The postgame ice pack hadn’t even started to melt on Dirk Nowitzki’s right knee two weeks ago, when already the media jackals were calling for his mercy exit.
You know the drill. The Dallas Mavericks get chased from the NBA playoffs in the first round. The media sees the incomplete cast that surrounds Nowitzki on the roster. And the instant conclusion is that Dirk can be the solution.
Tear it down. Fill in the sink hole. Rebuild.
Except it’s not Nowitzki’s contract that is holding back the Mavericks. It’s the free agents who didn’t sign a Dallas contract, as the scoundrel DeAndre Jordan proved again this season.
That’s the problem with free agency in sports. If you finish second in the recruiting chase, there are no parting gifts.
Owner Mark Cuban even gave free agent Wesley Matthews a do-over after Jordan jilted the Mavericks last summer, but Matthews graciously declined. He had a solid season, but the Mavericks’ ride on the hamster wheel continued.
You can sense the frustration in Nowitzki’s voice. It doesn’t mean he wants to run off and play in Houston or Oklahoma City, however.
Speaking to KTCK-The Ticket radio, Nowitzki said, “Ever since I won a championship here, I want to finish my career here. I always said that the only scenario where I’ll try to go somewhere is if we’re rebuilding, if we really say, ‘This is the end of the line. We tried every which way and we can’t go any further, and we’re starting basically with five rookies.’
“Obviously, that’s not what I want for my last couple of years.”
And it’s not going to happen as long as a prideful Cuban and general manager Donnie Nelson continue to field playoff teams.
One thing Nowitzki said he likely will do is opt out of his current contract by the June 22 deadline. He will then sign another team-friendly contract, probably for another two years.
“I think this is the right thing to do,” he told The Ticket. “We’re going to sit with Mark and Donnie over the next few weeks and figure out how to improve this franchise again.
“There is some moving to do, some thinking, some putting our heads together the next few weeks heading into free agency and heading into the draft. So this is just one move that hopefully starts a chain reaction for us to get better again, to compete really at a high level. We’ll see how it goes.”
He’s not leaving, in other words. He’s advising Cuban on the roster decisions. And it’s hard to fault Cuban for that.
If Dirk was limping around the floor, a liability on offense as well as defense, he would know it and admit it. But there were moments during the five games with the Thunder, even with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook on the other side, when Dirk was still the best player on the floor.
At age 37, his passion endures.
Cuban has some work to do. If the team doctors say so, re-signing Chandler Parsons to a likely four-year deal will be the first order of business.
Don’t give up on Parsons. When he’s healthy, he brings a dynamic presence to the Mavs’ lineup.
And then which other free agent? Houston’s Dwight Howard? Atlanta’s Al Horford? Hassan Whiteside of Miami?
Horford, an ex-Florida Gator just like Parsons and David Lee, would be a promising addition.
But you know the drill. Cuban and the franchise have walked this path before.
Dirk isn’t getting any younger, and the Mavericks haven’t gotten any closer to another championship.
He’s not going anywhere, though. He’s got meetings to attend and new teammates to recruit.