Dirk Nowitzki won't be allowed in the American Airlines Center tonight when the Mavs take on the surging Rockets in a big Western Conference showdown. Suspended by the league Wednesday for one game for his flagrant foul against Utah's Andrei Kirilenko, Nowitzki spoke to reporters after Thursday morning's shootaround. Here's a Q&A:
Q: Do you agree with the suspension?
A: I don't think it was intentionally so we don't agree there. I got caught in the air and really was going to take a bad fall. I tried to grab him and happened to grab him by the neck, so it was just a bad play, very, very unfortunate, but things happen in this league. I guess I have to take the suspension. Obviously, very disappointed, it's a big game, we've been struggling, Houston's hot, so it's a game where I definitely would love to be out there and help my team win. It's disappionting, but I've got to take it. To me, the guys at the NBA, they make the decisions and they never played the sport in their lives. They don't know what it is, they don't know how it feels like to be out there and get caught in the air, so they really don't know what's going on in the play.
Q: How hard will it be to not to be there tonight?
A: It'll be tough. I can't even be in the building, so I've got to be at home and watch it. It will be definitely a very disappointing and empty feeling, but I've got to fight through it and hopefully the team will step up. [Brandon] Bass is ready and we've got Malik Allen now and he's come in and made some shots for us before, and Juwan Howard is a pro, so I think all of the guys will make up for me.
Q: What did you tell the league when they called you for your take?:
A: That's what they always do. In the morning, they had me talk to some security person, I told him my side of the story and then after practice they didn't call me back, they just called Keith Grant and told him I was suspended. They didn't feel the need to talk to me again, so I figure why even bother calling them in the morning and telling my story if I was suspended anyway, I think they already had their mind made up, so it was for nothing.
Q: Did you feel like you didn't get a fair hearing?:
A: I got the hearing, but I figured they already had their mind made up. I don't know why they waited til yesterday, they could have contacted me on Tuesday, so I don't know what they do in that office. But, I will take the suspension and move on.
Q: How did you feel when the foul happened?:
A: Bad, bad feeling. First of all, he's a fellow European. I know him very well, we played against each other growing up so I have a lot of respect for him. And I don't play ever to hurt people and I think everybody knows that, it was just an unfortunate incident. As soon as he got up and walked over I wanted to see if he was OK, but he couldn't really say much to me. At halftime I went up to their trainer that I know and asked him how he's doing. So, I mean, I felt bad, but plays like that happen in this league. You have athletes going at each other at 100 mph and everybody's going fast and playing hard and stuff happens.
Q: What about the foul do you think made the league decide to go with a suspension?:
A: You have to ask the league. I guess they were saying I grabbed him around the neck and threw him down, that's not what happened. Like I said, it may look on film like that. I lost my balance and the only way I could grab him was around the neck and everything happened so quick. If they think that was intentional, then that's what they think. Like I said, they've never played this game in their lives...I'm a big boy so if I fall to the ground and try to held on to something...; I think the unfortunate part was that Kirilenko jumped up, too. If he would have stayed on the ground and then I would have just landed awkward on his back then everything would be OK. But, it was unfortunate that he jumped in the air and I happened to like get him out of the air. I think that's what the tough part was.
Q: What's the most difficult part of missing this game?:
This is a big homestand for us. We're almost tied with the eighth spot and we feel like at home we have to need to gain some ground here. We haven't played well on the road, we've lost some big games on the road. So, I think this is our time to put a little winning streak together with the new team. That's why I'm very disappointed I can't be there tonight. Hopefully the team will pull it out and I'll be back in full force on Saturday.
Q: Where will you watch the game?:
A: I haven't decided yet if I should go out and watch it at a bar with some fans. But, since I don't feel that great, been a little sick, I might just watch at home.
Q: Is there a sense among players that league won't tolerate any hard fouls anymore?:
A: The league did a good job over the years cleaning the game up, I understand that, you don't want a lot of those plays all the time. Ever since the fight broke out in Detroit, I think they did a good job of cleaning the league up, the hard fouls, and sometimes you know, you've just got to be a man and take it.
-- Jeff Caplan