Gone Baby Gone: The Dirk Nowitzki Story
By now, you’ve heard the rumor.
Dallas Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki will likely be opting out of the final year of his contract to seek free agency.
Don’t fret, Mavs fans.
And step away from the edge, while you’re at it.
Nothing has been confirmed in the least regarding Nowitzki wanting to play elsewhere. And not only that, but management has deemed his retention as their first priority this upcoming offseason.
For all the public knows, this may just be a business formality and Nowitzki more than likely still wants to don a Mavs jersey for the rest of his career.
With that being said, even if Nowitzki’s intent is to remain with Dallas, the smart choice financially for him would be to opt out.
The deal that he would sign after he opts out would grandfather him into the terms established in the current collective bargaining agreement regardless of any upcoming changes to the CBA. Once he opts out, after July 1 he’ll be eligible to receive a max contract from Dallas worth $96.2 million over four years or $93.1 million if he signs elsewhere.
However, if Nowitzki chooses to sign a three-year extension to the upcoming final year of his contract, he risks becoming a casualty of the lower maximum salaries push that owners are attempting to work out in the next CBA.
So why should Nowitzki risk signing the extension?
It would be nice if in this scenario his salary does get reduced, thus helping his team by reducing payroll, but this would not be the case.
If the max salaries get reduced, so does the salary cap.
So he would essentially be getting paid less to play for a team that had the same resources as before, percentage wise.
However, team-based achievements are important enough to Nowitzki that a “hometown discount” cannot be ruled out at this point.
In a situation where Nowitzki opts out to take less money that he would be due in the last season of his deal, it would allow Mavericks management to move the books around and potentially swing for the fences in the free agency market.
Perhaps for a certain superstar from Ohio.
While not the orthodox choice, the talks of LeBron James to the Mavs are unquestionably heating up, leading many to believe that Dallas could be a realistic destination for “The King.”
At this point in time, landing James would be the equivalent of catching a Hail Mary pass in the end zone as time expires for Mark Cuban, but if Dirk was to volunteer to help the club out in a way that would allow them to sign some top-tier help, it might be upgraded to at least a toss across the middle.
Which is still risky, but the odds improve.
Another incentive for Nowitzki to sign a completely new deal rather than extend his current one is the potential of the elusive NBA no-trade clause.
It is so tough for a player to secure the clause during contract negotiations because of the stipulations required to obtain it.
Luckily for Nowitzki, if he opts out, his NBA resume of eight years in the league and four with the same team enable him to attain this aspect of a deal, but there is a catch.
A no-trade clause can only be added to a new deal, disabling Nowitzki from acquiring it through an extension.
This could be a very crucial part of his negotiation, especially when thinking about his status down the road.
Sure, Nowitzki isn’t a typical prototype, but it is no secret that NBA big men have trouble with the lower halves of their bodies on the descent from the tip of the mountain at age 30.
Hips, knees, feet, you name it.
He has been lucky so far in this department, but the possibility is always lurking.
Picture three-and-a-half years in the future.
A 35-year-old Nowitzki with bad knees and a bloated contract.
In other words, come February 2014, we’d potentially be hearing “Dirk Nowitzki’s expiring contract” way more often than we’d like.
But not if he has a no-trade clause.
Which is why it is crucial for him to secure that aspect of his deal.
The way the Mavs are constructed right now is not going to lead to a championship. The midseason acquisitions of Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood, and DeShawn Stevenson were lauded as brilliant at the time, seemingly being the steps to put Dallas over Los Angeles in the Western Conference.
But they weren’t.
Dallas lost to rival San Antonio in the first round, leaving questions abound for Cuban and his Mavericks.
The signing of one of the “Class A” free agents-to be would certainly get Dallas to where it would like to be, and where it was before – the Finals.
As wonderful of a player as Nowitzki is, he needs help. He needs more than just backup. He needs a body on the proverbial “front line” with him.
Any of the highly sought-after free agents of 2010 will take a large chunk of pressure off of Nowitzki, and drastically increase the team’s chances next season and beyond.
The future of Nowitzki still appears to be in Dallas, but right now the fans will just have to hold their breath and hope for the best until July.
And who knows?
Maybe the wait will be worth it—if he brings a certain someone along with him.
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