Mavericks need to part ways with Dirk Nowitzki

Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki deserves the chance to finish his way. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki deserves the chance to finish his way. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

With the NBA season now roughly 20% complete, it’s time for the Dallas Mavericks to make the difficult decision and part ways with Dirk Nowitzki.

For the Dallas Mavericks, they owe nearly every bit of their success to forward Dirk Nowitzki. The German-born phenom has been a part of every Mavericks campaign since the 1998-99 season. He’s helped carry Dallas to 15 playoff appearances, two NBA Finals appearances and an NBA Title in 2011-12. That’s why they owe him the opportunity to depart with dignity.

Dirk’s age

At 38 years old, the 7-footer isn’t getting any younger. While nobody doubts his heart, his leadership or his determination, the clock is ticking. Statistically, he’s held pretty steady over the last five years. But for Dirk, that’s not so much the issue.

He’s shared on more than one occasion that he doesn’t want to be a part of a rebuilding project with the Mavericks. While he does desire to finish his career in Dallas, he’s made it known that he wants to continue playing on a contending team. With what’s currently a 3-13 record, Mark Cuban’s squad has hardly kept their end of the bargain. But the sad fact of the matter is that the Mavs are indeed, not rebuilding. They’re just bad.

There stands a chance that Dirk’s recent absence due to injury has a lot to do with it. He remains the focal point of the Dallas offense, and they’re not the same without him. Granted, he was only shooting .358 from the floor and .273 beyond the arc in the five games he played this season. He’s wearing down. It won’t be long until his body breaks down from the demands that come with his role. Yet game in and game out, there he’s been.

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Dirk’s loyalty

Dirk has given his all to the Mavericks. Despite his previously-stated desires, he stuck around through a sad 2012-13 season. After winning the title just two years before,  they missed the playoffs for the first time in 12 seasons.

Through it all though, Nowitzki was still there. He re-structured his contract to make room for some new veteran pieces and did what he could for Dallas to remain relevant.

Perhaps though, this did a little more harm than good. Because of Dirk’s disdain for rebuilding, Cuban has made some deals and trades that were detrimental to the Mavericks long-term. Now keep in mind, this falls more at the owner’s feet than it does Nowitzki’s, but as long as this wish is granted, the Mavs will be held back. So, where should things go from here?

Dirk’s first option — Retirement

The first option Dirk has, and likely the most obvious is to retire. If this were to happen, the Mavericks would be under no obligation to pay the remainder of his $25 million contract for this season. Since next season is a team-option year, they also wouldn’t have to pay that. However, it’s highly unlikely Mark Cuban would allow this without still paying Dirk. In the past, he’s been pretty loyal to Nowitzki and there’s no reason to believe he’d stop.

But unless a team physician told Dirk he needed to retire, that money would count against the salary cap for the seasons he’s paid. Because of all these factors, retirement is unlikely for Dirk.

Dirk’s second option — Rebuilding

The second option is for Dirk to relent on his previous demand. This would likely require him to stick around and fulfill a capacity as a bench player or a sixth man. While this could add another year or two to his career, it’s a very difficult change for the competitor within him.

Star players rarely move into backup roles easily. Guys like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Larry Bird retired (sometimes three times) after starting nearly every game in their final season. That’s why rebuilding is so undesirable to Dirk.

Dirk’s third option — Relocation

The final, and most likely option is for Nowitzki to demand a trade. While it would be one of the most difficult things for Mavericks fans to endure, it would be the most beneficial to all parties.

Dallas could still get a quality draft pick or two in exchange for Dirk. He offers enough to a contending team that they could part with some much-needed draft position for the Mavericks. In exchange, Dirk could finish his career competing for another season or two for his second title.

It won’t necessarily be easy to watch., but very few Mavericks fans would have animosity towards him after what he’s done for Dallas. He’d get a shot at accomplishing what many NBA players never get to do, for a second time.

Dirk’s legacy

Dirk would leave the Mavericks as the greatest player in franchise history. As the career leader in nearly every offensive category, it’s not even close. His work ethic was above and beyond the norm. He worked, practiced, worked some more and perfected his game to the point of exhaustion. He did it the right way.

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Dirk will be in the Basketball Hall of Fame as soon as he’s eligible. His best years and beyond have been as a Mavericks player. That’s why he deserves to go out on his own terms.