Dirk Nowitzki credits Paul Pierce with making him better

Dirk Nowitzki credits Paul Pierce with making him better

BOSTON – Once Dirk Nowitzki finishes his NBA career, he will be remembered as the greatest international player in NBA history.

And while no one disputes his career has been nothing short of amazing, Nowitzki says he had added motivation to go out and steadily improve.

That added motivation goes by the name of Paul Pierce, whose jersey No. 34 will be retired after today’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Both Pierce and Nowitzki were part of the 1998 draft class, with Nowitzki going ninth overall to Milwaukee (they traded his rights immediately to Dallas) with Pierce being selected right after him with the 10th overall pick by Boston.

Being drafted right next to each would bring about comparisons.

Early on, that was not a good thing for Nowitzki, who struggled at both ends of the floor, prompting some hecklers to refer to him as “Irk Nowitzki” because he didn’t play defense.

He averaged 8.2 points per game in his first season.

Meanwhile, Pierce’s transition to the NBA seemed relatively smooth on the floor.

Pierce was a strong contender for the league’s rookie of the year award, averaging 16.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.7 steals and 1.0 blocks per game.

“Paul came out the gate, played unbelievable right away,” Nowitzki recalled. “That put a lot of heat on me in Dallas.”

But in time, Nowitzki developed into the franchise player Dallas was hoping for and now ranks among the NBA’s all-time greats in several categories.

And Nowitzki credits the example set by Pierce as being a motivating factor in his evolution into one of the NBA’s better players for more than a decade.

“It made me work, pushed me to work hard and get better in the summer and add new things,” said Nowitzki, a 13-time All-Star, league MVP (2007), NBA Finals champion and Finals MVP (2011). “He’s been tremendous for this franchise.

Nowitzki added, “Just a clutch gene he had, the big-time shots he made. He really was the whole package offensively. You couldn’t send him one way to shoot. He could post with the best of them. He was the complete package and it’s been fun and an honor to compete against him for a long, long time.”


Celtics-Cavaliers preview: How will C's respond to blowout Game 3 loss?

Celtics-Cavaliers preview: How will C's respond to blowout Game 3 loss?

CLEVELAND – This season has been one lesson learned after another for the Boston Celtics, a team that has taken those teachings and transformed them into better play moving forward. 

It is a trend the Celtics hope to continue tonight as they try and bounce back from a 116-86 Game 3 thrashing at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers who now trail Boston 2-1 in the best-of-seven series. 

“All season I feel like we've been learning,” said Boston’s Al Horford. “We've been put in different positions. And now we're in a position that we need to bounce back, and (tonight) we have a good opportunity.”

Boston doesn’t have a ton of experience this season when it comes to suffering double-digit losses. 

In fact, the Celtics only suffered nine losses by 10 or more points this season. 

But here’s the thing: 

You hear players on this team talk all the time about putting the last game quickly behind them, win or lose. 

Well, that has certainly been the case when they have suffered losses by 10 or more points, evident by them posting an impressive 8-1 regular season record in the games that followed double-digit defeats. 

So if the Celtics seem extremely calm right now, that’s why.

“Everybody loses games,” said Boston’s Jayson Tatum. “The NBA is such a quick turnaround that you really can't be down, especially in the playoffs.”

The Celtics will be fine in terms of their approach mentally to Game 4. The bigger issue is doing a better job of executing at both ends of the floor and doing so without being thrown off their rhythm by the crowd noise that’s pumped into the Quicken Loans Arena that players acknowledged made communicating tougher than usual in Game 3.

“It's going to be loud. But that can't be an excuse for us,” said Boston’s Marcus Smart. “The young guys know that. It's alright, it's one game. The one thing about this sport, you get a chance to go out there and do it again, so it's a blessing to have that opportunity.”

And for the Celtics, tonight’s game offers more than just a chance to exact some payback for a dismal Game 3 performance. It also moves them one step closer towards the NBA Final.

But make no mistake about it. 

The sting of how thoroughly the Celtics were outplayed is indeed on the minds of some players heading into tonight’s game. 

“I use it as fuel because I thought it was embarrassing,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “I thought we came out, the way I played, the way I performed, how not aggressive I was in the first half, I look at that as fuel to come out in Game 3 and be excited about it and be ready to play and ready to fight.

Brown added, “We can't look at the last game and get down on ourselves or

think we're out of the series because we lost one game. That's what the world thinks, that's what the world wants us to think, so we're going to come out and play some basketball (tonight), regardless of what anybody got to say.”


David Ortiz once came through in the clutch for Al Horford's wedding

David Ortiz once came through in the clutch for Al Horford's wedding

David Ortiz doesn't only come through in the clutch when he's in the batter's box.

He also delivers in clutch situations off the field. Take Al Horford's wedding for example. The Celtics big man had a last-minute wedding in the Dominican Republic and desperately needed a car to pick up his wife-to-be. Big Papi saved the day, sending Horford his Phantom and a driver. He even let them keep the car for a couple of days.

Horford told the story to the NBCS Camera Guys, who you should definitely follow on Twitter if you haven't already. . .