Storyline: Dirk Nowitzki Retirement?

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Nowitzki is preparing for his unprecedented 21st season – all with the Mavs. But he refuses to say whether this will be his last season, preferring instead to respectfully keep his options wide open. “I said a couple of years ago that was it for (playing on the German) National Team and then we got the Euros in Berlin and I had to drag my 37 year old butt up and down in the European Championships, which I thought was never going to happen,” Nowitzki said. “I basically came back and played in those Euros, so you never say never.”

“It’s been over two weeks now (since the surgery) and I’m moving around without (the walking boot) already pretty good at home,” Nowitzki said. “But once you step out (of the house), I’ll still wear the boot. “It’s progressing good, but it’ll be awhile until I can run and do basketball activities. I already started rehabbing a little bit and riding the bike and lifting a little bit and doing some movement stuff. It’s going to be, unfortunately, a piece of work all summer, but hopefully it’s going to help me next season.”

It’s an uncomfortable place for Nowitzki to be after the 12 50-win seasons he’s so proud of, especially with his beloved franchise also in the midst of absorbing significant (and justified) criticism for the toxic workplace atmosphere on the business side revealed by a recent Sports Illustrated investigation. But Nowitzki remains determined to return for one more Mavericks season, which would break a tie with the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant for the longest N.B.A. run while wearing only one jersey. It won’t be official until some point in the off-season, after Nowitzki steps away next month for a telling round of consultation with his wife Jessica and Geschwindner as well as a thorough evaluation of his health. Yet all signs point to a 21st consecutive season with the Mavericks, the only N.B.A. team he’s known. “As of now, I’m planning to come back,” said Nowitzki, who turns 40 on June 19. “I feel great. I’ve only missed one game all season. I signed a two-year contract because I wanted to play two more years. And here we are.”

Now in his 20th season, Nowitzki is comfortable with the idea that he led the Mavericks to their first title and can try to help a younger core build toward making Dallas a title contender again. “I just think I pride myself with this city, with this organization, whatever this city or this franchise goes through, I want to push it through,” Nowitzki said. “I want to be there for it. If it’s rebuilding, I want to push it through and help as much as I can. If we’re playing for a championship, then I’ll do that.”

He’s been up front, but guarded, about the future. He said earlier this season at a game against Golden State that the losing has not eroded his fun quotient and that he is cautiously optimistic that he can finish out this two year contract and play again in 2018-19. That remains to be seen, of course. But he reiterated that he wants to see this rebuild through. “I don’t really want to get too far ahead of myself,” he said. “I want to finish this season strong. I’ve played every game, which is a miracle. Hopefully I can keep that up until the All-Star break. We’ll re-evaluate after the season. But I’s love to stick around (to get through) the tougher times. We’ve been used to winning for, I don’t know, 15 years. Now we’re in a tougher spot. I want to be there and push the franchise through.”
7 months ago via ESPN

Nowitzki, however, hopes to play at least one more year. “It’s how the body feels,” Nowitzki told ESPN, adding that the Mavs’ place in the standings won’t play a part in his decision. “I’d love to play every game. I’m not sure how realistic it is, but that’s how I approached the season. I want to be out there, want to move and want to be out there with the guys. We’ll just have to sit and relax [after] I play through the season and see how I feel. Probably that decision won’t be made until the summer.”
7 months ago via ESPN

“He’s still complaining like he’s 82 years old, still cracking jokes and giving people s—,” Cuban said. “He’s still Dirk.” For Nowitzki and the Mavs, the season hasn’t been particularly rewarding so far. It didn’t help that the Mavs had a busy early schedule and that training camp was cut by a week to start the regular season earlier, a couple of issues that caused some grumbling from the 7-footer. “That week of training camp they stole [from] me, I guess it was good for the schedule, but it wasn’t good for me,” Nowitzki said after Saturday night’s home loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, which followed three off days.

