Dirk Nowitzki just finished up another of his beloved family vacations at the beach (this time in Anguilla in the Caribbean) during which he "ate and drank everything in sight," he says. "At least one month in the summer I eat and drink everything in sight ... This month I've been on a tear .. I've gained 10 pounds!"
The Dallas Mavericks icon is back in Dallas now, on business, really, but to do some more gorging. ... this time, gorging on information regarding the Mavs summer-of-2016 plan and how that plan meshes with his own contractual options.
"I've got to help myself a little bit," says Dirk in a visit with "Ben & Skin" on 105.3 The Fan. (Podcast here.) "I'm not sure where this offseason is going. I haven't opted out as of yet. Just thinking about it. Thinking about what the future will bring."
This is a huge bundle of news on a number of levels. Dirk had previously announced - in a surprise - that he would exercise his option by the late-June deadline, allowing him to be a free agent on July 1. That never meant he was leaving the Mavericks; but it did put their salary-cap options in limbo and it did create the appearance that he wanted to pressure management to do more to build a true contender in his twilight years.
That "threat" still exists. Indeed, when I hear Dirk say, "I've got to help myself a little bit," I am confident that he is insinuating that he will continue to be willing to be involved in the "shared sacrifice" as long as teammates are also sacrificing ... And as long as the teammates who are getting paid more than he is are good enough to earn that honor.
So maybe Dirk does not opt out and continues to play on his existing $8.6-mil deal ... As long as Mavericks management accomplishes ways for Dirk to "help myself a little bit." But if there is not a great path to roster improvement? Maybe Dirk "helps myself a little bit" by forcefully requesting a bigger piece of the salary pie.
Dirk says he plans on playing two more years and that he has met with team executive Donnie Nelson and is planning a meeting with owner Mark Cuban.
The goal of these get-togethers?
"Just trying to find out what the best thing for our franchise is," Dirk says. "Is it best to be staying in, keep the same (contract), or opting out? I'll just try to find out what Donnie and Mark say the plan is, what's out there.
"Whatever's the best (move) for the franchise. 100 percent my mind is not made up (about opting out)."
(What will Dirk learn when he continues his meetings with management? He'll learn more about the team's thoughts on Kevin Durant as we write here, on Dwight Howard as we write here, and on Mike Conley as we write here.)
I've suggested that Nowitzki, at 37 the sixth-leading scorer in NBA history, could be of great service in joining Chandler Parsons as a chief recruiter in free agency. "Ben & Skin" ask about that idea.
"I've done some of that," says Dirk, who is clearly uncomfortable with the idea of schmoozing and begging but says if Dallas wants him to be involved in communication and meetings (as he was last summer with DeAndre Jordan), I'll do it again."
Dirk doesn't hide his disappointment with the franchise's post-2011-title results in contender-building, saying, "We let some of our guys go and it's been tough on the franchise ... we've been banking on free agency ... It just hasn't come together the way we've wanted it to."
Nevertheless, he remains a loyal and self-effacing superstar. (When it's suggested that he is still Dallas is best player, Dirk responds, "Is that a good thing?")
So he wants to be in Dallas. (Want to see the most clever contractual trick on how to do Dirk in Dallas? Read David Lord's exclusive here.) But he also wants to contend while he is here.
"Tanking is just not part of my DNA, just not part of the way I'm wired," he says of an oft-discussed alternative path. "I want to go for it. That's what these fans deserve. ... (Tanking) is not what Mark and Donnie and the whole franchise stand for. ... Sometimes what it takes is to stay relevant, stick around, make a move and get lucky."
The Mavs are lucky to have Dirk. How his contract is structured for the future now depends largely on their ability to convince him that they can get "lucky" again.