In a wild day in the NBA, the Dallas Mavericks took care of one of their own Thursday when they agreed to a three-year, $30 million contract with superstar forward Dirk Nowitzki, a source said.
The agreement allows Nowitzki to become a free agent after the 2015-16 season and also gives him the right to keep his no-trade clause. Nowitzki can’t sign his contract until July 10, when the NBA-wide moratorium on signings is lifted.
Meanwhile, ESPN reported that the Mavs, Houston Rockets and Phoenix Suns met in Cleveland this week with Rich Paul, who is the agent for superstar LeBron James. The Cleveland Cavaliers also have met with Paul, The Associated Press reported.
A source said Mavs owner Mark Cuban has been in Cleveland in pursuit of James.
Cuban denied to ESPN.com that he was in Cleveland to see James’ agent. “I was there for a Shark Tank commitment,” Cuban told ESPN, citing his TV show.
Apparently, James is exploring his options while letting it be known it’s not a certainty he will re-sign with the Miami Heat.
Also, the Mavs’ pursuit of New York Knicks free-agent small forward Carmelo Anthony may have all but ended. The Mavs have $16.5 million left in salary cap space for 2015.
The Knicks offered Anthony a five-year, $129 million contract on Thursday, and the Los Angeles Lakers offered him a four-year, $96 million contract.
The Mavs are also positioning themselves to make a run at either Rockets restricted free-agent forward Chandler Parsons or Cavaliers unrestricted free-agent forward Luol Deng. Of course, the Mavs would rather have James in the fold if possible.
The Mavs’ own free agents, Devin Harris, Shawn Marion, and Vince Carter, along with Trevor Ariza, Pau Gasol, Isaiah Thomas and Mo Williams, are among other free agents still on Dallas’ radar.
Nowitzki, 36, had always said he would take a sizable pay cut to help the Mavs have the salary cap space to be a major player in this summer’s free agency. Yet he also wanted the team to offer him a respectable contract.
His new contract is similar to the three-year, $30 million deal veteran San Antonio forward Tim Duncan signed with the Spurs in the summer of 2012.
Nowitzki recently said of his contract aspirations: “I’m pretty sure I’m not going to sign Kobe [Bryant’s] deal [two years, $48.5 million] — unfortunately. We’ll find a good way where I feel respected for what I did and where we still have enough money left for us to get great players in here.
“[Cuban] has been great to me, has been loyal to me for a long, long time.’’
Not long after Nowitzki and the Mavs agreed on the contract, the 16-year veteran went on Twitter to tweet: “MFFL,” or Mavs Fan For Life.
New Mavs center Tyson Chandler, reacquired in a trade with the Knicks on June 25, was gushing about the chance of playing alongside Nowitzki again. The duo were part of a Mavs’ squad that captured the 2011 NBA title before Chandler joined the Knicks via free agency following that season.
“He is just an amazing basketball player — clearly I think we all know that,’’ Chandler said of Nowitzki. “But outside of that he’s an even better person and a better leader.
“... I think the only other comparable choices are what you saw a couple of weeks ago with San Antonio and Timmy.”
Nowitzki was the second-highest paid player in the NBA this past season behind the Lakers’ Bryant when he earned $22.7 million in what was the final season of a four-year, $80 million contract he signed in the summer of 2010. He also is keeping his promise of never playing for another franchise other than the Mavs.
This past season Nowitzki led the Mavs in scoring (21.7 points) and also averaged 6.2 rebounds per game while shooting 49.7 percent from the field. He is the NBA’s No. 10 all-time leader scorer.
Chandler doesn’t believe Nowitzki’s game has changed all that much and that he can still carry a team if need be.
“I had the opportunity to guard him over the last few years, so I know that firsthand,’’ Chandler said.
“Clearly, nobody can dodge Father Time, but you can do your best to fight him off and prolong it. I think Dirk has some years left in him of good basketball, great basketball.”
And if the Mavs are able to somehow persuade James to join their franchise, Nowitzki will have a great opportunity to win a few more championships.