Dwyane Wade, 35, wouldn’t answer that question, either. Wade faced the Mavs in the Finals with the Heat in 2006 and ’11. “You never really give someone their due until they’re done playing because of the competitive nature. But he’s definitely one of the greatest players in our game,” Wade said. “We’ve had battles against each other in the Finals. He’s been in the Finals twice, my face has been there both times. Definitely have a tremendous amount of respect for him as a competitor, what he’s been able to accomplish in his career and the longevity of it.”

On how much longer he might play for? Dirk Nowitzki: “I gotta say I was pretty fortunate during my career. I only had a few things here or there, minor things. I had knee surgery last year, I had a little Achilles problem that almost held me out for two months, but other than that I gotta say I’m doing pretty good. Obviously in the mornings you get up after games, it takes a few steps to get loose a little bit or even sometimes in practice like I mentioned earlier. Other than that, it’s still fun, the games are still fun, I still love to compete so we’ll just see how it goes. I kind of set my goal from year-to-year. Last year I felt fine and thought I could give it another year, going into this year with the mindset of being efficient again. Hopefully not missing that much time like last year and we’ll just go from there. I’m looking forward to the 20th season. As you know, the time flies by.”

The projected Hall of Famer is not certain whether he will play during both of his contract seasons. Once Nowitzki retires, he expects to spend more time in Kenya and possibly purchase a home there. “I signed on for two more, so hopefully I can play those two,” Nowitzki said. “Last year with the Achilles [injury], I missed almost two months. It was frustrating and disappointing. Hopefully, injurywise it will be a lot better this season and maybe I’ll play another one. We will see how it goes this [season]. We will see how the body feels.

Me: Are you satisified at this point in your career? Dirk Nowitzki: I still love to compete. That’s the main thing. It’s still fun out there. Some of the practices, some of the weight lifting sessions get a little old, especially in the summer. But as soon as the game starts, it’s thrilling. Even the other night, every time I touched the ball, there was this buzz in the gym. That’s still what I live for. It’s still fun to compete. It’ll be over sooner or later, so I’m just trying to enjoy it, help these guys get better and spread the floor for them, and answer every question.

Dirk Nowitzki: To be standing here 19 years later and be one of the six to ever score 30,000, it’s been bizarre. It’s been surreal. It’s been a crazy ride. I’ve been fortunate, with a great owner, with a great coach in the beginning who gave me a lot of confidence in Nellie (Don Nelson), great teammates, starting with Steve (Nash) and Mike (Finley), and J-Kidd obviously helping me get the ring. Am I comfortable? It’s been a crazy ride. And I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.

But Nowitzki doesn’t want the recent wave of admiration to be confused with some kind of farewell tour, because he doesn’t want to lose sight of the next game or the next practice. He’s not done yet. “I reflect at times, but I don’t want to reflect too much. I want to stay in the moment,” Nowitzki told The Vertical. “You reflect a little bit. All the hard work you put in, paid off. Go through everything. All the people that helped you around, your family, now wife and kids. The support system that’s been with you for so long. Doubters and critics early on. All that goes through your mind. It’s a feeling of a little bit of fulfillment. But just for a little bit. It lasts for a bit. And then you’ve got to keep plugging and keep getting better.”

“You’ve still got to enjoy the grind,” Nowitzki told The Vertical. “Sometimes it’s tough. If you don’t like the lifting and all the practicing, or the extra shots, I might as well retire. I still love the game. The practices. The weightlifting sessions in the summer, when you’re on vacation, all of that gets a little old. Once the game starts and the fans, that’ll always be fun. So I’m going to do it as long as my health holds up. And we’ll see how long it goes.”

