The possibility of this being the final season for Dallas Mavericks icon Dirk Nowitzki has always been in play. You can recognize it in his age, in his hints and in his contract, which pays him $20 million this season but features just an option for 2017-18.
And not playing next year is an option -- yet it's noteworthy any time we hear Dirk actually put this in words.
"If things don't go so well and it hurts everywhere, it could be that 2017 will be the end," Nowitzki tells German magazine Sport Bild.
As always, it's important to note that Dirk again reiterates here his dream of playing a nice, round, impressive 20 years with the Mavs, which would have him playing through next season. As DB.com has reported before, he'll make that decision as we progress, and in consultation with his family, team trainer Casey Smith, Mavs owner Mark Cuban and others. (The Cuban/Nowitzki bond is a strong one; both men wish to do right by the other.)
"My plan is to complete the 20 years and play for Dallas until 2018,'' Dirk tells the magazine. "But just because I have signed a two-year contract doesn't automatically mean that I will play for two years. It (retirement) could happen next year."
Nowitzki, a 13-time All-Star, NBA MVP and NBA Finals MVP and champion who has played for the Mavericks since joining the NBA in 1998, is, at 38, coming to the end of his career.
"If things don't go so well'' can encompass so many things. Dallas remaining competitive has always been one of his measuring sticks, and while that's not the case presently for the 6-18 Mavs, that can change next offseason. "If things don't go so well'' can also be about Dirk's physical state; Nowitzki is currently struggling with a persistent Achilles tendon problem, has not played since November 25, and is listed by the club as "out indefinitely.''
As always, we want for Dirk whatever Dirk wants for Dirk. Ideally, he wants to continue playing beyond this season. So hopefully ... things DO go well, in whatever departments matter to him.