Dirk Nowitzki is a certain Hall of Famer, an icon in the only city he’s ever laced ’em up for. He’s also the kind of good guy every franchise wants. When Nowitzki retires, the accolades will resemble some we’ve read recently about the great Tim Duncan, another one-town superstar. When Nowitzki opted out of his contract earlier this year, it was just a business adjustment — not really a head-fake about switching teams. Mavs owner Mark Cuban said at the time: “Dirk gets to do what Dirk wants. He’s earned it.”
Cuban meant it literally. Nowitzki just received a Kobe Bryant-like two-year $50 million deal to (probably) wind up his career on. Nowitzki has been patient as the Mavs have tried various combinations to help him thrive over the past five years. Yet the Mavs haven’t made it out of the first round since they won the title in 2011, testimony to how tough the Western Conference has been. (They went seven games in round one with the eventual champion Spurs in 2014, but still.) Nowitzki presumably would have done whatever it took financially to push the Mavs forward — he’s a winner and wants to go out as one. The Mavs obviously believe they can both pay him and surround him. They just added some championship mettle with former Warriors forward Harrison Barnes. Nowitzki surely wants to have two seasons more like Duncan had (the Spurs remained contenders) than like Bryant (the Lakers were dismal while Kobe made his loot). The second round is the immediate goal — and more Dirk work from there.