Dallas Mavericks

It’s a mystery why top free agents haven’t joined the Mavericks

Sometimes I don’t think NBA free agents really know what they want.

And sometimes I certainly don’t think they hear some of the wild stuff that comes out of their mouth.

One minute the players are talking about going to a team they can help win a championship, and the next minute all they want to do is get paid. Make up your mind, for crying out loud.

And while we’re at it, I’ve never understood why a top-flight free agent wouldn’t want to come to Dallas and play with Dirk Nowitzki.

Nowitzki is a guy that when he becomes a free agent, he basically tells Mavericks management he’s going to take a gigantic pay cut -- $50 million or so – in order for the Mavericks to go out and find some players he can play with that will help him win another title.

Nowitzki is a drama-free, selfless player who isn’t bothered if a new superstar comes to Dallas and becomes the primary go-to guy. If you’re a free agent who wants to go to a new team and doesn’t want to get into a squabble about whose team it is, Nowitzki might even pick you up at your house and drive you to the game so you can understand that he really doesn’t care whose team it is.

(By the way, it’s Mark Cuban’s team. But that’s another story to be explained on another day).

The Mavericks have never gotten a top free agent from another team to sign with them. And this year, don’t hold your breath thinking LeBron James or Kevin Durant is going to walk through that door.

But the Mavericks are heavy favorites to sign Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside in free agency. And they’ll have a legitimate chance to try and convince Memphis Grizzlies free agent point guard Mike Conley to consider earning a paycheck from Cuban.

Year after year as player after player kept coming to the Mavericks via trades or free agency, the one common denominator I always heard was they were overwhelmingly surprised by how hard of a worker Nowitzki is. Even at his age, Nowitzki is the residential gym rat who – while all of his younger teammates are scrambling for the door to take a shower and leave the building after practice – the German legend is usually on the court working on some other area of his craft.

Isn’t this the guy you want to play with? Isn’t this the guy you want to be in a foxhole with?

Which brings me to this:: Why haven’t top-notched free agents beaten down the Mavericks’ door and begged them for a chance to play with Nowitzki?

And please don’t tell me it’s Nowitzki’s age.

Nowitzki has been balling, big time, at a high level since 2002 when he earned his first of 13 All-Star appearances. And the top-level free agents never came to join him.

Even when Nowitzki was the MVP of the Finals while leading the Mavericks to the 2011 NBA title, the only other legend on that team was Jason Kidd, who was 38 years old at the time and in the twilight of his career. In short, Nowitzki didn’t need to pick up and phone and plead with another superstar or two to unite with him so they can win not one, not two, not three, not four. . . titles.

Last year, Nowitzki averaged 18.3 points per game. At 37, he was the oldest player in the league to lead his team in scoring.

In other words, Nowitzki can still ball.

When it comes to the constant chatter on whether or not Nowitzki’s skills have diminished, Father Time has been on permanent vacation. Analytically speaking, Nowitzki probably has three more good years before his skills will completely erode.

And even at that point he still probably could get you 13 points in 25 minutes. This guy is that efficient.

As far as top-notch free agents coming to Dallas to play with Nowitzki, the Mavericks have a nice arena, they have the longest sellout streak among the four North America pro sports, and they have an owner in Cuban who does practically anything for his players.

And the cherry on the top?

The Mavericks have arguably the best coach in the NBA this side of Gregg Popovich in Rick Carlisle, who coached the Mavericks to the ‘11 NBA title.

If a free agent is a fan of other sports, the Dallas/Fort Worth area has an NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB, WNBA and MLS team, in addition to NASCAR, and are the annual hosts of two PGA tournaments. Only a handful of cities can boost about having that combination.

Plus, Texas has no state income tax.

One of these days one of the NBA’s top free agents will take all of this into consideration and tell Mark Cuban he’s coming to play for the Mavericks. And he’ll keep that promise and sign that contract.

And one day that player might be the one who leads the Mavericks to another NBA title. Just like Nowitzki did in 2011.

The day after the Mavs season ended, Dirk Nowitzki says he is not retiring (video by Mac Engel/Star-Telegram).

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