In one big breath, Dirk Nowitzki noted that thanks to JJ Barea, the Exit-Interview microphone stands had gotten shorter … while thanks to good health, his own career might be getting longer.
During Thursday’s season-closing meeting with the media in the AAC basement, Dirk re-stated in passing his plan to play in 2017-18. Oddly, this comment was ballyhooed nationally as some sort of revelation when in fact, that’s always been the plan and has never really been in doubt.
No, the real news about Dirk’s future regards the season after 2017-18.
"I have to see how the body responds next year … If I feel like this, like I did at the end (of this season), I think I can play another (season) after that,’’ Nowitzki said. “But I’ll just leave all that open."
For the who truly pay attention to the way the Dallas Mavericks icon has done his business, this fits the pattern: He makes a commitment, lives to that commitment, and then evaluates the next step at the appropriate time.
"When I signed on for two more years last summer, that was the plan," Nowitzki said. "I just signed to play for two more years and then we’ll sit together again with family and some of my obviously close ones and (owner Mark) Cuban and obviously all these guys and we’ll make a decision what makes sense for me and the franchise. But I’m definitely playing next year."
Last year’s deal was billed as a “two-year, $50-million contract.’’ As DallasBasketball.com reported then, and repeats here in great roster-building detail, this upcoming season does not at all have to pay him $25 million.
Why does Dirk allow such contractual flexibility? Why does he so staunchly stand by the members of the Triangle of Trust?
“I’m sure Mark and Donnie are going to look to make this franchise competitive again,’’ he said, noting that being in on playing with one franchise for 20 years (including next season) to him, simply means one much be all-in.
This was a disappointing 33-49 season, and Nowitzki — who turns 39 on June 19 — having to deal with injuries was a factor in that record. An injury to his right Achilles led to him only playing 54 games this season, the 7-footer averaging just 14.2 points and 6.5 rebounds in 26.4 minutes per game at season’s end.
Said coach Rick Carlisle in evaluation of Dirk: “He’s been a rock this year. It was really tough for him to sit out 24, 25 games at the beginning and watch us get our ass kicked the way we did. But he’s unrelenting as a positive leader of this franchise and city. … All things considered, I thought Dirk had a great year.” (See more Exit Interview QUOTEBOARD here.)
Nowitzki is just the sixth player all-time to score at least 30,000 points in an NBA career and is now just 1,160 points from passing Wilt Chamberlain for fifth place. He’s enjoyed the chase … but if he plays a 21st season, Wilt won’t be the motivation.
"That’s well within reach, but I’m not sure if it’s in reach in one year," Nowitzki said. "But I’ve always said basketball’s supposed to be fun and I’m not just going to keep going to break another record. … I don’t think that’s the way I looked at basketball. If my body tells me next year it’s time to go, I’m not going to play another year just to move up the scoring list. When my body is fighting too many things and it’s just not working my way, then I’d rather go and do other things in life."
Dirk said he will remain in DFW through June to host his “Heroes’’ charity baseball game, said he will travel with his young family to Germany, and said he’ll offer himself up to sit in the War Room on NBA Draft night if the club wishes him to. He seemed excited about the prospects of owning a top-10 pick but he took more time reflecting on his year and his team’s year.
On his accomplishment: “It’s still amazing to be obviously up there in the 30K club with all those amazing names. That was my emotional highlight for the season and I’ll never forget that game, that week and everything leading up to it. It was really special for me, for sure."
On his team: “We competed as long as we could until the playoffs were no longer possible, so I think we gave it a great shot. I’m proud of the guys for not giving up all season. We started 4-17 or something, and we still kept fighting and plugging. We actually came close, and I think we at one point came within two games of the eighth spot. We gave it a valiant effort. It just wasn’t enough.”
Dirk will be back to give more effort in 2017-18. But you already knew that. Back for another year after that? Yes, we’d be in favor of additional valor.