A Model to Which to Aspire
Forget Dirk Nowitzki’s standing among foreign-born players, the 39-year old German is poised to go down as one of the NBA’s all-time greats.
Against the Sixers Saturday, the forward moved into 12th-place on the league’s 3-point chart. Last season, he became the seventh player in history to pass the 30,000-point plateau, and has since overtaken Julius Erving for sixth on the career scoring list.
The most impressive part, arguably, about everything Nowitzki has accomplished has been that he’s done it all with one organization, the Dallas Mavericks. Following Kobe Bryant, Nowitzki is just the second player ever to log at least 20 years with the same team.
Finding a franchise player like that, Brett Brown said, represents a holy grail. Joel Embiid, in a perfect world, hopes to follow a similar path.
“I think I’m off to a good start, as far has having the relationship with the fans, and being active in the city, but I want to do that,” Embiid said Saturday. “I want to be that type of guy – I want to be Kobe Bryant, I want to be Tim Duncan, I want to be Dirk Nowitzki, stay with one team my whole career. Philly will be the place for me for my whole career.”
The Mavericks drafted Nowitzki ninth overall in 1998.
Speaking of Nowitzki…
Saturday marked the first time two promising international prospects from the Sixers had the chance to face the European icon.
Ben Simmons called Dirk Nowitzki one of his favorite players, while Joel Embiid referred to the 13-time All-Star as a “good friend.” The two got to know each other better this summer, during a Basketball without Borders trip to South Africa.
“I’m glad to call him one of my big brothers,” Embiid said.
Nowitzki, it seems like, has a soft spot for Embiid too.
Over the course of his two-plus seasons with the Sixers, T.J. McConnell – with his production and pace, plus his heart, hustle, and competitive mindset – has routinely shown why he’s worthy of the minute Brett Brown gives him.
Such has especially been the case these past two games. Even by the undrafted point guard’s own standards, he’s been flat-out tenacious. Furthermore, McConnell has appeared more sure of his shot.
Against Dallas Saturday, McConnell netted a season-best 15 points, converting 7 of 10 field goal tries. His contributions surfaced in big ways during a first-quarter spurt that pushed the Sixers’ lead to 13 points, and also amidst the team’s 15-2 tear that closed the third period.
McConnell acknowledged after Saturday’s 112-110 win that his confidence is in a different place.
“Any time you get extended minutes, your confidence grows,” McConnell said. “I think mine’s definitely grown for sure.”
He’s tried to avoid setting expectations – or limitations – on himself.
“I sound like a broken record, but I’m just here to do whatever this team needs me to do, and help it win.”
Having only played alongside McConnell for a brief period of time, Ben Simmons has already come to appreciate the Arizona product’s value.
“He ran the team last year, so he knows what it takes to run the team,” Simmons said Saturday. “As soon as he gets out there, everybody has confidence in him to run the team, know the sets, and get the ball to the right person.”