Yogi’s game experience

DALLAS – Armed with stacks and stacks of infinite memories from the days when he was a youngster, Dallas Mavericks guard Yogi Ferrell was recently on another pay-it-forward mission.

As is his custom when he steps outside of his box, Ferrell treated nearly 20 kids ages 4-14 from Project Real L.O.V.E. to a “Mavs Experience.” That included a trip to a Mavs home game against Minnesota, courtside seats to watch the Mavs warm up, and special seats in the Mavs Zone.

To top off the exhilarating evening, after the game against the Timberwolves, the kids got to shoot around and play a few games of Knockout with Ferrell on the Mavs’ practice court. Indeed, it was a memorable night since the overwhelming majority of these kids had never attended a National Basketball Association game before.

“This is huge to the organization and it means a lot to me because my passion is for the youth,” said Charmaine Herron, the executive director of Project Real L.O.V.E. “These are our kids that play basketball and their dreams are to be in the NBA, so coming here and being able to meet Yogi Ferrell and watch him play is great.”

“They even got to go courtside, and some of them were like, ‘Man, it was amazing. We saw Dirk (Nowitzki) and Yogi Ferrell.’ And why we’re sitting back there they’re talking about Yogi Ferrell and how amazing this is and how thankful they are.”

Ferrell, for his part, sounded like he wanted to thank the kids for giving him the privilege to entertain them. As a kid growing up in Indianapolis, Ind., Ferrell recalls going to high school games involving future NBA players Mike Conley Jr., George Hill, Jeff Teague and Greg Oden, and wanting to one day be in their shoes.

For Ferrell, that day arrived 15 months ago when the Mavs signed him off the Long Island Nets’ NBA G League roster. Ever since then, the second-year guard has been in pay-it-forward mode.

“I remember I went to a Lawrence North High School (in Indianapolis) and I watched Greg Oden and Mike Conley play,” Ferrell said. “I got their autographs after the game and I was hyped after I got that.”

“I feel like it all goes hand-in-hand,” Ferrell said. “It’s all about giving back and inspiring the next person.”

Ferrell hopes that inspiration spreads from one kid to the next, and inspires them to be good citizens in their community, and to pay it forward whenever they can.

“This means a lot to me, because I’ve never really seen an NBA player in real life,” said Marcus Vinson, a 13-year old from Duncanville’s Kennemer Middle School. “Plus, I didn’t really have to pay for anything.

“I just came out here to have fun and to play basketball.” Jmaury Davis, a 14-year old from Crowley Middle School, said he’ll have this day etched in his mind for a long, long time.

“It was nice to be able to look up close to a real basketball player, a real NBA player,” Davis said. “It makes me want to do more, practice more and be like (Ferrell) one day. Or be better than him.”

Even Mavs Chief Executive Officer, Cynthia ‘Cynt’ Marshall, got in on the action. Marshall spent a great deal of time dribbling the basketball and playing some lockdown defense with five-year old Imery Lewis.

“I love playing with little Imery , because she was serious,” Marshall said. “I started out just playing with her and you can just tell she has a love for the game.”

“She took off with that basketball, but because I have a love for the game, for a minute I forgot I was playing with a five-year old and I stole that ball from her and took off and she came and got it and we just had a good time together. Shame on me for being competitive like that, but she’s a honey.”

Marshall noted that she’s delighted that Ferrell took time out of his busy schedule to share some life lessons with the youngsters.

“It’s just good to be with these young people and to really see what the Mavericks are doing with young people,” Marshall said. “People don’t always get to see what goes on behind the scenes.

“We are influencing young lives and we are using basketball to teach life lessons and to reach out to the community and show these young people – I call them honeys – just how much we care about them and what basketball and sports can do and teach them in terms of discipline, hard work and practice. So it’s just a way to show them some love, and this particular program in general is trying to teach these kids life skills, so we’re just happy to partner with these folks and teach them some life skills.”

Ferrell said his favorite part of the event was just simply playing with the kids.

