HoopsHype.com Interviews

Michael Finley: "When you win, everyone shines"
by Ken Turetzky / April 23, 2003

How can you take advantage of Portland’s focus on stopping Dirk Nowitzki?

Michael Finley: It’s been like that throughout the year. We still were able to get 60 wins. [Dirk’s] a guy that most teams come out and think if we can stop him, we can stop the Mavericks. If that’s their game plan, so be it. We just have to continue to play team basketball and whenever other guys have the opportunity to step up, step up. But I don’t think they’ll be able to completely stop Dirk from doing what he does. It’s just a matter of not letting him have a big night. That’s what they’re thinking. We’re just gonna come out and play our game.

How much better is your hamstring?

MF: Each day my hamstring is getting better. The days off have definitely been beneficial to me. It hasn’t given me any pain. I think it’s a bonus for me and for the team, that I can put my hamstring behind me and just go out there and play my game.

How do you feel mentally?

MF: It’s not about me making shots or doing all the things that you’re accustomed to see me doing. It’s just a matter of me getting back in a nice rhythm. I’ve been away from the game for three and a half weeks and it’s tough to come back and lead right into where you left off. So it’s gonna take me a minute just to get a comfortable rhythm. But on a team like ours, with a lot of depth, it gives me the opportunity to do that and not hurt the team as much.

How important is it for you to lead this team?

MF: It’s very important. If not about my scoring and things like that, it’s my leadership capabilities. The guys look to me for motivation, to get in their face and tell ’em when they’re doing wrong. It’s easy to hear from a coach, but when you hear from a player who’s out there in battle with you, it seems to motivate the guys a little more. Anything I can do to lead this team to getting wins, I’m willing to do it.

Explain the great individual scoring performances in the playoffs so far.

MF: This is the time of year everybody prepares for. Your summer workouts are predicated on performing in the playoffs. And the guys are stepping up their games. Dirk and all the guys around the league are taking their games to another level in order to prolong their seasons, so to speak. I think the defenses are a little tougher, but guys are getting in a nice, comfortable rhythm and in a zone. It’s good to see, especially when you have one of those guys on your team.

Are the individual performances surprising to you?

MF: I can’t say for other guys or other teams, but for Dirk to score those type of points is no surprise for me because I see the kind of work that he’s put in during practice, and I see the way that he’s developed to become the marquee guy that he is. So it’s no surprise for me to see Dirk do that.

Have you seen a change in Dirk regarding the way he considers his role on the team?

MF: He’s still a kid. I mean, he’s still learning the game as he goes on. He still makes mistakes. But for the most part, his positives definitely outweigh his negatives. He’s learning each and every game how to be a complete scorer. And by that I mean, to not only score for himself but to get his teammates in situations where they can score. His overall game is coming along. I think he’s not at the point where he wants to be in his career. That’s good for a young guy like him.

How important is your defensive intensity for the playoffs?

MF: Defense is what wins championships. It’s what wins ballgames. We’ve been on the receiving end of that for a couple of years now. We know that if we’d played a little bit better defense, we could have advanced in the playoffs. We’re to a point now where we’re taking heed to that. We’re coming out, trying to get key defensive stops when we have to and in turn, defensive stops generate our offense. So if we wanna get some easy baskets, we have to pick up our defense, and we’ve been doing that.

Does it impress you the way Dirk adds something to his game each year?

MF: No, it doesn’t amaze me. He’s a young guy. I mean, if he was 35 doing this, I could say it’s too late. But he’s only 24, looking at a weakness in the regular season and coming back and trying to improve on it. That’s the mark of an All-Star.

At All-Star time, Nellie (head coach Don Nelson) talked about the sacrifices you had to make personally to help Dirk and Steve Nash progress. How did you feel about that?

MF: It’s all about winning. I’ve made it to the All-Star game. That was good. I’ve got all the accolades that one can dream of coming into this league. So that’s good for me. It’s all about winning now. I think when we win, everybody will shine. I’ve been around the championship Bulls when they had their run. I see the importance of winning. So that’s my mindset for this team, to do whatever it takes for them to win.

You saw the Bulls as a high-school athlete in Chicago?

MF: High school, pros, I’ve seen the importance of doing whatever it takes to win. And when you win, everyone shines. Some might shine a little bit brighter than others. But in the end, everyone shines, and that’s the most important thing.

How do you feel about Nellie? It seems like the guys really warm up to him personally and I’m sure that’s an important part of your success.

MF: Nellie has been around the league as a player and as a coach and has grown with the league. A lot of players in the past may have not rubbed elbows with Nellie in the right way, and I think he’s learned from that. He’s coming to a point now where he’s developing players, developing his offensive and defensive schemes around the players that he has. And teams that I've been a part of like that and grow with that and as a result, he’s been successful.

Do you feel he’ll be back next year?

MF: I can’t really comment on his coaching status. To be honest, he told us not to even comment on it, so I’ll leave it at that.

What’s driving you? Is it about getting a ring, or getting respect?

MF: Championship. The ultimate goal is a championship. And you do whatever it takes to win a championship. Some guys may say that I’m sacrificing my game for others to shine. So be it. ’Cause when it comes down to it, when you have that championship ring, everyone shines.

Ken Turetzky lives in Texas and writes about the NBA for numerous publications

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