|'Dirk Departing Dallas'? Mavs Owner Cuban Says, 'I Don't Think He's Going Anywhere'|
|by Mike Fisher||Thu, May 6, 2010, 05:09 PM|
Contention. Loyalty. Money.
Those are the issues as Dirk Nowitzki approaches , an offseason that started with he with Mavs owner Mark Cuban “and a bunch of guys (spending) the weekend together and (spending) a lot of time talking about it,’’ Cuban reports. “So I don’t think Dirk is going anywhere. … I think Dirk is committed as I am to bring a championship to the Mavericks.’’
If you really listen to Nowitzki’s comments … if you really understand the dollars and the sense … if you really understand the people involved in Dirk’s coming decisions … and if you review Cuban’s remarks, uttered on The Ticket this week, you would see that this should probably not be the breathlessly-reported top story on “SportsCenter’’ that it presently is.
This is about contention, loyalty and money. … and today we spend our Donuts (Kräppels!) on Dirk:
Kräppel 1: Let’s begin with Dirk’s most recent comment on the subject:
"I mean, all that, as of now everything is just speculation,’’ he said last week. “I always said I want to finish my career here in Dallas. It wouldn't feel the same putting on a different uniform. That always was my plan, so we'll just have to wait and see."
Now, it’s been noted on DB.com Boards that because of the way I interpret those words … and then the way DallasBasketball.com has predicted Nowitzki’s return to the Mavs … that MY butt is on the line.
Kräppel 2: My lil’ apple bottom (krappel bottom?) is nothing compared to Dirk’s butt. And Mavs management’s butt.
It it THEIR butts that are on the line here.
Cuban and Dirk spent the weekend together. Making plans and renewing promises.
It is THEIR butts – Mark’s and Donnie’s and Dirk’s, too – because what I’m detailing below are THEIR thoughts and THEIR plans and THEIR pledges to one another … and to Mavs fans, too.
Let’s break it down further … but instead of panicky flails, let’s use facts:
Kräppel 3: Nowitzki is recognized by all involved as the greatest player in the history of the franchise. At 31, the assumption is he’s got the ability to continue to be that.
“We can't imagine Dirk not being in a Maverick uniform,’’ said GM Donnie Nelson. “I mean, he's been here for so long and he's paid the ultimate price and sacrifice. … I can tell you, from Mark (Cuban) to management, all the way down, we will do whatever needs to happen to make sure he's in a Mavericks uniform."
If (when?) he ends up with four more years of contract, the at-the-moment-still-MVP-worthy Dirk figures to remain a primo talent for, what at least two of those years? Maybe three? And even in Year 4, when he’s slipped a bit below MVP-level … I still want him here. And so do the Mavs.
Kräppel 3: Nowitzki’s stated position, to my ears, really hasn’t changed that much.
In the last 12 months, he has said repeatedly that his intention is to re-up with Dallas and to finish his career with the Mavericks. He knows that is an unusual accomplishment in this mercenary age of sports and he’d prefer to be loyal to the organization that “raised’’ him, if you will.
He said the same thing two weeks ago.
But then, on that Thursday after the loss in San Antonio, he was asked about his status as a possible free agent. After first saying he preferred not to talk about such matters at that moment, he did address it.
“I wanted to obviously have a long playoff run and go for my dream again,’’ he said. “Now it’s obviously too shocking and too disappointing. I haven’t really thought about anything about my future yet. I guess I’ve got some time now to think about some stuff and think about my options.
The next morning? SportsCenter. “News stories’’ all over the internet about the likelihood of Dirk’s departure. Greyhound bus ticket all but punched.
Was Nowitzki really “non-committal’’? I suppose so, in the sense that it would’ve been comforting to hear him announce, even after the heat of battle and in the wake of emotion, “Of course, I’m an MFFL – a Mavs Forward For Life!’’
Said Nelson: He's in a tough place right now. All of us, from top to bottom, had higher aspirations for the postseason. Our hopes kind of got dashed on the rocks and now's not the time to be talking about emotional-type things.’’
And didn’t Dirk try to deflect it all by saying the exact thing Donnie said?
“Everything is too fresh now.’’
Kräppel 4: On Friday, Dirk faced the media again … faced the same questions … and to my ears, further softened his stance.
“I’ve got to get over this disappointment for a while and probably drown my sorrows for a bit,’’ he said. “And then I'll start thinking about stuff like that in a week or two. But as of now, I just want to keep my options open and see what happens."
And then Nowitzki added the critical line: “It wouldn't feel the same putting on a different uniform.’’
We’ve now moved to the weekend. When, according to Cuban’s words, Nowitzki softened his way right back into a Dallas uniform.
“We all recognize,’’ Cuban said, “that we want to get even better and do things to improve the team even more.’’
Before I get to the sense involved, let’s get to the dollars. …
Kräppel 5: It is quite financially advantageous for Dirk to stay in Dallas.
Some factoids that ought to be fully understood:
*Dirk has a contract for next year that pays him $21.5 million for one season. If he chooses to opt out of that contract to explore free agency, he has until June 30 to make that decision.
