On Monday, the players and coaches wrapped up for the 2013-14 season, including exit interviews for a handful of the key players. I've transcribed what Dirk and Rick had to say, but let's walk through a top 10 of what they said if you simply don't have time to read it all.
Note: In some spots, I shortened answers when Dirk or Rick repeated what they had already said or went into "playerspeak." Even so, it's still 2,200 words of answers. Trust me, I didn't cut out anything that is going to make headlines anywhere else, and considering how much is here, I cut out a very small percentage of what was said.
- Despite some headlines, Dirk did NOT "take a shot" at Kobe's contract. Here's the quote from him: "We want to get better as a team, and I'm pretty sure I'm not going to sign Kobe's deal, unfortunately."
- Dirk admitted that in Game 7, he was fatigued and that he didn't have "enough left in the tank" to try and take over like he wanted to.
- Carlisle said he thinks Monta Ellis can take quantum leaps as a player and said the two would work together in the offseason. It was pretty obvious that he avoided answering the question "in what areas" Monta could improve.
- Carlisle said continuity is important for the roster and that they will look to bring back most of the same guys. It won't be a repeat of the past couple of seasons where Carlisle had to coach eight or nine new players.
- Carlisle said the defense would be better and that improving the defense will be a priority this offseason.
- Despite not ever playing him, Carlisle said he likes Wayne Ellington a lot. Ellington is signed through next year.
- Dirk said he felt good for nearly the entire season, which was good after worrying about his health and knee a lot last year.
- Both Rick and Dirk said it was too early to look ahead to what might happen in the offseason. Rick said he knows the roster will get better, he's just not sure how.
- Dirk will go to Germany in June. He's also probably going to the beach. PARTY.
- Total speculation and just my opinion here, but in regards to the Monta comments, could Rick think Monta can play more point guard? I got the impression he wasn't just talking about his jump shot, but that's just a guess. It would allow more flexibility, such as moving Calderon to the bench.
On whether he feels good about the team and the first round series
Yeah, I mean, getting blown out in Game 7 is tough. It kind of throws the effort out a little bit, but you've got to give San Antonio credit. I think they played their best game of the series, really starting with the big threes setting the tone early. Parker being on fire, and then the role players kind of fell in line. You've got to give them credit, they're the best team in the regular season and they put up their best game against us in a Game 7 situation and a lot of pressure.
But -- I like what we've done. I like what we did to get in the playoffs, to battle and the excitement we showed, the fight we showed. I definitely liked that. I liked what we showed for the first six games, giving them nothing easy and making them work for everything, sweating it out until Game 7 at least. But Game 7 was a tough one, that's for sure.
On whether the season is a success
Well, our goal was to make the playoffs. I thought we had the weapons to do it; even in a tough West, I thought we could do it. It was close; we came all the way down to the last week or so. ... There's 16 teams that have a chance to win it all, and we were one of the 16. We gave ourselves a chance. I thought the fans were excited for us and the building was on fire, so I think the fans were proud of us. Just, Game 7 was tough.
On whether it was surprising to Dirk what they accomplished
We might have a few more wins if B-Wright doesn't miss the first month, Devin doesn't miss the first few months, but injuries are part of the deal, part of the business. If they're healthy all season, maybe we sneak up a few places, which would have helped us in the playoff seedings. But all this is is if's and but's. I thought once those guys were healthy, we finished the season strong. We had a good run after the All-Star Break. We were one of the best teams on the road, which is very good for a team with nine new guys.
On what areas he would like to see be addressed on the roster
Well, you can always get better. You can always get more athletic at every position. You never have enough shooters on your team. You can have another playmaker. You can always get better; that's not the problem in this league. We'll just have to wait and see how the summer goes. There's a lot of cap space, we know that again, so Donnie and Mark are probably going to go to work and we'll go from there.
We made it pretty clear that those two are our backcourt for a while. We signed these guys, Jose and Monta, to multi-year deals. They played great. Monta really helped me as I'm in a later stage of my career. Those two guys are great and they're going to be our backcourt moving forward.
On whether this team feels like it's ready to take a step up to the next level in the playoffs like it did in 2005
We hope it's going to go up, but we're just going to have to wait and see. After the 2006 season when we lost in the Finals, I thought we were going to go to the Finals the next three, four years straight. It took basically five years to go back again. We can analyze this and analyze that, you never know what's going to happen until you see the roster for the next year, how other teams stack up, how injuries play an impact. I definitely like the approach we took last summer, that's not eight, nine one-year deals, it's have a steady backcourt. It's signing guys to deals that know they're here and identify themselves with them.
On his summer and upcoming birthday
Yeah, the big 36. I'm knocking at the door. It's crazy that 16 years are in the books. It's actually a little sad, but also exciting. It's been a crazy ride, and I was excited this year that I played 80 games, which nobody really saw coming after last season. ... If I feel like that, I still think I'm going to play a couple more years at a high level, and we'll just have to wait and see. I'm not going anywhere for a while. Me and Mark are going to figure some stuff out in the next couple weeks. The year before, I was a little worried with the knee injury and not getting going for a long, long time. This year, I feel better about my body and my health. I still think I can play at a high level for a couple of years.
