As with most European players, Nowitzki's glaring weaknesses are defensive. His teammates no longer joke, as they did last season, that his name should be Irk (as in no D), but Nowitzki is reminded nightly that he needs to get quicker and stronger. "Don't forget, he's going from the equivalent of Division III basketball to guarding some of the best athletes in the world," says Donn Nelson. "For a kid who's barely 21, he's adjusting just fine."
In some ways, though, Nowitzki still doesn't fit the mold of the modern pro athlete. His idea of a night on the town is attending a performance by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, he unabashedly admits to liking museums and—get this—he doesn't own a cell phone. Still, with the help of teammates like Nash, himself an expatriate from Canada, Nowitzki is gradually becoming Americanized. He's fallen head over heels for DirecTV, he eats fast food for lunch and dinner, and he recently learned that Dirk Diggler, the nickname hecklers have bestowed on him, is a fictitious porn star. "Sure, I think about Germany all the time, and I call home almost every day" he says. "Really, though, I'm too busy here to get homesick."
Back in picturesque W�rzburg, a mere 5,190 miles and seven time zones removed from Dallas, Helga and Joerg try their best to follow their son's flourishing career. There's no DirecTV there, and the newspapers pay scant attention to the NBA, but those daily phone calls from Dirk help, and they check the Mavs' box scores on the Internet. It was much easier when Dirk was living down-stairs and playing for the X-Rays down the road, but ultimately the Nowitzkis realize their son made the right decision. "Would I like it if he weren't so far way? Ja, of course," says Helga, her speech an endearing mix of German and English. "But the way Dirk has been playing this season, we're all ganz stolz. Very proud."