Thursday, March 6, 2008

Nowitzki's take on his suspension

Dirk Nowitzki wasn’t surprised by the one-game suspension that followed Monday’s takedown of Andrei Kirilenko. Addressing the league punishment at today’s shootaround, Nowitzki thought the league office made up its mind before even talking to him yesterday morning.

“That’s why they review stuff and they have the right to do whatever they want,” he said. “To me the guys at the NBA that make the decision, they never played the sport in their lives. They don’t know what it is, they don’t how it feels like to be out there and get caught in the air, so they really don’t know what’s going on in a player’s head.”

Nowitzki wasn’t sure what the deciding factor was in the league’s ruling.

“I guess they were saying I grabbed him by the neck and threw him down,” he said. “That’s not what happened. It may look on film like that because I lost my balance and the only place I could grab him was around the neck and everything happened so quick. If they think that was intentional, then that’s what they think. Like I said, they never played this game in their lives.”

Though he hates to lose the reigning MVP, Avery Johnson did put the suspension in some perspective.

“Definitely wasn’t trying to injure him,” Johnson said. “We’re a much more physical team than what we used to be, but we don’t want to injure anybody. That’s the league decision and I guess if one of our players were in that situation, we probably would want the same thing to happen.”

Nowitzki spoke with a league security official once before practice yesterday. The league notified assistant general manager Keith Grant of the suspension without talking to Nowitzki again.

“They didn’t feel the need to talk me again, so I figure why even bother calling them in the morning and tell my story if this is going to happen anyway,” Nowitzki said. “I think they already had their mind made up, so it’s really for nothing.”

Nowitzki’s frustration with the “hearing” process was obvious. Unlike other sports, the NBA doesn’t grant appeals after suspensions are announced. He’s sitting out tonight’s visit from the streaking Rockets and will be back for New Jersey on Saturday.

“I got the hearing, but I figured they already had their mind made up,” Nowitzki continued. “I don’t know why they waited until yesterday, too. They could have contacted me Tuesday, so I don’t know what they do in that office, but I’m going to take the suspension and move on.”

As he explained Monday night, Nowitzki wasn’t trying to hurt Kirilenko. He just got caught up in the air after the Russian pump-faked under the basket, and his arm came down across his neck. Kirilenko fell on his right hip and was in obvious pain. He was later taken to the hospital for further tests.

“Just a bad, bad feeling,” Nowitzki said. “First of all, he’s a fellow European. I know him very well. We played against each other growing up, so I have a lot of respect for him. I don’t play ever to hurt people. I think everybody knows that.

“It’s just an unfortunate incident. As soon he got up, I walked over there and wanted to know if he’s OK, but he couldn’t really say much to me. At halftime I went up to their trainer that I know and asked him how he’s doing. I felt bad, but plays like that happen in this league. You have athletes going at each other at 100 mph and everybody is going fast and playing hard, and stuff happens.”

Nowitzki did add: “The unfortunate part was that Kirilenko jumped up, too. If he would have stayed on the ground and then I would have just landed awkward on his back, I would have just grabbed him and everything [would have been] OK.”

Since he can’t be at American Airlines Center tonight for the start of the key five-game homestand, Nowitzki joked he may watch the game at a bar with fans. Don’t get too excited. He’ll catch the game from the comforts of home.

Replacing the MVP in the lineup won’t be easy. Johnson has a platoon of Brandon Bass, Devean George, Malik Allen and Juwan Howard available. Johnson also said Erick Dampier could expect a few more touches.

“We’ll have to do it by committee,” Johnson said.

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