Report: Dirk Nowitzki to become an unrestricted free agent, as expected


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.

Kobe Bryant says his age 37 is not like Michael Jordan’s age 37

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Once again, Kobe Bryant‘s career arc is being compared to Michael Jordan’s.

There’s a lot of reason’s that’s flawed — starting with Kobe being drafted on to a Lakers team that had Shaquille O’Neal and was already considered NBA elite, as opposed to Jordan working to build a franchise up. That said, Kobe has invited the Jordan comparison at times and it has been a constant through is career. Fair or not.

Kobe is coming back this fall after seasons of injury to the NBA and those comparisons continue — now to the Wizards’ version of Jordan. And Kobe is not at all fond of that, as he told Sam Amick of the USA Today.

“This is uncharted territory,” he said. “My 37 (years old) isn’t MJ’s 37 (when he returned after taking two seasons off to play for the Washington Wizards), you know what I mean? Nor is it the same team or the same system that he was playing in. It’s much, much different. There’s really no barometer, no (precedent) for training physically, for recovery. It’s uncharted territory.”

Kobe is right. Jordan had four+ seasons off by the time he was 37 and was not coming off multiple major surgeries.

Kobe is entering his 20th NBA season and what any real basketball fan should wish for him is health. Let him play one full season (with limited minutes and nights off), let him get to the final game of this season next April and make his own decision on his future. Let him leave the game on his own terms.

That said, if Kobe can average Jordan’s numbers at that age — 22.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game — it will be a major accomplishment, and the Lakers will have a better record than many of us expect.

And Kobe may want to play a 21st season as well.

Celtics ease to 124-91 win at Olimpia Milano in Global Games

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MILAN (AP) — The Boston Celtics eased to a 124-91 victory over Olimpia Milano at the Mediolanum Forum on Tuesday, comfortably winning the first of a double-header in Europe as part of the NBA Global Games.

Isaiah Thomas led the way for the Celtics with 18 points, including nine in his first seven minutes after coming off the bench midway through the first quarter.

Jared Sullinger added 14 points, as did Avery Bradley, who also had four three-pointers, while David Lee weighed in with 13 as well as seven rebounds and three assists.

Alessandro Gentile – who is reportedly wanted by the Houston Rockets, who hold NBA rights to the 22-year-old – top scored for Milano, with 19 points.

Next up for the Celtics is Real Madrid in Spain on Thursday.