“When I was younger I was playing with some of the greats that came out of Indiana,” Ferrell said. “So (these kids) just look at me as another one of those guys, and that’s what I want to do is inspire them like others have inspired myself.

“I feel like teaching the next generation about hard work and being a good person and showing good character to people is what’s going to make and drive our world, so I like doing this for the kids.”

The words “L.O.V.E.” in Project Real L.O.V.E. stands for Leadership, Obedience, Victory and Excellence. The program is passionate about empowering young people and wanting them to succeed in life.

“I invited them to the game and I just wanted to show them how hard I work,” Ferrell said. “A lot of them said they want to be basketball players, so they see how I play on the court.

“I just wanted to give them something they could talk about for the rest of the year and give them some motivation to go out and want to be better.”

Marshall is appreciative that Ferrell is all-in when it comes to trying to steer kids in the right direction.

“You know what’s good is that he’s giving them an experience, so it’s not just a game,” Marshall said. “It’s an experience and something that will spark something in them to where they will want to be in a position where they can attend games (when they get older), or they can bring kids to games. “

“You just never know what this means. I know this from growing up — one thing can spark you to greatness.”

That’s what Herron is banking on Yogi Ferrell’s event doing.

“These kids have never even been to a Mavericks game, so being here for them is like a dream come true,” Herron said. “I’m so thankful and so appreciative. Not only did they get to come to a game, but they got to shoot around with a star, and then I got to meet the CEO of the Mavericks. That’s an inspiration for me. I’m just looking forward to more things happening like this with the Mavericks and Real Love and Kevin Ferrell’s Foundation.”

Wesley Matthews cleared for basketball activities, plans to pick up the player-option year on his contract

DALLAS – During Sunday’s 10th Annual Festival De Los Mavs at Gilley’s, Dallas Mavericks guard Wesley Matthews said he has been cleared to resume regular basketball activities without any restrictions.

Matthews recently had an MRI after sustaining a fracture to his right proximal fibula during the Mavs’ 114-80 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Mar. 10. Asked if he can do whatever he wants in regards to basketball, Matthews said: “Yes I can. Which is a dangerous thing.

“Now I’m going to go try and find a pickup game.”

Matthews has a player-option on his contract that will pay him $18.62 million next season. He said he will pick up that option and return and play next season with the Mavs.

“Obviously that’s something that hasn’t been on my mind,” Matthews said. “That’s what you have an agent for and agencies for.

“Like I said, I don’t plan on being anywhere else. And now it’s just focusing on getting back healthy, which I am now, and getting on this court.”

Matthews’ injury forced him to miss the final 16 games of the season. In all, the nine-year veteran played 63 games this season, which is the fewest in his career besides the 60 games he played during the 2014-’15 campaign when he torn his left Achilles while he was a member of the Portland Trail Blazers.

This past season Matthews led the Mavs in steals (1.21), was second in minutes played (33.8), third in scoring (12.7) and third in 3-point shooting (38.1 percent) while also being the team’s top perimeter defender. For now, as he tries to locate a “pickup game” to his liking, Matthews has been calling rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. and second-year forward Dorian Finney-Smith in hopes that they’ve been paying close attention to the current competitive and sometimes combative NBA playoffs.

“I’m watching these playoff games and I’m getting that hunger and I’m calling some of the young guys,” Matthews said. “I’ve been calling (Finney-Smith) and I’ve been calling Dennis and making sure that they’re tuned in watching these games.

“You can feel the passion and the fight on the TV. We’ve got to have that as soon as we can get back playing again from (training) camp. We don’t want to be watching (the playoffs) again.”

One of the reasons Matthews noted that it’s a no-brainer for him to pick up the player-option on his contract and return to the Mavs is because of the positive “personalities” within the organization.

“You don’t find too many places where, top to bottom, everybody gets along with everybody,” Matthews said. “We never turned on each other, we never flaked on each other.

“This is an organization that’s a prideful organization — it’s had a lot of success. This is a very successful championship organization and these past two seasons in not making the playoffs and being in the lottery is not ideal for anybody to be a part of it.”

