Carlisle sees plenty of similarities between Bird, Nowitzki

Carlisle sees plenty of similarities between Bird, Nowitzki
February 9, 2014, 7:15 pm
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BOSTON — When it comes to the inevitable comparisons made between Boston Celtics great Larry Bird and Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki, few would argue that Mavericks head coach and former Celtic player Rick Carlisle is the most qualified, authoritative voice on the subject.

"They're two of the top 12 players in history, without question," said Carlisle who won a title with Bird and the Celtics in 1986. "They're both, 10 time-plus All-Stars, Finals MVP, League MVP at some point ... and they're both big-time game changers."

As good as Nowitzki was when Carlisle took over as head coach of the Mavs in 2008, he saw the potential for even more growth in Nowitzki - and Larry Bird was going to help him.

Carlisle recalled a trip to Germany shortly after taking the Mavericks job.

"I brought a DVD that had three or four minutes of Bird stuff on it," Carlisle said. "Some things I really felt would be good for him to develop on that right, post-iso area that Larry was so great at."

It became part of what would ultimately evolve into a deeper, more profound bag of offensive tricks for Nowitzki which included his go-to move: the one-legged fade-away jumper.

"There are a lot of similarities between Nowitzki and Bird," Carlisle said. "The biggest is their drive to win, their meticulous approach towards preparation, work ethic and those kind of things."

However, the two part ways significantly when you look at the supporting cast around Nowitzki compared to the talent Bird was surrounded by in Boston.

"Dirk didn't have the number of Hall of Famers that Larry did," Carlisle said. "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, it just goes to show even more why this guy is one of the top 10 or 12 greatest players ever."

And while Nowitzki admits he was too young to appreciate Bird's game when he played, that changed in time.

"Over the years as I got older, I watched his games, learned to appreciate his game with really, zero athleticism," Nowitzki said. "Just making things happen with skills and smarts to be one of the best ever. He's one of a kind."

And the Mavericks feel the same about Nowitzki who was named to his 12th All-Star team this season.

"Look, Dirk is Dallas and Dallas is Dirk," said Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. "He represents us so well. It sends a message to fans, that he's alive and well and he's having a great season. It reinforces it for Mavs fans, how amazing an athlete and player he is."

And while Father Time will eventually catch up to Nowitzki, Cuban isn't worried about him slowing down.

"He's a pup," Cuban said. "I always tell him, 'today is the youngest you are ever gong to be. Play like it!' It's not like you're ever going to talk about him slowing down. He can't slow down.

Cuban quipped, "He can't get any slower. It's never going to be an issue. Hopefully he'll be making All-Star teams for years to come."