*If he chooses to opt out, he will seek a max deal … but contrary to some reports, he will not get a traditional “max-years.’’ “The Over-36 Rule’’ prevents someone of Nowitzki’s age of signing a lengthy contract.
We’ve seen it written that a three-year extension “fits’’ because of Dirk’s age. Wrong. It “fits’’ because it’s the most he can get under “The 36 Rule.’’
*The way for Dirk to fully cash in while not “putting on a different uniform’’: Accept his $21.5 million (it would be noteworthy for a player to not accept it) and sign an extension with Dallas. Notably, this is exactly the same move recently made by the Lakers and Kobe Bryant.
Cuban: "Well, I can see the circumstances where he would opt out, but not necessarily leave the franchise. … And Dirk told me that if he can help the team get better, he would sign a different deal. So we made the decision to see what was going to be out there and how things played out and work together.’’
“A different deal.’’ Maybe meaning one that comes following an opt-out; a fresh four-year contract.
Kräppel 6: Can Dirk sign a deal here for less than the max?
Yes. There are those involved with the Mavs who think he might even do so … but I don’t really see the point. He can’t save Dallas any cap room; he could only ease the strain on Cuban’s pocketbook. If Dirk agrees to do that, he really is a loyalty guy.
But the “see how things play out’’ portion of Cuban’s remarks are telling. I read that as Nowitzki and Cuban simply wanting to remain as fluid as possible as the Mavs go shopping in the marketplace.
Kräppel 7: The grass isn’t greener on the other side.
Dirk’s relationship with Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson and others in this organization runs deep. (“Spending the weekend together’’ is a benefit of Cuban’s familial ownership style.) If, at some point, champion contention seemed no longer possible, that could fuel thoughts of departure. But there is no one at Mavs HQ who believes that is the case.
Take note of Dirk’s comment when asked whether he could envision taking less money to play elsewhere in order to win a title:
“Well, I think that's somewhere maybe down the line, in a couple more years when stuff hasn't worked out the way I want it to,’’ Nowitzki said. “But at this point I'm still in my prime. I feel I've got a couple more good years left. I think that's a decision that's way down the line."
Did you get that?
Allow me to translate:
Kräppel 8: The optimal plan, for finances and for contention, is – under one structure or the other – to give him four more seasons in Dallas and four more seasons of max money. And then and then only, in the twilight of his career, does Dirk consider being a minimum-wage mercenary playing a lessened role after he exits his “prime.’’
When asked on Friday was sort of acquisition he wishes Dallas to make, he said:
“You'd love to get somebody that can be explosive off the dribble, can create his own shot at any given time. Obviously, there are a couple out there, LeBron, D-Wade, one of those guys, a wing player that can create his own shot, score at will."
Kräppel 10: Wrong.
As readers of this space have known for a year – the Mavs really will be involved in sign-and-trade shopping this summer for … somebody.
Popping up everywhere now are “predictions’’ that Dallas won’t sign LeBron or Wade or whomever. Odds are, those specific predictions will be correct.
But the Mavs will shop. With Dirk as one of the alluring factors. (Maybe Dirk’s willingness to “sign a different deal if it helps the team’’ is a symbolic offer, intended as a green light of Mavs-wide unselfishness to potential signees.)
So this 55-win team that was the No. 2 seed in the West, this team that annually wins 50 in order to keep giving Dirk a chance, has the opportunity to upgrade even more? And Dirk himself will be consulted in such decisions (and oh yes, he will be consulted)?
How many other teams have the resources necessary to make their grasses greener than that?
Kräppel 11: What factors will weigh in your decision, Dirk?
On Friday, he replied to that question by saying, "I don't know. This is all pretty fresh. I just have to keep my options open at this point, see what's going on.’’
But really, we already know what factors will weigh in: Contention, loyalty and money.
Kräppel 12: There are stories out there filled with words like “perhaps.’’ “Perhaps’’ he wants a change of scenery. “Perhaps’’ he’s no longer a supporter of Kidd’s presence. “Perhaps’’ he’s always secretly dreamed of living in Cleveland. “Perhaps’’ he thinks this franchise is done.
In the radio interview, Cuban broached the subject of Steve Nash’s departure from Dallas. I use that transaction, too, as a way of acknowledging that “Spit Happens.’’ It is conceivable, I suppose, that Dirk will wake up on June 30 and announce that he hates Dallas, that this decade has all been a lie and that what he really wants to use basketball for is to get himself a reality show on MTV.
But all this is the “speculation’’ that Nowitzki is trying to dismiss. So while you are placing your “No Way On LeBron’’ bet … don’t bet on any of those “perhaps’’ scenarios with Dirk.
While The UberMan is wise to avoid heat-of-the-moment decisions, when he’s done “drowning his sorrows,’’ all indications are that this spring or summer he will end up under contract for four more years, and therefore not in the foreseeable future wearing any uniform other than a Mavericks uniform.
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