On his plan for this summer after getting in the gym almost immediately last offseason
I'mma be here for a while again. I'll probably go home to Europe, take the little one to Europe; probably not until July though. What worked for me the last couple of years in the summer was keeping the legs strong. I'm obviously not going to be here in May or June running or shooting, but I'mma be lifting twice a week just to keep my base, so by the time I do start shooting around my knees are okay. That's very important. Actually, as you get older, you put more time in, not less. I might go to the beach for a little while but that's it.
On whether he finally hit a wall in Game 7
Yeah, it's been a lot of games, especially in the playoffs. I averaged almost 40 minutes a night, and every other night. That was a bit much. I don't think I had enough left in the tank yesterday to really take this thing over and take it to another level, which is disappointing. But hey, it felt great for 100 games. I basically only missed two games, and I feel great for that.
On possible free agent targets
Everyone knows who the top fish is, or the top couple of fishes. Fishies? Fishii? [laughs] But we'll just have to wait and see, honestly. It's a little early.
On what type of contract he could sign for
Yeah, we want to get better as a team, and I'm pretty sure I'm not going to sign Kobe's deal, unfortunately. No, we'll find a good way that I feel respected for what I did and we'll still have enough money left for us to get great players in here. Cuban's been great to me, been loyal to me for a long, long time, so I'm sure we're going to find a good solution.
On bringing Vince, Marion and Devin back
I really liked what those guys brought this year, with their veteran leadership, their hard playing, their playmaking and good decisions in big games. They were always there. You always try to get your warriors back; we saw in 2011 it doesn't always happen that way. .. We'll just have to wait and see, but we love all these guys. (Vince walks down the stairs and Dirk sees him) You know, Vince played all 82 this year? That's amazing for a fossil.
On what the team was able to achieve this season
A lot of positive things with a group with a lot of new guys. Guys came together in relatively short order and we have a relatively good run. I thought the last month of the season, with a lot of big games just to qualify for the playoffs, put us in a position to compete hard in this series. The last game was disappointing but I love the way the team battled all game long. We'll work to try to keep the team together the best that we can. From there, we'll try to make the team better any other way we see fit.
On having to coach 8 to 9 new players
It's the third or fourth time it's happened to me. I've been down this road and I understand what it is. The important thing is to have a real positive attitude about it. To consciously be in a problem-solving mode, not a problem-identifying mode. ...
It's never good when it ends. As Mark always said, we're one of 29 teams tied for last when you get disqualified from the playoffs. But we'll build from the positives. We've got some guys who can continue to get better. I just think Ellis is at a point in his career where he can still make some quantum leaps as a player. Marion and Nowitzki and Carter are great veteran guys who have good years left, and they're going to continue to work to keep their careers going. There's just a lot of guys who did a lot of good things this year.
On continuity and bringing back the team's veteran players
Veteran continuity is one of the important things for continued success. It's one of the reasons that San Antonio had such a long run. We had a long run here before we weren't able to make the playoffs last year. Dirk, Vince, Shawn -- those guys will be key guys this summer as we start talking to guys, and that experience and that know-how and the fact that those guys are such good players is going to give us a starting point every year. We want to bring back the veteran nucleus around them and our younger guys, we're excited about. I think Crowder's going to keep getting better, I really like Ellington even though he didn't get a chance to play much this year. Larkin showed he's a guy who can be a factor in this league as a point guard.
On what "quantum leaps" Monta can take as a player
Just believe that there's places his game can go and get even better. It'll be a summer of work for him. He and I are going to spend some time together this summer working on some things, and keep pushing him.
On how he evaluates himself coaching this team
Ohhhh, you know. I'll have to digest that for a while. I'm never happy if we don't win a championship. That's the kind of standards you come accustom to when you're with an organization. I'll look at everything and see where we need to do better. Part of it is going to be where we are with the free agents. If we can get most of the team back, we won't have a lot of upheaval with our system.
On what areas would you like to see improvements on the roster
... I don't know if I can answer this question, or Mark or Donnie can, until we see where the holes are going to be. There's only a finite amount of money you can spend now, and that's why you're seeing so many long series and such competitive series. There aren't teams that are spending into oblivion the way that there were before you had the tax and the super tax. It's really about spending your money wisely, making sure you get as much bang with your buck with the guys that you sign, and making sure those guys stick together. It's hard to know exactly where right now.
On the importance of the offseason for Crowder, Sarge and Larkin
It's big for all of those guys. As far as who's going to play in the summer league, I don't know that for sure. I think Sarge might be a free agent.
On whether the team needs better defenders
Defensively, we'll be better next year. Again, I thought nine new guys was a challenging thing. The way Dalembert finished the season that last two months was really encouraging for next year, and yes, that's another reason why Marion is important. I think if we can get Devin Harris back next year and have him from start to finish, he's one of our better defenders as well. It'll be a priority for us.
On whether he takes any time off for the offseason
There's a little time here, but we have a pre-draft camp next week and be looking at the draft. I know we don't have a first round pick but we have an early second. That's an important pick for us and it's a deep draft, so we're going to have to do our homework on that. All this stuff flies by fast. We'll be into the summer and then it'll be the 29th of September and everyone will be back again.
On whether his staff will stay intact
That's my hope.