What will Nowitzki do for an encore?
Mavs superstar got his long-awaited title, but don't expect him to become complacent
DALLAS -- Dirk Nowitzki's borderline insane work ethic has always been driven by two dreams.
He lived one in 2008, when he led Germany to the Olympics, carrying his country's flag during opening ceremony. He accomplished the other days ago, when his Dallas Mavericks put the finishing touches on the franchise's first championship.
Now what for Nowitzki?
"You think he's going to work less?" teammate Peja Stojakovic asked, laughing at such a silly notion. "No way."
That's the consensus opinion in the Mavericks' organization. Never mind that Nowitzki, with his Finals MVP trophy within arm's reach, openly wondered whether he would have worked as hard if he won a title earlier in his career.
Maybe that was the champagne talking. After all, this is a guy who abstains from alcohol all season. Heck, it was news that he celebrated the Western Conference semifinals sweep of the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers by eating a couple of slices of pizza, cheating on his strict diet.
As far as Mavericks concerns go, Dirk's ability to maintain his maniacal motivation ranks somewhere below whether billionaire owner Mark Cuban can afford the giant $90,000 bottle of Aces of Spades champagne the German guzzled from while celebrating at a Miami Beach club in the wee hours of Monday morning.
"I don't think you're going to see any less of a competitive Dirk with the hunger to win a championship next year," said Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson, the man most responsible for bringing Nowitzki to Dallas 13 years ago. "That's not part of this guy's DNA."
Added coach Rick Carlisle: "Guys like Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan -- these guys are wired a certain way. And they're uncompromising with how they approach their preparation to play."
If anything, the Mavericks brass hopes Nowitzki relaxes a little. He turns 33 on Sunday, and while Dallas' decision-makers are confident Nowitzki has at least a few more prime seasons left in his ground-bound game, rest becomes more important as he ages.
Nowitzki has relaxed more than ever the past couple of summers, when he finally granted Cuban's requests to not compete in international tournaments. Instead, Nowitzki makes a daily drive from his boyhood home in Wurzburg, Germany to go through strenuous, unconventional morning workouts with longtime mentor Holger Geschwindner, then does a couple hours of cardio each afternoon.
2011 NBA Finals: Champion Mavericks
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Game 4: Mavericks 86, Heat 83
Game 5: Mavericks 112, Heat 103
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Nowitzki's late-night shooting sessions during the season, often with Holger in attendance, are approaching legendary status. Teammates are surprised if they show up to the gym to work on their game during a non-game night and don't see Nowitzki.
Guys such as Stojakovic, who competed against Nowitzki for years, went from respecting Nowitzki's commitment to being in awe of it once they see his passion up close and personal on a consistent basis.
"His drive is just unique," said Brian Cardinal, who became one of Nowitzki's close buddies during their first season as teammates. "His motivation is like no other. To come in here and see him grind and put in the effort he does, it's inspiring. It's contagious."
Nobody expects that to change after a championship, no matter what Nowitzki says while soaking up the moment he's worked half of his life to achieve.
"Maybe a couple of nights next year I'm going to tell Holger to go somewhere else and leave me alone," Nowitzki said, quickly seeming to realize how unlikely that is to happen. "No, I don't know, we'll have to wait and see.
"I play this sport because I'm a competitor. That's what drove me to be the best I could be. I don't think it's going to be a huge motivation drop-off. I think I'll be OK once I get a little rest here."
He'll have to set new goals. The challenge of defending a championship should certainly fuel the 7-footer's competitive fire.
Maybe he'll start giving his legacy a little thought, something he claims he's never done before. Nowitzki, who ranks 23rd in NBA history with 22,792 points, acknowledged Tuesday that 30,000 would be a worthy target.
He'll find plenty of motivational fodder. Nowitzki knows nothing else.
Workers work. Winners win. For Nowitzki, the former leads to the latter, a trend that won't end just because he finally had one fully satisfying season.
Tim MacMahon covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.