All signs are pointing toward the Dallas Mavericks taking their franchise through another makeover this off-season.
Only this time, once next season starts, the makeover might include bringing superstar forward Dirk Nowitzki off the bench.
The idea was broached last week shortly after the Mavericks’ exit interviews after being eliminated from the playoffs by Houston.
“Whatever it takes,” Nowitzki said. “I’ve always said that my last two years I want to enjoy, I want to be on a good team, I want to be on a winning team.”
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Nowitzki has two years remaining on a three-year, $25 million free agent contract he signed last summer when he gave the Mavericks a hometown discount. And if the 17-year veteran agrees to come off the bench, that should open the door for them to pursue free-agent power forwards LaMarcus Aldridge, Paul Millsap and Josh Smith.
Donnie Nelson, the team’s president of basketball operations, was emotional when he was told Nowitzki would consider a sixth man role.
“You know, what hasn’t Dirk done to this team?” Nelson asked. “You talk about one of the most selfless superstars that have every right to make more money.
“You can go right down the list, but he truly has the best interest of this city and this team at heart. That doesn’t surprise me, but that’s the first time I’ve heard that.”
Coach Rick Carlisle hasn’t even thought of the prospects of bringing a legend like Nowitzki off the bench.
“Is it possible? It’s possible,” Carlisle said. “Is it likely? I’m not sure about that.
“But the fact that you’ve got a guy who is basically an iconic player in this league willing to even talk about something like that is character just above and beyond the norm.”
Nowitzki turns 37 on June 19. He made his 13th All-Star Game appearance in February.
The Mavericks carefully managed Nowitzki’s minutes this past season. He averaged 29.6 minutes game, his lowest output since he averaged 20.4 minutes as a rookie during the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season.
“Playoffs and hopefully deep [playoff] runs,” Nowitzki said. “So, yeah, anything I’ve got to do to help is obviously no question.”
But will the Mavericks ask the NBA’s seventh all-time leading scorer and the team’s most popular player to come off the bench?
“With a guy of Dirk’s character and level of loyalty and level of love for this franchise and this city, he’s demonstrated pretty thoroughly that he’s willing to make any sacrifice possible,” Carlisle said. “He’s made great financial sacrifices to get the team better around him, so it doesn’t surprise me that he said that.”
One issue of the possible move is how Nowitzki’s body will react.
“The problem is there would some stiffness coming off the bench,” Nowitzki said. “I’m usually not the most mobile, agile player.
“But there are bikes and stuff in the back that you can ride and get loose.”
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760