In a lengthy video interview over the weekend, Dirk Nowitzki said he is planning on playing for the German National Team in Eurobasket 2015 to help qualify for the 2016 Olympics.
You can see the video here and these specific comments are at the 24-minute mark. They're in German, a language I don't speak, so thanks to commenter No Joke for first alerting us to the interview. I also confirmed the comments with several German speakers.
Dirk said he'll wait until the end of this year's NBA season to make a final decision, but until then, let's talk about what this all means.
What is the Eurobasket?
Taking place Sept. 5 to 20 next year, the two 2015 Eurobasket squads that reach the championship game will be two of the 12 Olympic basketball qualifiers for Rio 2016.
Germany will be one of the teams with a chance to do that in Eurobasket 2015, and Dirk has a long history of supporting his national team. First joining the team in 1997, Dirk finally helped Germany qualify for the 2008 Olympics (where they finished no. 10) with his great play in the 2007 qualifiers.
If Germany didn't reach the Finals of Eurobasket 2015 next year, they could still qualify by finishing in the top three of the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Men. However, that tournament is hosted in the beginning of July and would be a much bigger strain on Dirk, who would then be 38.
Is the German national team any good besides Dirk?
The German team went 4-2 in the Eurobasket 2015 qualifiers -- stay with me here, there are a lot of qualifiers. Both losses came against Poland, who feature only one NBA player: Marcin Gortat. They are not playing in the currently ongoing FIBA World Cup because they failed to qualify last year.
They have one NBA player besides Dirk, Atlanta Hawks point guard Dennis Schroeder (possibly two if Chris Kaman decides to play). They are currently no. 14 in the FIBA World Rankings. While that sounds good, seven European teams still remain in front. Since the Olympics isn't decided by the 12 best countries, but rather by the best country from each region (and two for the Americas and Europe), Germany is at a disadvantage.
If Dirk plays, even at 37, they wouldn't be favored over Spain and Lithuania. But with Dirk, you're never out of it.
Where is Eurobasket 2015 being hosted?
See, now this question's tricky. It was scheduled for Ukraine, but FIBA took it away from them due to the ongoing violence in the country. One of the eight countries vying to take over for Ukraine is Germany, and by everything I can tell they have a pretty good shot. Previously, Germany had been part of a joint bid that was a finalist to host but withdrew their bid late in the process.
Dirk, with all of his German national pride, would be even more interested in participating if his home country is hosting.
(Update: The bid actually has been decided, moving from Ukraine as the host to a joint bid of Germany, Latvia, France and Croatia. Thanks to beachdrifter for that catch.)
Will Cuban like it if Dirk plays?
But will Dirk actually follow through?
It sounds like that's his intention, but that's a long ways off. The last time Dirk played for the German national team was in the summer of 2011, also in hopes of qualifying for the Olympics. If you remember, that, plus the long championship run he was coming off, plus the insane lockout-shortened season, plus nagging knee issues all dramatically hurt his conditioning and effectiveness that season.
If the Mavericks make a substantial playoff run spanning into or past the second round, I think Dirk will gracefully bow out. He won't like it, but his 37-year-old body simply can't handle that much basketball over the course of a year -- especially with two more years on what is likely his final Mavericks contract.
Planning on playing now doesn't really mean anything for him in the big picture. It's all about his health and stamina in July, when he's ready to make a final decision to report to the German team camp or not.
If he does play, it will also probably be in a smaller role than years past.
Someone else can editorialize whether this is a good or bad idea for Dirk, but we're much too far away for any real opinion on it. I trust he'll make the right decision when the time comes, although we should also realize that making the right decision for him may not be the same as making the right decision for the Mavericks.