The Mavs advanced to the playoffs 15 out of 16 seasons from 2001-’16 before unfortunately missing the postseason the past two years. Matthews steadfastly believes the Mavs will be one of the eight Western Conference teams earning a postseason berth next season, and he points to the close bond the team has as Exhibit A.

“A lot of times you see teams and coaching staffs and organizations kind of splinter and point fingers, and we never did that at any point,” Matthews said. “Even when we’re just in the locker room with ourselves, on the bus, on the plane, we never did that. We rallied.

“That’s a special thing. Now we’ve just got to turn that into what we’re capable of being, and that’s in the postseason.”

Mavs CEO Cynthia “Cynt’ Marshall received two prestigious honors from California State Legislature

DALLAS – The honors just keep on coming for Cynthia “Cynt’ Marshall.

Less than two months after historically being named the chief executive officer of the Dallas Mavericks, last Thursday Marshall received two prestigious honors in Sacramento, CA, when she was honored during two separate ceremonies on the floor of the California Assembly and the California Senate.

A product of Richmond, CA, Marshall was nearly speechless when recalling the two events.

Marshall said: “The different senators and assembly people and the chaplain, they went crazy just because they’re just so proud of this Richmond product who has made history in the NBA as the first African-American (woman) CEO of an NBA team.”

At first, Marshall had no intentions of attending the events. Until she received more information of what all it entailed.

“I didn’t want to go, but then they were calling and they said they felt like they were being snubbed,” Marshall said. “And you know me, that’s not my personality. But I don’t like the hype.

“Then somebody finally said (Mavs owner) Mark Cuban made history and the California policy makers are proud of it and they’re proud of you, you have to show up for this. So I literally landed in Sacramento that night, I went and did the two ceremonies and then I got right back on the plane and came back and I didn’t tell anybody.”

However, what transpired last Thursday in Sacramento leaked out.

“But here’s what was great,” Marshall said. “So I’m standing there on the floor and I have what I have on now. I wear this (Dallas Mavericks) pin with pride, so I had my Dallas Mavericks pin on the one side. And when I left California the governor had given me – 11 years ago – a gold pin in the shape of California.

“So I had my Dallas Mavericks pin on one side (on my lapel) and my California pin on the other side, and then they had a reception for me and I walked in and it was all Mavs. Mavs basketballs. Mavs balloons. Mavs everything. In the California legislature. Is that crazy? I said, ‘I have brought my two worlds together.’ ”

Marshall, who has a degree from the University of California-Berkeley in business administration and human resources management, was overwhelmed that the California State Legislature wanted to honor her.

“I thought it was just going to be one ceremony,” Marshall said. “I’m like, ‘OK, perfect. I just have to do this once.’

“I’m on the floor of the Assembly and the guy does his speech and he does his thing. Then they’re like, ‘OK, now we’ve got to go to the Senate so they can do their thing.’ Isn’t that cool?”

Nowitzki will have stitches removed from his surgically repaired left ankle on Monday

DALLAS – It’s been 17 days since Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki underwent surgical debridement of his left ankle. Since then, Nowitzki has gone from wearing a long walking boot to a much more comfortable shorter version.

The 20-year veteran announced during the 10th Annual Festival De Los Mavs on Sunday at Gilley’s Dallas that the stitches will be moved from his surgically repaired left ankle on Monday. And that procedure will be a big step in Nowitzki’s rehab process.

“It’s been over two weeks now (since the surgery) and I’m moving around without (the walking boot) already pretty good at home,” Nowitzki said. “But once you step out (of the house), I’ll still wear the boot.

“It’s progressing good, but it’ll be awhile until I can run and do basketball activities. I already started rehabbing a little bit and riding the bike and lifting a little bit and doing some movement stuff. It’s going to be, unfortunately, a piece of work all summer, but hopefully it’s going to help me next season.”

