How do you think Dirk played with this huge scoring benchmark coming up?
“He played an exceptional game all-around. He had a few strips, rebounded well and scored was a plus 8, which was huge. It’s close, it’s right there.
“I thought he played great. Put yourself in his shoes and just think of everything to go along with it. It’s just quite a thing.”
How do you perceive the energy in the arena every time he touches the ball?
“At this point the whole world is going to know where things are, which is cool. Our guys have been aware of it since the All-Star break. As things have gotten closer certainly the arena has been more perked up.
“Tonight it was mayhem in there. He played great. With all the pressure situations that he’s been in in a period of well over two decades this is a different kind of thing. If I’m putting myself in his shoes a lot of it has to do for those guys ahead of him. It’s very pure.
“Keep playing games and Monday is another opportunity to get over the hump here. We’ve got to stick with the process, that’s the way we always do it.”
Is Brunson building a case to you that he can be a long-term starter?
“I’m open to anything. He’s certainly building a case that he’s a big part of our core young guys going forward for sure. Whether he’s a starter or whether he’s a rotation guy, he’s a winner.
“He just wants to play and he wants to be a part of a winning situation. I like him and I think the other guy that really should be mentioned here is Burke who hasn’t been playing at all.
“He’s kept himself ready. He’s been working with Sham every day and they do a lot of stuff to keep him tuned up. With Luka not playing Trey was going to be in the mix. He understood it and he was terrific all night. He did a good job of not only scoring the ball at key times but he got Dirk a couple of nice looks off penetration and that was great to see.”
Is there any internal competition of who’s going to get the assist when Dirk passes Wilt?
“There is no competition; it’s going to be me. That’s the end of that.”
What’s it like for you as teammates to watch him get closer to this milestone?
“It’s watching history. I was here for 30,000 and I was able to get him the assist. You’re happy for him; he’s worked so hard for it. All the things he battled through this summer to come back and compete and try to get to a high level.”
You’ve played with Dirk a long time, how long did it take you to realize he was an all-time great?
“First day I met him. His swag is unmatched. He’s a great teammate and you can see the work that he puts in the game. He cares so much about just going out there and doing the right things.
“This team and this organization is built on his values and you can tell he’s definitely going to leave a mark on it.”
What’s it like to be on the court when Dirk is so close to the milestone that fans don’t want anyone but him to shoot?
“We are aware of that and everybody wants Dirk to succeed so we wanted to give him a shot at that. Every shot that Dirk takes is a good shot. Nobody is mad but still we can move the ball a little bit more to give him a better shot.
“Whenever Dirk gets the ball it’s going in. He’s a great shooter. We wanted to see that so I think it was good to do that.”
What’s it like to be on the court as a guy you’ve looked up to for so long is about to achieve this?
“It’s very special. Only being his teammate for me is amazing because he’s playing in his 21st season. Few people do that. The reason I’m able to play on the same court is him being so solid and putting that extra work in, maintaining his body and for me he was my idol. For me it’s a big thing to play with him.”
How does that inspire you seeing the work he puts in even at this age?
“At the beginning I guess he just did it because it was him but now he has to do it to still be able to play. It’s very inspiring and it’s important for us to have him around for the young guys like Luka seeing the extra work he puts in it’s just special.
“You see few guys like that. He comes in early and he stays long. On off days I think he didn’t have one off day this season because he’s coming in and doing something and that’s just very special.”
What were you feeling in that fourth quarter?
“I was going for it there I just didn’t have the hot hand down the stretch. I forced it, obviously, just a little bit. I didn’t really have any great looks but hey it is what it is. It didn’t go in but we won the game but we’re moving on.”
How much did you feel the fans with you especially late?
“It was great especially after I made those back-to-back threes. The crowd went wild so it was fun. It was a fun game. I haven’t played 30 minutes in a long, long time so it was good though.
“It was fun there and I got hot there for a second. It’s not really enough missing those two free-throws. Overall not great enough to push it over 18 but there’s always the next night hopefully.”