DALLAS –The good news for Dallas Mavericks fans is that superstar forward Dirk Nowitzki officially announced Thursday that he’ll return and play a 20th year next season.
Some even better news from Nowitzki : He may play even longer than that.
As the Mavs had their exit interviews Thursday following a disappointing 33-49 season, Nowitzki didn’t sound like a player ready for retirement any time soon. In fact, Nowitzki, who turns 39 on June 19, acted and sounded like he’s ready to play well enough the age of 40.
"I have to see how the body responds next year," Nowitzki said. "If I feel like this, like I did at the end (of this season), I think I can play another (season) after that, but I’ll just leave all that open."
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Nowitzki will leave all the particulars open because he knows it’s too soon to make any long-term commitments.
"When I signed on for two more years (at $50 million) 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."
Nowitzki said there have been no talks of him possibly extending his contract beyond next season. But this season he did become the sixth player of all-time to score at least 30,000 points in an NBA career.
And he’s also just 1,160 points after from passing Wilt Chamberlain for fifth place on the all-time scoring list.
"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."
While getting among the top five leading scorers has a nice ring to it, Nowitzki also knows that LeBron James is just 1,473 points behind the Mavs’ all-time leading.
"It’ll be sweet (to past Chamberlain), don’t get me wrong," Nowitzki said. "Even though LeBron obviously is going to kick me out of that top five very soon again if that would happen.
"But it’s still amazing to be obviously up there in the 30K club with all those amazing names. So that was for me probably 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."
Nowitzki joined the 30,000-point club during a Mar. 7 game against the Los Angeles Lakers. He needed just 20 points to obtain that milestone, and went out and scored 18 of the eventual 25 points he scored that night in the first quarter.
But an injury to his right Achilles slowed Nowitzki and was the primary reason he only played 54 games this season. Although he was spectacular at times, the 7-footer wound up averaging just 14.2 points and 6.5 rebounds in 26.4 minutes per game.
"The Achilles just wasn’t right there for a long, long time and basically I had to fight my way back from scratch," Nowitzki said. "All the work I did last summer was basically out the window and I had to fight my way back in the middle of the season.
"So it was time tough at times, I was frustrated, disappointed at times, it wasn’t going quick enough for me. But the last couple of weeks felt good, I felt good moving, basically until the end."
Whenever Nowitzki writes the final chapter on his storied career, he won’t let the masses know ahead of time so he can take a final tour and receive gifts from many well-wishers across the NBA. That’s just not his style.
"I think my body is going to tell me when it’s time, so I’m not really going to see the year before that it’s time to go," Nowitzki said. "I’m going to play next year as hard as I can and see how the body responds after that and we can all make a decision after that, and you guys will be the last ones to know."