Like many of you, I was going about my daily life yesterday when I received a text message. It told me that Dirk Nowitzki, my favorite player, my not-so-secret man crush, and my close personal friend (you'll read about that later), was opting out of his deal.
Five minutes later, I struggled to hold back the sobs, soaked in gasoline and trying to spark a lighter to end this madness.
But then I got a hold of myself. Maybe there was another reason Dirk was opting out, a reason that didn't involve him leaving the Mavericks.
So I did some research, and found that yes, it behooves both Dirk and the Mavs for him to opt out, rather than seek an extension. Let's take a look at exactly why that is.
Here are the benefits for Dirk:
Dirk Would Get a No-Trade Clause
Kobe Bryant possesses the league's only no-trade clause, which should give you some indication of just how difficult they are to come by.
To get a no-trade clause, a player must have been in the league for at least eight years, with the same team for four years, and be in the process of renegotiating a new deal.
Kobe Bryant, who flirted with leaving the Lakers in 2004, ended up signing a new deal with them, which gave him the no-trade clause.
Dirk fits the two time provisions, but if he sought an extension to his current deal, then he wouldn't get the no-trade clause.
What this does for Dirk is give him some say in where he spends the twilight of his career. This wouldn't allow the Mavs to dump him at say, age 36, for some younger talent on a terrible team.
Getting a new contract before the new CBA is essential
The NBA could change wildly next summer with the creation of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league, owners, and players. A wise man once wrote about how the new CBA could change things, and this would apply to Dirk.
If Dirk didn't opt out of his deal and didn't sign an extension this summer, he would become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2011, just when the new CBA would come into effect.
But the new CBA is most likely going to take down such things as the maximum length of contracts, as well as the dollar amounts, to prevent teams from making franchise-crippling moves that kill the team for half a decade or more (see: Wizards, Washington).
Unlike Kobe and Pau, who simply signed extensions, a new contract would most likely not be affected by the new CBA, since it was signed, sealed, and delivered before the CBA went through.
Therefore, Dirk wouldn't be subject to the yearly decline in salary should the CBA change the structure of a max deal.
The Mavs can offer Dirk $3 million more in a max deal
Three million dollars is practically peanuts when spread out over a few years, and it's going to someone who is already a millionaire several times over, but it can't hurt.
The Mavs do not have the luxury that the Cavs, Heat, and Raptors have with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, respectively. Dirk will be 32 when he signs a new deal, which means the maximum they can offer him is four years, due to the league's "Over 36 rule" which prevents older players from being locked into huge deals.
So the Mavs can't offer Dirk another year on his deal, but he can pocket a few extra million.
Here's how Dirk opting out helps the Mavs:
It would help the Mavs clear cap space this summer
Dirk would be due something like $21 million next year. If he signs a new max deal, for say, four years, he would get something like $17 million, or 30% of the salary cap.
That's $4 million in wiggle room that the Mavs could use to sign-and-trade for a veteran role player or use towards a huge free agent like LeBron or D-Wade.
Dirk wouldn't be out any significant amount of money, and Mark Cuban could either chase someone else or pay a few million less in luxury taxes.
With Dirk locked up, Dallas is a much more attractive free agent destination
If Dirk didn't sign an extension and his contract expired after the 2010-11 season, he could be gone to any team willing to offer him a contract. If the Mavs are making their pitch to LeBron, Bosh, or Wade (which they certainly will be), the fact that Dirk would be locked up for the rest of his prime would certainly be attractive.
We already know that locking up Jason Kidd last summer was a good move, as Kidd is a player's dream to share the court with, and he can be instrumental in recruiting.
With Dirk locked up long-term, Superstar Free Agent knows that he's got Dirk as a sidekick (or leader) for the first four years of his new max deal, which is a very good thing.
So relax Mavs fans. You might not have expected it, but Dirk will most likely opt out. Cuban says that Dirk will always be a Mav (something he also said about Nash in the summer of 2004, but never mind), and there's reason to believe him.
In fact, Cuban isn't the only owner to think that Dirk will always be in Big D. Most GMs have resigned themselves to the fact that Dirk, while he technically might be available, really won't be switching teams anytime soon.
The strategy of Dirk opting out has nothing to do with him leaving, everything to do with a premium free agent joining him in Dallas, and spending the next few years on a title chase that will hopefully, finally, bear fruit.