Nowitzki, who turns 40 on June 19, couldn’t say whether or not if he’s ahead of schedule as far as his rehab is concerned. But he was jovial as he signed autographs and took pictures with Mavs fans on Sunday.

And Nowitzki reiterated that he’s looking forward to getting back on the court and trying to help the Mavs get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

“I’m not even sure what schedule, but I think we’re on,” said Nowitzki, who underwent surgery on Apr. 5. “I’m supposed to wear the boot, they said, originally for four weeks. I’m walking around already without it pretty good at home. Like I said, once I step out I’m probably going to wear it for a couple more weeks.

“Hopefully when May rolls around I can do a little more and walk around and maybe do a little more stuff in the weight room. But we’ll see how it goes.”

More than anything, as Nowitzki approaches what could be his final NBA season, he would like to retire following a season that’s more palatable than the 24-58 season the Mavs recently completed.

“I miss the playoffs the last couple of years,” Nowitzki said. “The intensity goes up, the atmosphere is amazing, so it’s still tough to watch.

“Obviously in our league the fun comes with winning, so hopefully we can get back to winning some games.”
Nowitzki is expecting the Mavs to draft a player who can contribute right away, and also pick up a solid free agent or two this summer. In the meantime, he’s concentrating on getting his ankle in tip-top shape in time for training camp next fall.

“The foot is not great,’ Nowitzki said. “That’s obvious after 20 years in the league. I think I got arthritis in every joint I have in my body, which is normally I guess after 20 years.

“But they corrected that one area that it was just blocking me and bothering me all season long, and hopefully it’ll be a lot better next season.”

Mavs looking for players with good character, leadership skills

DALLAS – When the Dallas Mavericks pull up a chair to the NBA Draft and free agency tables this summer, there are two important ingredients they’ll be searching for in their quest to get back into the postseason.

Leadership and good character.

That’s the message according to Donnie Nelson, the Mavs’ long-time general manager and one of the people expected to help turn the Mavs into a championship contender again.

Nelson went out of his way to discuss the leadership skills and character Harrison Barnes, Dennis Smith Jr., Wesley Matthews and J.J. Barea exhibited this season. Then his attention turned to Dirk Nowitzki, the quinnessential leader of the Mavs who plans to return next year for an unprecedented 21st season.

Nelson even got emotional when talking about what Nowitzki means to the Mavs, to the city of Dallas and to Nelson personally. He pointed out how the Mavs are “just truly blessed” to have a player of such stature who has been a part of their lineage for two decades, and who has been like the conductor of a band during the team’s latest rebuilding process.

“What (Nowitzki) does for this city and this organization is unique and special,” Nelson said. “It’s a period of rebuilding in a guy that’s been through that, and he knows what it’s like to see his point guard booed in his own building – Steve Nash went through that (booing in 1999).

“(Nowitzki) knows what it’s like to, in year one and two, get thrown around like a rag doll and earn your stripes in the NBA. So for him to step up again for this city and this franchise is inspirational to everyone. That’s the kind of leadership and character that Harrison Barnes has in his DNA, and Wesley Matthews and J.J. Barea. Those are the things that are very special and unique about this team, and those are the things that we’re looking for in this year’s free agency and draft.”

The NBA Draft Lottery is May 15 and that will determine where the Mavs will pick in the June 21 NBA Draft. Meanwhile, the free agency moratorium period that allows teams to start negotiating verbal agreements with players begins on July 1.

Until then, Nelson has mapped out an impactful plan to get the Mavs back into the playoff picture. And it starts with players that are already wearing the Mavs’ uniforms.

“We’re committed to the right people in that locker room that are going to take this franchise to the next phase,” Nelson said. “We know we have that in some of our young players. That would be Dennis Smith Jr. as the quarterback and a first-year guy that’s been thrown into a difficult situation.

“Harrison Barnes is young and that other leader in that locker room carrying that baton through this rebuilding phase.”

Like last summer, when the Mavs used the No. 9 overall selection to draft a can’t-miss prospect in Smith, they know they can’t miss again in this year’s draft, which will see Dallas pick no lower than sixth overall.

