NEW YORK — Dirk Nowitzki and Harrison Barnes, fingers well-placed on the pulse of the NBA, had some interesting thoughts after the Mavericks’ 110-97 win over New York Tuesday night on the subject of trying hard in the NBA.
It’s pretty clear the Mavericks have been doing that, based on recent results.
Both Nowitzki and Barnes acknowledged they can thank owner Mark Cuban for that. His comments at the All-Star break about losing being their best option earned him a $600,000 fine and ensured that the Mavericks were going to have to try their best the rest of the way.
As for other teams? Nowitzki said the eye test reveals everything.
“We keep playing hard,” he said. “There obviously are some teams that are going for some losses now. We’re one of the teams that still wants to win and see where we end up in the draft.
“We want to have a winning culture for our young guys and show them how to play and the work ethic and how to play to win. So that’s very important to us.”
Asked if he could tell which teams are diving for lottery position, he said: “Yeah, it’s pretty obvious.”
And as a 3-3 record in March shows, the Mavericks aren’t in that group.
“Well,” Nowitzki said, “I think Mark messed that up for us.”
Barnes was equally honest about the way of the league in the final month of the season. It’s clear that this wins like Tuesday’s are hurting the Mavericks’ draft position, but may pay off in the long run, he said.
“It changed the whole dynamic,” Barnes said of the Mavericks since Cuban’s comments about tanking. “The league came out and we continued on as business as usual.
“Other teams, I can’t speak to that. But we’re going out there and trying to win every game. I heard Chicago got a warning. When you say something and bring attention to it, I think the magnifying glass is a little more (focused on you). But when you don’t, other teams are able to do a lot different things.”
Barnes also said that the idea of stringing together high draft picks is a slippery slope that can backfire (and has) on many teams.
“If you try to get three draft picks in a row, two of those draft picks are going to be developing losing habits for two years before you get that third one,” he said. “When you have had two or three years of it, it’s kind of hard to then jump-start things. Guys are like, we always do this.”
It’s called losing habits and they can creep in without teams even knowing it.
And they are hard to break.
“The best way to get better is to do it in victories,” Barnes said. “To get wins. To have guys in those experiences when the game is close, whether we’re up or down, trying to do it the right way.
“Obviously our record overall for the season has been difficult. But wins like tonight help long term, to build confidence and knowing that we’re doing the right things.”
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