Mavs Can Plan Playoffs; Dirk Plans Contract

Saturday's 101-98 win over Phoenix means the 49-32 Mavs clinch a playoff spot for the 13th time in 14 seasons. The centerpiece of the run is, of course, Dirk Nowitzki, who took a pre-playoff moment to reflect on his Dallas future and contractual future - a future that, as we've predicted, will include him 'feeling respected.'



The Dallas Mavericks are in the playoffs again, for the 13th time in 14 years.

"It feels good to be back in the 'Big Dance,''' Dirk Nowitzki said after Saturday's playoff-clinching 101-98 win over Phoenix at the AAC. "I mean, that's where competitors want to be -- on the big stage and in the playoffs."

Nowitzki finished with 23 points and eight rebounds, bouncing back from a poor first half to shoot 7-of-9 from the floor in the second half. He had lots of help, including from Monta Ellis (who tied his season high with 37 points on 15-of-23 shooting) and bench support from Devin Harris and Brandan Wright ((12 points, 11 rebounds and a game-sealing block).

In a night of much drama, Dirk even survived a scare when he limped off after appearing to twist his left ankle in the fourth quarter ... but returned 18 seconds later.

For some observers there is more drama coming because Dirk is in the final year of his contract. Outsiders who don't understand his commitment to the club speculate about him leaving; others speculate about him sacrificing all financial realities to stay.

"We'll just wait and see what [happens],'' Dirk said. "I think one thing is for sure: I'm not going to play for the minimum, I think we all know that. But I think it's got to be a fair contract for both sides, where we can still be competitive and get even better again, and I still feel respected."

Dirk's words reinforced what we at DB.com been emphasizing for months: even though Dirk's contract will be lower this time than last, showing respect to a player of his stature is a biggie here. Dirk is an all-time NBA great, his play continues to be of superior quality, and undoubtedly the Mavs will budget an annual salary amount that is at least like those given to Duncan (three years, $30 million) and Garnett (three years, 36 million) in their most recent deals. And rightly so.
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And we will educated-guess even more, all the while completely certain The Uberman is coming back to the Mavs: What if Dirk's $10-to-$12 million per year desires (or perhaps even more) leaves the Mavs with a budget squeeze as they try to sign someone else? Then that "someone else'' will obviously be asked to take a little bit less, since that's all the Mavs will have available.

Dirk's the prize, he's the priority, and he gets what he deserves. That's how to show respect to a franchise player, and we think it's clear that's what the Mavs will do when they make their offer to Dirk this summer.

Nowitzki demonstrated his worth again this season, moving into 10th all-time as an NBA scorer. He demonstrated his worth on Saturday in a must-win game as Dallas is playoff-bound with the inside track on keeping the seventh seed. And we bet he'll likely demonstrate his worth again come playoff time ... and then be paid in a form of a compromise this summer.

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