“It’s critical that we again have a real nice draft pick,” Nelson said. “We’re not sure where we’re going to pick, but it’s another nice opportunity to add the third piece.”

Smith, who averaged 15.2 points and 5.2 assists this season and became the apple of the fans’ eyes with his penchant for manufacturing jaw-dropping dunks at a moment’s notice, is thoroughly convinced that the Mavs will draft a player who will become a fixture in their rotation next season.

“I believe that we can do a pretty good job of drafting,” Smith said. “You know I’m blessed to be a part of this organization and they’ve shown that they know talent, so I’m sure we’ll get somebody really good.”

Smith even offered to reach out and help the Mavs recruit some free agents if they ask him to.

“I’m about winning,” Smith said. “They’ve got a good eye for talent. . .But if I can help to get that guy, I’m all for it.”

Needless to say, Nelson may take Smith up on that offer.

“We’re going to be very, very active in free agency, but I think if there’s a common theme in what you see, it’s character,” Nelson said. “And character has been there all year long in this locker room.”

And when it comes to “character’ and the Mavs, Nowitzki is at the top of that laundry list. Nowitzki, who turns 40 on June 19, was the undisputed ringleader when the Mavs defeated the Miami Heat in six games and captured the 2011 NBA title.

“It’s Dirk that certainly knows what it’s like to sip from the (championship) cup, and he knows what it’s like to start out in a not great situation 20 years ago,” Nelson said. “He’s been from the lowest of lows, going to the Finals and having that cup ripped from his hands (by the Heat in 2006), and he’s experienced the high of going through tough times and knowing what it takes to build teams into championship caliber.

“We’re going through that right now. I can tell you that the chemistry and the character in that locker room is as good as it’s ever been.”

And that chemistry and character – and leadership – are intangibles the Mavs are counting on to help get them back in their customary seat at the playoff table.

“When you have guys like Dirk, Wesley Matthews – who is our gladiator – J.J. Barea, Harrison Barnes, you’re talking about quality professional athletes at the very, very highest level,” Nelson said. “Those are the guys that are going to pull us through, with a great coach (in Rick Carlisle).

“You guys know that in my humble opinion Rick is the best in the business. Those are the things that are going to get us through this period of time as quickly as possible, and we’re looking forward to that moment.”

Above & Beyond for Military Families

DALLAS – At a recent Dallas Mavericks home game, Major Dan Rooney was emotional as he explained why he owes the Dallas Mavericks a debt of gratitude.

Rooney is the founder of Folds of Honor, a nonprofit organization which provides educational scholarships to families of military men and women who have been killed or disabled while on active duty in the United States armed forces.

Budweiser and Anheuser-Busch recently challenged the nearly two dozen NBA teams that they’ve partnered with to manufacture creative ways to raise funds for those scholarships. And the Mavs wound up raising more money ($18,064) than any other team.

For their efforts, the Mavs were awarded a trophy by Anheuser-Busch during the NBA All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles last month.

“We wanted to support (Folds of Honor) as best we can, but we didn’t really know where all the teams would fall,” said Kory Nix, director of corporate sponsorship for the Mavs. “At the end of the day we ended up being the No. 1 team out of all of them, as far as fundraising goes.”

“So when we went to All-Star, they brought us up in front of all of the other teams and gave us an award for winning the most fundraising, so that was cool.”

It was also cool, Nix said, that the Mavs received an additional prestigious trophy from Folds of Honor for going above and beyond the call of duty in helping the military families.

“There are a lot of great Americans here that understand that freedom isn’t free, and having the Mavericks step up and coach (Rick Carlisle) and (owner) Mark (Cuban) and the whole organization, it’s just awesome,” Rooney said. “I think like most things in life you can’t control the outcome, but you can make sure you’re in the fight.”

“And we will continue to be in the fight on behalf of what’s now almost 1.5 million dependents – spouses and kids that have had somebody killed or disabled just in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most of them don’t get any federal education assistance, so that’s where Folds of Honor comes in and making sure that we’re taking care of these families, and we’re blessed to have a growing partnership with the NBA and the Mavericks are leading that charge.”

