DALLAS — Despite seeing that he has plenty left in the tank while making his 12th All-Star team at the age of 35, surrounding Dirk Nowitzki with more help tops the Dallas Mavericks’ to-do list heading into the offseason.
This summer, the Mavericks will undoubtedly direct their full attention towards making life easier on their franchise player by adding talent to the roster in order to make it capable of reclaiming the NBA title. First, however, the Mavs’ front office will have to successfully ink Nowitzki to a new deal, then turn its attention to building a championship-contending squad around the 16-year veteran.
“Obviously, you know, Dirk’s not going anywhere,” Mavs president of basketball operations and GM Donnie Nelson confidently said. “He’s built this franchise and he’s been with us since Day 1. Certainly, there’s a negotiation that’s going to take place, but he loves this city and he wants to call it his home. We certainly reciprocate those feelings, and our hope is that we’ll get something done that’s not only in Dirk’s best interest but also affects the flexibility of the future of the Mavericks.”
Leading the Mavs back to the playoffs for the 13th time in the last 14 seasons, Nowitzki played in 80 games and averaged a team-best 21.7 points an outing. He also fell just shy of another 50-40-90 season, connecting on 49.7 percent from the field, 39.8 percent from 3-point range and 89.9 percent at the free-throw line.
But, with the defense keyed in towards stopping the 7-footer and new addition Monta Ellis in the Mavs’ first-round playoff series against the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs, it became obvious that other players would have to step up as Nowitzki was held to 19.1 points a contest on 42.9 percent shooting. And despite seeing the Mavs push the Spurs to seven games before eventually falling, Nelson says it’s apparent that Nowitzki needs more help in order to get the team back to a championship level.
“We understand that Dirk does need help. He needs a shot in the arm,” Nelson explained. “Monta has been just a terrific addition, as have the rest of the guys in that locker room. But you know, [Nowitzki] can’t do it alone like he did in the old days. You know, the middle ground is to get him the kind of help he needs and also do the right thing by him and the career that he’s had here in Dallas.”
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle echoed those sentiments as he heads into the summer hoping to have Nowitzki back in the fold. With that said, Carlisle also would like to see the burden lightened on Nowitzki’s broad shoulders while trying to replicate the team’s 2010-11 title run that ended with both hoisting the Larry O’Brien championship trophy.
“You know, I don’t know how much money we can pay him. But whatever it is, it won’t be enough,” Carlisle said with high praise for Nowitzki after six seasons together. “He has such high impact on everything that goes on with our team and everything that goes on with our organization, and so I know we’ll get that done and I know he wants to be back and everything. … This is 30 years for me in the league, and I played with [Larry] Bird and I played with some great guys. But there’s nobody I’ve been around that carries a bigger load for a franchise or an organization than Dirk Nowitzki. I mean, I can’t say in words how much respect I have for him, what he stands for and everything he’s done for this organization and for me in six years. And he’s got a lot of good years left. I think that’s pretty evident.”