Dirk Nowitzki, not even in the middle of what has been a relatively hellish year for the future Hall of Famer, admitted that the 2016-17 season could be his last in the NBA.
Nowitzki, who has missed all but five of his team’s 24 games this year with a sore right Achilles tendon, told German magazine Sport Bild that he could decide to hang it up after the season if his injuries prove too tough to manage.
The 39-year-old, who was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks and traded to Dallas all the way back in June of 1998, is stuck on a Dallas Mavericks team that is currently tied with Philadelphia for the worst record in the NBA at 6-18.
“If things don’t go so well and it hurts everywhere, it could be that 2017 will be the end,” the forward told German magazine Sport Bild.
“It hurts everywhere.” Yikes.
Understandable for someone who has been banging away against NBA defenses since the fin de siècle, and for someone who (despite Dallas’ fine work in limiting his minutes from the championship 2010-11 season onward) has tacked on another 145 postseason games (nearly two seasons’ worth) to say little of his time spent working with the German national team, from 1997 through 2015.
Dirk, amidst retirement concerns, signed a two-year, $50 million deal with the Mavericks during the 2016 offseason, but that final season (at $25 million) of guaranteed money wouldn’t get in the way of Nowitzki limping away from the game:
“Actually, my plan is to complete the 20 years and play for Dallas until 2018.
“But just because I have signed a two-year contract doesn’t automatically mean that I will play for two years. It could happen next year.”
(Technically, Nowitzki would be walking away from that $25 million, which stands as a team option for 2017-18. We’re guessing that the Mavs wouldn’t let Dirk walk away empty-handed, though the team will have to get creative in order to secure Nowitzki with as much “thank you”-cash as he’s currently due for as an active player in 2017-18.)
Over the offseason, Nowitzki warmed to the idea of enjoying his final “couple of years,” but in just a few short months that ideal has been shot to bits. He’s shot just 35.8 percent from the floor in five games for the cellar-dwelling Mavericks, who have not warmed to the idea of obvious tanking as of yet. Dirk is averaging 12.2 points in 26.2 minutes a contest, pulling in 6.4 rebounds a game.
Dirk hasn’t played since Nov. 25. His Mavericks are 29th out of 30 NBA teams in offensive efficiency this season. They’re reportedly (and rightfully) considering dealing center Andrew Bogut for asset-laden options. They should be just as interested in taking advantage of Wesley Matthews’ recent stretch of solid play, and possibly dealing the final two years and over $36.2 million owed to Matthews following the 2016-17 campaign.
Matthews is 30 and Bogut 32, all parts brought in to mix with Rick Carlisle’s creative coaching genius in order to give Nowitzki one last shot at a postseason appearance. After winning just a quarter of their games to start the season, though, the Mavs are 5 1/2 games out of the final playoff spot in the West with 58 to play. A workable obstacle, one would think, were it not for Nowitzki’s inability to stay on the floor this season.
Should Dirk call it quits at the end of 2016-17, it would mark the removal of yet another star from the league’s coffers. All manner of 1990s-era giants – from Tim Duncan to Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, (officially) Ray Allen, and Elton Brand – have said their goodbyes to the NBA of late.
Nowitzki, thankfully, hasn’t signed off on a goodbye look as stridently. There is still time, in a season that lasts for five more months, to work toward health and to an offseason that could outfit the NBA’s all-time sixth-leading scorer with what he needs for one more season in 2017-18 at age 39. His 20th in the NBA.
We’re not pressing for a decision. Take your time, Dirk.
– – – – – – –