David Craig, the regional vice-president of sales for Anheuser-Busch, also gave high marks to the Mavs for reaching out and assisting those in need.

“The Mavericks stepped up and in typical Dallas fashion, Mark and the team have done an amazing job in terms of supporting the organization,” Craig said. “We couldn’t be more proud to have a partner like the Mavericks associated with us and the Folds of Honor.”

“Dallas set the bar. The opportunity to profile that is an opportunity for us to show what the people in Dallas did and how big a heart we have here and everything the Mavericks have done to support a great cause.”

Overall, the Mavs partnered with Anheuser-Busch, Levy Concessionaires, Ben E. Keith Distributors and Folds of Honor to help raise awareness, promote local events and raise funds for Folds of Honor. For example, portions of the sales of Budweiser, Bud Light and Michelob Light at American Airlines Center during the month of November went to the Folds of Honor project.

Also, at a recent Folds of Honor gala, the Mavs gave them several items to auction, including an autographed Dirk Nowitzki jersey that he wore in a game, a VIP Ticket Experience and a Suite Night Experience.

“It was a Budweiser initiative and all of their member teams participated and we ended up raising more money than any other team in the NBA and thus we got the award,” said George Killebrew, the executive vice-president of corporate sponsorship for the Mavs. “We don’t win a lot of things these days, so when we were out at the All-Star game they gave us a big award and a big trophy and they sent us this really nice plaque that’s in the office.”

“Kory Nix handles the Budweiser account and he kind of made it his pet project to make sure that we did everything we could to win. And so when we were out in LA for All-Star, he accepted the award on behalf of the Mavericks because he really did all the work.”

Rooney, an F-16 pilot fighter in the Oklahoma Air National Guard who served three tours of duty in Iraq, is appreciative of the job the Mavs did in beating out their NBA counterparts for the coveted trophy.

“These scholarships honor the sacrifice that was made by their parents, and that is such a powerful thing,” Rooney said. “How quickly we forget in this here-today-gone-tomorrow world that we live in to recognize that freedom isn’t free and these families have paid a huge sacrifice for the freedoms that we all enjoy, and the least we can do is make sure they can pursue the American dream.”

“Our scholarships are $5,000 a piece for the spouses and children of the vets that were killed or disabled defending our freedoms. This money raised by the Mavericks is going to help Texas families who have paid the ultimate sacrifices for the freedoms we enjoy each and every day.”

Mavs saw improvement throughout the season, but know there is still plenty of work still to be done

Exit Interview Highlights

Check out what the players, Rick Carlisle, and Donnie Nelson had to say at exit interviews!

DALLAS – As the Dallas Mavericks venture into their second consecutive offseason without a playoff berth, the stern message from coach Rick Carlisle to his players and coaching staff during Wednesday’s exit interviews was direct and to the point.

“We’ve got to get better,” Carlisle said. “Everyone has to get better – players, coaches. It’s a big summer for us with the draft and free agency.

“Make no mistake, we made a lot of progress in a lot of areas this year. A lot of individual guys got better.”

Still, the Mavs finished the season with a 24-58 record – or 23 games away from the last Western Conference playoff spot. And Carlisle knows that’s not good enough, especially with the winning culture the Mavs are accustomed to.

“When you’re at 24 wins and you look at the Western Conference standings and the teams that are fighting for the eighth position are at 47 or 48 wins, there’s a long ways to go,” Carlisle said. “So we’re going to have to have a great summer in all areas and we’re going to have to come back real strong.”

Forward Dirk Nowitzki announced Tuesday that he plans to return next year for his 21st season. Meanwhile, point guard Dennis Smith Jr., who finished his solid rookie season with averages of 15.2 points and 5.2 assists in 29.7 minutes, has his sights set squarely on being a postseason participant next season.

