I'm not talking about his impending return or even life after this year, but rather, life after this contract.
During a press conference in which the forward announced that he wouldn't be able to return to the floor until mid-December (via Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com), Nowitzki also addressed what his plan extending beyond 2014 was:
"I'm hoping maybe after these two years to play a couple more years," Nowitzki said, "so it would be the wrong thing now to push it and come back too early and maybe make something worse for the long term."
That's as revealing as Nowitzki, 34, has been about his future beyond this contract. He often has said that he'd make the decision on whether to continue his career based on how his body feels, but the desire is clearly there.
Could Nowitzki have perhaps been trying to ease the pain of the news he was breaking? Absolutely, yet he's not one to mince words—unless he's failing in his attempt to sing Born in the USA, that is.
More than likely, this was a sincere gesture by Nowitzki. He's one of the most dedicated athletes to ever play the game and imagining him extending his career past the age of 36 is anything but inconceivable.
But is it possible?
Nowitzki's current prognosis hasn't exactly been encouraging, and to see him continue his career with more than two additional years of wear and tear on his knees isn't what you would consider a sure thing. Yet it is possible. Especially for Nowitzki.
Prior to this season, the prolific German had missed just 47 regular--season games over the course of his 14-year career. That's saying something, especially for a seven-footer who makes a living attacking the rim and running the floor. Hell, the 25-year-old Andrew Bynum has missed almost three times as many games and he's been in the league half as long.
So yes, it is possible. But from there, is it possible that Nowitzki will have to leave the Mavericks to do so?
It's a fair question. Again, he'll be 36 when his contract expires, and you don't assemble contenders around deteriorating 36-year-olds. So why would Dallas even want to hold on to Nowitzki?
Um, well, because he's Dirk freakin' Nowitzki. He's spent his entire career with the Mavericks, devoted all of his talent to the one franchise. Almost no one does that anymore.
Chivalry is scarce in the NBA, but it isn't dead, and neither is loyalty. Nowitzki is not going to expect to make the $22.7 million he'll earn during the 2013-14 crusade. He's not like that. Instead, he'll more than gladly accept a pay cut the way Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs did this summer. He'll have absolutely no qualms about doing what's best for the team.
And what'll be best for the Mavericks even then—provided he's healthy—is retaining Nowitzki. Not only is he fiercely loyal, but he knows what it takes to win a championship. His sheer presence will be a valuable commodity in what will undoubtedly be a re-tooled locker room.
Can I say this for sure?
Yes, I can. Heading into the summer of 2014, the Mavericks have just $1.3 million in non-guaranteed payroll committed to just one player, Jared Cunningham. It may as well be zero, though, because Dallas has the right to decline his option if it sees fit.
The Mavericks will have, at the very least, $58 million to build their team with in 2014. That also happens to be the same year that plenty of studs like Carmelo Anthony, Pau Gasol, Kyle Lowry, Monta Ellis, Rudy Gay and Danny Granger enter unrestricted free agency. Players like DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall will also be restricted free agents as well.
Oh, and there's also this guy named LeBron James who has the ability to hit the open market if he wishes.
I'm not saying Dallas needs to pursue a multitude or even one of these guys, but the team will have the freedom to do so if it chooses. They will have the financial flexibility necessary to completely revamp their roster and retain Nowitzki as a complementary piece.
And why wouldn't he want to take a pay cut to compete alongside another star or two in pursuit of another championship? And why wouldn't the Mavericks want to have him?
Yes, the end of Nowitzki's reign as a superstar is approaching, but his career seems to be far from over.
Just like his tenure with the Mavericks.
He is the face of this Dallas franchise. He has been the heart and soul of this team for nearly 15 years.
Dirk Nowitzki is the Dallas Mavericks.
And that's never going to change. Not today, not tomorrow and certainly not in 2014.
All stats in this article are accurate as of November 21st, 2012.
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