DALLAS – Dirk Nowitzki woke up Monday morning as the No. 7 all-time leading scorer in NBA history. But there’s a very strong chance the Dallas Mavericks’ franchise player will go to bed Monday night as the No. 6 all-time leading scorer in NBA history.
Nowitzki needs just four points to pass Wilt Chamberlain and become the league’s sixth all-time leading scorer. Going into Monday night’s 7:30 contest at American Airlines Center against the New Orleans Pelicans, Nowitzki has 31,416 career points to 31,419 for Chamberlain.
Obviously, Nowitzki would prefer to bypass Chamberlain at AAC. And in order for that record-breaking occasion to occur, the 21-year veteran would have to reach that benchmark against the Pelicans since this is the Mavs’ final home game before they start a three-game road trip Wednesday night in Portland.
“Breaking records is always fun,” Nowitzki said. “If it happens at home it’s even more special for your fans that’s been riding with you for such a long time.”
After his long recovery from left ankle surgery which he underwent on Apr. 5, Nowitzki has played in 38 games this season and scored less than four points in 15 of those games. However, since he finally got his conditioning intact, he has scored four or more points in 10 of the last 11 games.
Thus, the sellout crowd that’ll be on hand for Monday night’s game are almost assured they’ll be among the fortunate few who’ll be on hand watching history in the making.
Meanwhile, while the Mavs’ fans are gearing up for something they’ll forever remember, the Mavs players are also on watch. On Assist Watch.
Guard Devin Harris was the player who gave the assist to Nowitzki when Germany’s most popular athlete reaching the 30,000-point plateau during a Mar. 7, 2017 home game against the Los Angeles Lakers. However, Harris insists there are no internal debates among his teammates as to who will get the assist on the basket when Nowitzki passes Chamberlain.
“There isn’t any internally (debate),” Harris said. “It’ll be me. Now that’s the end of that.”
Still, the players are just as giddy about Nowitzki passing Chamberlain as Nowitzki is himself. They know there will be something special in the air when the Mavs host the Pelicans.
“It’s watching history,” Harris said. “I was here for 30,000 and I was able to get him the assist.
“You’re happy for him. He’s worked so hard for it. All the things he battled through this (past) summer to come back and play and compete and try to get to a higher level, you’re just happy for the guy.”
Nowitzki scored 14 points during this past Saturday’s 121-116 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers while playing a season-high 29 minutes. Cavs coach Larry Drew, who was an assistant coach with the Lakers during Nowitzki’s rookie campaign in 1998-’99, recalls seeing the Mavs’ legendary player for the first time.
“I remember, it was back in my Laker days, seeing him for the first time and I thought he was a good player when I saw him then,” Drew said. “I just had no idea he would turn out to be the type of player that he turned out to be.
“He just seems to be a guy that always came to work every day, and certainly with his size and his height, shots that he made, you just don’t see guys making shots like that. But he’s had such a phenomenal career and he’s been such an ambassador for our league.”
An ambassador who will undoubtedly reach another in his laundry list of milestones on Monday night. In the meantime, Nowitzki’s teammates are lining up in hopes of being the player attached to that milestone.
“Obviously, winning the game and winning games is our key goal,” Harris said. “But hopefully I can be the one to get (the assist) to him.”
Not one who craves the attention, Nowitzki will just be delighted to get the attention surrounding him passing Chamberlain in his rear view mirror so he can concentrate on the game at hand.
“I’m appreciative of the support at home every time I sub in,” Nowitzki said. “It’s been super fun, it’s been emotional, so hopefully we can get this over with on Monday.”