“I think we’ll get in next season,” said Smith, who was the ninth overall pick of last year’s NBA Draft. “That’s the goal. Everybody’s looking forward to next year and we don’t want to be out at this time next year.

“I want to keep playing and make it to the postseason. That’s the goal for next year.”

Forward Harrison Barnes said it’s imperative that the Mavs find a way to punch their playoff ticket next season. Anything else, Barnes insist, is not an option.

“We have to get better,” said Barnes, who averaged a team-high 18.9 points this season. “We had a lot of guys who were here two years ago and we kind of had that progress, and then this year we weren’t able to build from there.

“So coming off this season we can’t have another 24 (win) postseason-less season.”

Fortunately for the Mavs, the odds are stacked in their favor that they’ll have at least a Top 5 pick in the NBA Draft, which will be held June 21. And depending on how lucky the Mavs fare, they could land the No. 1 overall pick when the NBA Draft Lottery takes place on May 15.

Add that high draft pick and a quality free agent, and the Mavs believe they’ll be right back in the playoff conversation as soon as next year.

“I believe that we’re going to get a pick higher than what I was last year,” Smith said. “It’s a really good draft class (with) some good young guys in college right now.

“So if we can bring one of them in, I just look forward to a big year next year. Bring some more swag in, so it should be exciting.”

Asked to explain what is swag, Smith said: “Some energy, some confidence. You’ve got to have something to you. Look good, feel good, play good.”

Looking, feeling and playoff good are also attributes Barnes cooked up for the Mavs for next season.

“We made some progress, but at the end of the day our season has to show up in the wins and losses column,” Barnes said. That’s what’s got to be our next step.

“We now have had two years of good effort, so close, building and those types of things, but eventually it’s going to have to start trending upward. Building processes are tough. There’s no easy way around that, but to hopefully cut down in that time where you’re going from competing to rebuilding is how much we can improve individually this offseason.”

General manager Donnie Nelson drew a parallel between what’s transpiring with the Mavs now and what occurred two decades ago and acknowledged that the glass is again overwhelmingly half-full.

“Ironically, 20 years ago when we first got here to start building this thing it started with a point guard (in Steve Nash), it started with Michael Finley, which is our modern day Harrison Barnes, and it started with a floppy-haired German (in Dirk Nowitzki) that ended up being pretty good,” Nelson said. “The excitement of the future of this year ‘s draft, Dennis Smith, Harrison, young building blocks as well as Dwight Powell and some of our other young players that are fighting for roster minutes and rotational minutes, is an exciting part of the franchise moving forward.”

Finley joined the Mavs in a Dec. 26, 1996 trade that involved sending Jason Kidd to the Phoenix Suns. And the Mavs acquired Nowitzki and Nash on draft day trades on June 24, 1998.

Once that particular rebuilding process was complete, the Mavs advanced to the playoffs 15 out of 16 years from 2001-’16. Fast forward to today, that’s the same path management sees the Mavs traveling starting next season.

“We do not want to go back to what we just experienced,” Nelson said. “That’s unanimous from the top on down.

“When you go through re-tooling or rebuilding situations like we’re going through now, it’s done with the right people (and) it’s done with the right character pieces.”

Guard Wesley Matthews was adamant about the challenges facing the Mavs next season, saying, “We’ve all got to look in the mirror and get back in the gym, get back to work — top to bottom. And make a stand right now and say that we’re not going to have this kind of conversation next year.”

Dirk announces plan to return for 21st season

2017-18 Exit Interview: Dirk Nowitzki

Mavs F Dirk Nowitzki dishes on the season, his summer plans and more.

DALLAS – With a keen eye on getting the Dallas Mavericks back on a championship path, Dirk Nowitzki announced Tuesday that he’ll return next season to play a 21st season with the Mavs.

Nowitzki underwent left ankle surgery last Thursday with the sole purpose of being ready to play again with no problems by the time training camp starts next fall.

