In his first public comments since being suspended one game for backhanding Jazz forward Matt Harpring with a closed fist in an EnergySolutions Arena game last Friday night, Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki took a shot of sorts at the style of coach Jerry Sloan's club.
Nowitzki was suspended one game without pay he missed Dallas' victory over the Los Angeles Clippers last Sunday for the Harpring incident. His last suspension before that was a one-gamer for his hard takedown of Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko last March.
Said Nowitzki according to NBA.com: "It's more than coincidence, I'd say. I just have to do a better job of keeping my head. That's how they play there (in Utah). They don't call a lot of fouls there. ... Ever since Sloan took over, that's how they play there. They let guys just play hard and I've just got to be more ready to take the hits and play through it."
(When Sloan was named head coach of the Jazz, incidentally, Nowitzki was a 10-year-old living in his native Germany).
Nowitzki, who spoke to reporters late Tuesday night after Dallas' home win over Minnesota, also was quoted by the Dallas Morning News as saying, "I just think it's Sloan having the boys play hard. ... Sometimes on the edge."
Sloan's Jazz, by the way, weren't Nowitzki's only target Tuesday.
He also took issue with NBA basketball operations executive vice president Stu Jackson for not being interviewed directly by the league's disciplinarian.
"He (Jackson) never called me," Nowitzki said, according to NBA.com. "I was going to tell him a few stories, but nowadays it's NBA security, some assistant or whatever, and they just write down what you have to say.
"They can really scratch it out, because they do what they do anyway. I don't know why they interview you anymore. They walk you through the whole spiel and what you were thinking, what you saw and you tell them, and then you get suspended anyways. I might not even call them back next time."
Nowitzki also said NBA security didn't want to hear about what precipitated the playing involving Harpring, and suggested his action wasn't intentional.
"They only wanted to know about that one play," the Morning News quoted Nowitzki as saying. "I obviously never meant to hit him in the face."
The Jazz and Mavs meet next on Jan. 17 in Dallas.
TOUGH SELL: It seems the Jazz mentality is a tough sell in Sacramento.
The Sacramento Bee newspaper reported earlier this week that ex-Jazz player/assistant coach and current Kings interim coach Kenny Natt "continues his quest to change the culture of the team, which had grown lax under former coach Reggie Theus."
The paper cited "numerous" unidentified team sources as saying "Natt's demand for increased professionalism has led to at least five fines for players being late to practice since he took over Dec. 15."SURPRISE: According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, ex-Jazz guard Mo Williams of the Cavaliers "had a surprise waiting for him when he got in his SUV after practice (last) Saturday. His entire front seat was filled to the brim with mini-basketballs with his name and number on them that were left over from a giveaway at (Cleveland's arena) two weeks ago. Hidden cameras caught his reaction and several Cavs were there to see him remove hundreds of them, some of which he threw at the laughing gawkers."