ESPN’s Tim MacMahon is reporting that the Dallas Mavericks are about to finish up a two-year, $10 million contract (with a team option for the second year) that will continue to keep 39-year-old Dirk Nowitzki, the greatest player in franchise history, on the only NBA team he’s ever played for. It’s a move that won’t pay much, and it won’t win him any more trophies, but Nowitzki seems to be beyond the point in his career where he cares much for those markers of success.
The Mavericks were eight games out of a playoff spot last year, and if improvement comes, it’ll be gradual—certainly too gradual for Dirk to enjoy its results. Nowitzki’s pay is being sacrificed primarily to allow the team to keep restricted free agent Nerlens Noel, who holds potential but is still only 22. (That’s 17 years younger than Nowitzki.)
Nowitzki has given no clear comment on when he plans to retire, but the indication seems to be that, unless he can reverse the aging process, the Mavs won’t pick up the second year of this contract. He’s already the fourth-oldest active NBA player, and his value will crater from here. This was likely Dirk’s last chance at a pay day, but even so, he didn’t hold out for the biggest possible deal. If $5 million a year sounds pretty cheap for a player of Nowitzki’s status, that’s because it kind of is. His new salary puts him more in line with guys like new Detroit Piston and former Knicks refugee Langston Galloway.
Nowitzki seems to be over chasing titles and money. As he told the Dallas Morning News amid speculation of departure or even retirement, “I just can’t imagine myself in a different uniform. If we’re rebuilding, then I’m the face of that.”
It’s rare to hear an athlete sound this content. Nowitzki’s made Dallas his second home over the past two decades, and he truly sounds more motivated by his love for the city and franchise over money or career accolades. He’s comfortable with where he is and what he’s accomplished. Dirk wants to play out his career with the Mavs, however long that will be.