Draft. But after playing 11 games for the Mavericks and averaging only 1.7 points and three minutes a game, it was clear he needed some time with the Legends.
“I’m going to back off from games for a little while, and then get back to working hard and get ready for summer league,” Ledo said.
Playoff tickets on sale
Mavs playoff tickets go on sale Saturday at 10 a.m. at mavs.com, at the American Airlines Center box office or by calling 214-747-6287.