“That’s why I went ahead and got the surgery to kind of get the whole process started, get the rehab process started early, and I plan on coming back,” Nowitzki said during a packed press conference at American Airlines Center. “I didn’t really miss a lot of games this year (and) I felt fine most of the time.

“I always said all year that I want to fulfill that two-year contract if possible. I saw nothing this year that was going to stop it, so as of now I’ll see how the rehab goes in the next few weeks and how the ankle responds, but obviously I’m going to work towards another season.”

Nowitzki’s announcement came prior to Tuesday’s Phoenix Suns-Mavs game, and it put coach Rick Carlisle at ease to know that he’ll again be drawing up plays for the greatest player in Mavs history.

“I couldn’t imagine being here and Dirk not being here, so I feel very relieved that its looking like he’ll be back,” Carlisle said. “It’s great news.

“The timing of everything makes perfect sense to him and to all of us. He’s been able to play with the ankle, but it’s just bothered him for the last several years is what my understanding of it is.”

Nowitzki, who signed a two-year contract with the Mavs last summer, didn’t even rule out the distinct possibility of playing another season past next season.

“I’m hoping the ankle will be tons better than this year and then I’m hoping that I can play some decent basketball next year and then kind of go from there,” Nowitzki said. “I always kind of leave the end open.

“It’s hard for me, at this point, to commit farther than one year, or one year is it. I just kind of want to see how it goes. I’m hoping that this ankle will give me a lot of relief next year and then we’ll go from there.”

Nowitzki is currently wearing a walking boot and also walked into the press conference with the help of crutches. He said he’ll be in the boot from three-to-four weeks.

Then, the recovery period and rehab will start in earnest.

“Like I said, that’s also a reason I went ahead and got a head start on it,” Nowitzki said. “At my age, of course the recovery takes a little longer, and I had bone spurs taken out of this ankle early in my career.

“I think maybe after my third or fourth year in the league, so it’s been a long, long time and the recovery, I’m guessing, was a little shorter. Now I’ve just got to be smart, take my time.”

Time is indeed of essence for Nowitzki, who holds nearly all of the Mavs’ major franchise records. He even said he’ll come off the bench next seaosn if that helps the Mavs become more efficient.

“I’m hoping to get out of the boot in a few weeks and then start slowly rehabbing every day, getting some more motion back,” he said. “And the rest will be all summer working out and getting back to where I want to be strength-wise and agility-wise, and afterwards obviously basketball-wise. So it’s going to be a long process, it’s going to be a summer with some frustrations here and there, as I’m sure some things just don’t progress like you want at 40. But I’m willing to fight through it and give it another shot.”

In 77 games for the Mavs this season, Nowitzki averaged 12 points and 5.7 rebounds in 24.7 minutes, and shot 45.6 percent from the field and 40.9 percent from 3-point range. Not bad for a guy who turns 40 on June 19.

“I played with (Larry) Bird in Boston and I coached Reggie Miller and Ben Wallace and a lot of guys that had a reputation for being mentally tough,” Carlisle said. “Dirk’s right up there with any of them.

“He played hurt an awful lot in his career, probably has played injured at times. Some athletes just have a different sort of threshold for those kinds of things. Any time there’s an opportunity to relief some of that, that’s great.”

That relief, thanks to the surgery, has Nowitzki thinking like he was still the 19-year old kid the Mavs acquired in a draft-day trade in June of 1998. However, as reality sunk in, Nowitzki knew he couldn’t continue doing the same thing on the same weak ankle and expecting different results.

Thus, surgery was imminent.

“At times I was limited in a lot of my movements, especially,” Nowitzki said. “I was never a great lateral movement guy in my entire career in my 20s, but at times this year it was just non-existent.

“It was frustrating at times, but I kept fighting through it and I wanted to fight through it, and now at the end I had actually some knee problems there the last few weeks, I had some problems with the ankle. So that’s when we decided to go ahead and do the surgery earlier.”

Game 82: Mavs vs. Suns

Finney-Smith Slams The Oop

Kyle Collinsworth throws it up to Dorian Finney-Smith to throw down the alley-oop slam.