After falling mere minutes short of capping the greatest regular season in NBA history with a second straight NBA championship, the Golden State Warriors now face a summer of questions. The biggest one, as has been discussed for months, is whether they're really going to make a run at unrestricted free agent, former NBA Most Valuable Player, recent Warrior nemesis and soon-to-be Team USA linchpin Kevin Durant. According to a post-NBA Finals report from Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News, though, there might soon be another one, about another former NBA MVP, another former Warrior nemesis, and another future Hall of Famer who could be on the market: Dallas Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki.
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[...] if you know [owner Joe] Lacob, [general manager Bob] Myers and the entire makeup of this management group, the Game 7 loss to Cleveland on Sunday absolutely flipped the turbo switch.
“We will be very aggressive,” one Warriors executive said late Sunday night when asked about the team’s approach in the coming movement period. “Very, very aggressive.” [...]
They will have some money to spend, can create more space if they need to, and can offer a nice situation for a veteran aiming for one last title (and to be credited for returning the Warriors to the mountaintop).
And Nowitzki–who won a title with Dallas in 2011 but hasn’t won a playoff series since–is somebody Warriors management has circled.
Before we get too far afield, it's worth noting that Nowitzki, for the moment, remains under contract with the Mavs, after re-upping on a three-year deal in the summer of 2014. That contract includes a player option for the 2016-17 season, though, and as ESPN.com's Tim MacMahon wrote back in April, the German 7-footer "has repeatedly said that he intends to exercise" that option, which opens the door — if only, at this point, theoretically — to the prospect of getting a chance to pitch the sixth-leading scorer in league history on leaving the only NBA franchise he's ever known:
"I'm ready to get on a plane and go to Germany and recruit him to be back, but I don't think that we can take him for granted," [Mavericks coach Rick] Carlisle said. "I think we have to give him that kind of respect. He's done so much for our organization. He's sacrificed so much. And it's been a life-changing experience for me to be around a player of that magnitude for eight years. It's indescribable.
"I think he will be back, but I don't want anybody to just assume anything, because he's been too great." [...]
"I'm not sure where that came from," Nowitzki said, referring to Carlisle's comments. "I never said I was going to leave this franchise. The only way I would ever leave is, like I've always said, if we start five rookies. Obviously, that's not something that I want to be a part of, but as long as we go for it and compete, then I'll be a Mav."
Where that came from, in all likelihood, was the 38-year-old Nowitzki's own statement that he's not interested in rebuilding at this stage of the game. From Reuters, back in April:
"When I signed on for three years a couple years ago, my intention was always to finish this contract," Nowitzki told reporters. "But ... I always said that the last couple of years that I never want to be part of any rebuilding.
"Next season I'll be 38. But as long we go for it, and every summer we add guys and keep competing then I'll be a Mav for the rest of my career."
After losing out on top free-agent center DeAndre Jordan last summer, though, and facing the possibility of forward Chandler Parsons pursuing greener pastures this summer, it's at least conceivable — extremely, extremely unlikely, but not impossible — that Nowitzki looks at the lay of the land in Dallas, where the Mavs haven't gotten past the first round since that 2011 championship, and decides the drive to once again compete at the highest level of the sport supersedes his interest in following in Kobe Bryant's footsteps as just the second player in league history to retire after playing 20 seasons with one franchise.
From Mac Engel of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, who terms Kawakami's report "the epitome of stupid sports talk" before acknowledging that the potential opportunity to spend his sunset years by the Bay would "challenge Dirk on the idea that he is anything more than merely content" at this stage in his career:
Dirk has made it clear he does not want to be a part of a rebuilding process, which Mark Cuban and the Mavs have honored by continually keeping the team competitive for playoff spots. Dirk wants to be in competitive games, which they have been since winning the 2011 NBA title but nothing else.
The Mavs have not won a playoff series since that title and are listed as 66-to-1 “favorites” to win the 2017 NBA Finals. Even if they sign Dwight Howard as a free agent, the Mavs are still well behind the Blazers, Spurs, Thunder, Warriors, etc. in the West.
The Mavs are in playoff mode. The Warriors are in title mode.
If Dirk wants to go on extended runs and play in meaningful playoff games, going to Oakland is the best route for that possibility.
A viable contract offer by Golden State will expose Dirk for what he is - a comfortable guy who is content and he realizes he has the keys to the entire franchise. Winning games is a priority, but challenging for titles no longer is.
To be clear: there's nothing wrong with deciding, after having won an MVP and a championship and been a generational star for your national team, that simply living life in the place you've spent the lion's share of two decades is more important than sending everything into upheaval in a chase for one more ring. It's much more likely that Dirk once again instantly re-ups with the Mavericks after free agency opens in July on a deal that pays him a sizable yet team-friendly amount through Year 20, allowing the Mavs to continue their annual search for the next-generation superstar to whom Nowitzki can hand the franchise's reins once he decides to hang up his high-tops. (It also doesn't necessarily seem like the best use of resources for the Dubs, for whom finding defensive steel supports at center and on the wing would figure to be a much higher priority.)
But Dirk is one of the most competitive players in our lifetime, and if he sees the Mavericks' maneuvers as little more than rearranging deck chairs ... well, man, it's kind of fun to think about perhaps the greatest-shooting forward of all time operating in some sort of role in a downsized, uptempo, fire-away-and-let-God-sort-'em-out offense evolved and mutated from the genes provided by Don Nelson, the man who first looked at a spindly German teenager and said, "Let's put him behind the 3-point line." There'd be a certain poetry in it that's fun to consider, even if most decision-making by NBA teams and players alike tends to be governed in prose.
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