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Dirk Nowitzki heard the message, but he has no interest in following it.
The message was delivered by Dallas Maverick owner Mark Cuban, who told his team tanking would be the best path for the franchise the rest of this season. Cuban’s comments resulted in him getting slapped with a $600,000 fine.
In the first game since Cuban’s comments, Nowitzki, the future Hall of Famer, and his teammates went out and defeated the visiting Indiana Pacers, 109-103. The victory was only the 19th of the season for Dallas.
“You don’t really want a culture here that’s just giving up and quitting and not playing hard,” Nowitzki told reporters after Monday’s win. “I think it just sets the wrong tone for the future.
“I think it’s important for our young guys to learn how to compete and to compete all the time, play hard. You play your minutes hard. That’s the only way to get better. That’s the only way to play in this league, and whatever happens after the season, we’ll just go from there. But for now, you play your minutes hard and you play to win.”
Teammate Harrison Barnes sided with Nowitzki, not Cuban, on the issue.
“You don’t want to have an acceptance of losing,” Barnes told ESPN. “Obviously, the quotes about tanking and all that type of stuff, you can’t avoid that. We’ve been getting asked about that since they were said, but at the end of the day as professionals, as players, you have to go out there and you have to play to win.
“Any time you don’t play to win or you’re just kind of going through the motions, that can become contagious. That can become a habit, and that can become your culture. ‘Oh, it’s OK for us to do this. Oh, it’s OK for us to not give full effort.’ Then next season rolls around, and you can’t flip that switch. It’s still that malaise that you had from the year before.”