There was an outside chance that Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks could have agreed to the terms of a contract extension before free agency begins on Thursday. That opportunity seems to have drifted away, as Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning news reported that according to an unnamed source, that “if the face of the franchise is to stay in Dallas, it will happen via a new contract in free agency.”
This isn’t exactly breaking news; Nowitzki was expected to join this summer’s fantastical free agent class by opting out of the final year of his contract, worth $21.5 million. It makes sense for all conceivable parties; it’s in Dirk’s best interest to ink a long-term deal before the new CBA sets in, and the team that signs Nowitzki, be it the Mavs or any other, would save on the initial year of his deal by a few million dollars. That last bit is especially important for potential luxury tax implications.
Dallas is still the overwhelming favorite to employ Dirk in 2010-2011 and beyond, as has been articulated by both team representatives (via Donnie Nelson, Mark Cuban, Rick Carlisle, Jason Kidd, etc.) and Nowitzki himself (who has said he’d love to retire a Maverick). So in all likelihood, Dirk’s opt-out simply means the beginning of a new, multi-year deal that would keep him with the Mavs. The biggest question seems to be how much Dirk would be willing to give up in order to ease the burden on Mark Cuban’s wallet. Cuban is an owner willing to pay whatever it takes to produce a winner, but that doesn’t mean those costs aren’t destroying his bottom line.
So far, Dirk has seemed open to the possibility of taking less-than-max money if it means Cuban and Nelson are able to grab another star to play alongside him. Today’s rumors present Joe Johnson as a possibility, and that’s exactly the kind of player Nowitzki would be willing to sacrifice a bit for.