Dirk Nowitzki will turn 38 years old on June 19. But the Dallas Mavericks’ franchise player doesn’t sound like he’s ready to retire.
Nowitzki signed a three-year, $25 million contract with the Mavericks in the summer of 2014, and can opt-out of the final year of that contract and become a free agent on July 1. Speaking Tuesday at the Mavs Hoop Camp at the Lifetime Fitness club, Nowitzki reiterated that he’s leaning toward opting out of that contract and signing a new deal which will take him into his 40s.
The 18-year veteran has already met with owner Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson – the Mavericks’ president of basketball operations – on mapping out a plan for his future.
“I might opt-out and sign maybe a two- or three-year deal,” Nowitzki said. “It depends on how it goes, but that was probably the plan for now.”
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Owner Mark Cuban said he’s on board with whatever contract Nowitzki wants to pursue.
“Dirk gets to do whatever he wants to do, period, end of story,’’ Cuban said. “If Dirk wants to be the head chef, if Dirk wants to be the head coach, (we’ll) move (coach) Rick (Carlisle) over a little bit.
“Dirk has done so much for this franchise that he’s earned that opportunity.”
Nowitzki even acknowledged that he could sign a longer-term contract. But he also noted that the length of his contract doesn’t necessarily mean that’s when he plans to retire.
“The thing is, I can sign a five-year or a four-year, and I can always retire (before that contract expires),” Nowitzki said. “It’s not like if I sign the deal, that locks me in, it’s not like I’m playing for money anyways.
“So let’s say I play one year and my body breaks down, and I don’t like it any more. I can always step away. This doesn’t necessarily lock me in to doing something that I don’t want to do, but I think it makes sense to sign a two- or three-year deal, but we’ll see when July hits.”
Cuban certainly doesn’t mind if Nowitzki plays until he reached his mid-40s.
“Dirk can play until he’s 50,’’ Cuban said. “It’s not like he can get any slower.”
Nowitzki said if it will help the Mavericks improve their team during free agency, he’ll opt-out of his current contract and sign a short-term deal.
“You can always plan something, and then when July hits, stuff happens left and right,”
Nowitzki said. “You need a trade, maybe I’ll sign a one-year if that’s better for our franchise.
“You can plan all sorts of things and once July hits, or even the trading deadline or trading around the draft, things happen so quick that you can plan all you want. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen that way.’’
On an annual basis, Nowitzki is aware that the Mavericks make their customary run at the top free agents in the NBA. But for whatever reasons, none of those players wind up signing with the Mavericks.
Last summer Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan verbally committed to sign with the Mavericks. But less than a week later he changed his mind, re-signed with the Clippers and was recently named first-team all-NBA.
“We’ve gotten unlucky in free agency many times, but hey we’re trying to head in the right direction again,’’ Nowitzki said. “We want to keep some young guys.
“I think if you look at all these teams now, it’s all about athletes, it’s all about shooting, so you want to keep a guy like Dwight (Powell). I think Justin (Anderson) made huge strides in his first year, so you’ve got to keep some young guys that are athletes, and I think that’s a department we can get better, we can get younger, we can get more athletic.”
The Mavericks can get extraordinarily athletic if they’re able to sign Oklahoma City All-Star forward Kevin Durant, who becomes a free agent next month. Nowitzki sighed heavily before discussing if the Mavericks have a legitimate shot at signing Durant.
“That’s a tough one, that’s a tough one,” Nowitzki said. “You’d love to think so, but I’m just not sure how realistic that is.
“I think if we would have signed DeAndre last year that might have been a bigger chance now. But this way I’m not sure since he’s always stated he wants to play to win.”
Nowitzki, who will host his annual celebrity baseball game Friday night at Dr Pepper Ballpark in Frisco, also wants to play to win. This past season he averaged 18.3 points per game and was the oldest player in the league to lead his team in scoring.
The Mavericks were 42-40 this season and lost to Oklahoma City in five games in the first round of the playoffs. The the Mavericks haven’t been out of the first round since they won the 2011 NBA title.
Since the Mavericks don’t have a first-round pick in the upcoming draft, Nowitzki knows the quickest way for the team to make huge strides is to step up and take another swing in free agency.
“Obviousl,y we want to take a step forward again,” Nowitzki said. “There’s some names out there that obviously we’d love to have, but we all know how that worked the last few years.
“Sometimes there’s some luck involved. But it’s not for a lack of trying.”