“In my soul, I’m still young,” Nowitzki told The Vertical. “I probably joke around more than any of [my teammates].” Dallas is headed toward its first losing season since 1999-00, Nowitzki’s second in the league. But the Mavericks still have a remote chance of claiming the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference despite a miserable 3-15 start. Just getting into the postseason was once unacceptable for Nowitzki – but not when he’s missed 26 games mostly because of a nagging Achilles’ injury and definitely not when he’s on a team that has nine players 26 or younger. “It’s going to be tough, but just to be in position to fight for something means a lot,” Nowitzki told The Vertical. “Chasing the playoffs, I like to focus on that. That helps, fighting for something. No team has ever made the playoffs after starting 3-15, so it would be sweet, obviously, to make history.
1 year ago via ESPN

Dirk Nowitzki wants to play next season

Speaking to ESPN’s Marc Stein on the TrueHoop Conversations podcast, when asked if his return for the 2017-18 season can be considered a lock now, Nowitzki said: “I think so … unless something drastic changes here in the next few weeks or the last few weeks of the season, which I don’t anticipate. “I said last summer: I signed a two-year deal [and] that obviously meant I want to play for two more,” Nowitzki continued. “I want to complete that deal.‎”
1 year ago via ESPN

“Twenty is a great number,” Nowitzki told Stein. “I think 20 seasons also with one team, like I’m trying to do it — I think only Kobe has done it — that’s another great accomplishment. So I kinda want to make the 20 fold. Plus that summer I’m turning 40. I think that’s also a good number to be in the league … from 20 to 40. That’s what I’m looking at.‎ “‘Hopefully I’ll finish this season out strong, and then have a decent year, hopefully not as [many] injuries next year.”

Nowitzki signed a two-year, $50 million contract with the Mavs this past summer with high hopes of honoring that contract. What has happened to his body lately hasn’t changed his stance. “I want to get back on the court as soon as I can — that’s really all I’m worried about for now for this year,’’ Nowitzki said. “I think we can re-evaluate this summer, I’ll talk to obviously the trainer (owner mark) Cuban and my family and kind of just make a decision there. But for now I’m all-in and I want to play. This obviously not a career-ending injury, it’s just something that keeps lingering unfortunately. Hopefully sometimes soon I’ll be out there and then stay out there. I don’t want to jump in and out of the lineup with soreness. I want to be healthy and stay out there.’’

In discussing the latest development with his injury, Nowitzki said he “had a little setback,’’ but he hopes this is not something he has to deal with for the remainder of his career. “I’m hoping that it heals pretty soon here and I can play the rest of the season pretty pain-free,’’ Nowitzki said after Saturday’s 107-82 win over the Chicago Bulls. “Achilles injuries are tough, they just limit your movement a lot. If it limits my movement 10 years ago I’d still be able to play effectively out there. But if it limits my movement now, I’m already a step slow – that makes me three steps slow and it just makes so sense to be out there.’’

“Just seeing it day-by-day, pushing it a little more and seeing how it reacts. It’s frustrating for me…it never happened before in my career. “It’s tough, but once I’m out there I don’t want the same thing to happen again just like next week, so I want to make sure now that it’s good to go.’’ Nowitzki is 38 years old and in his 19th season, and has ramped up his rehabilitation day-to-day, including some treadmill work and additional small work on the court. “Sometimes it’s tough because I know the one thing I can still semi-do is score the ball and spread the floor,’’ Nowitzki said. “At this stage of my career I don’t move well any ways, so if I’m out there at 80-90 percent I don’t think I’m a big help. So I want to make sure my body responds the right way and we’ll go from there.’’
2 years ago via ESPN

He hopes to complete the two-year, $50 million contract he signed over the summer, which would allow him to join Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant in the 20-seasons-with-one-team club, but Nowitzki has always said he will listen to his body and hang up his Nikes when basketball is no longer fun. Right now, the 38-year-old Nowitzki is mired in basketball misery. His Mavs (3-14) have the NBA’s worst record, and Nowitzki can do nothing to help, as he is sidelined for at least the rest of the week. “It’s hard to listen to him,” Mavs owner Mark Cuban said. “The dude bitches like a m—–f—–.”
2 years ago via ESPN

“Guys are learning to play in an environment that is very realistic, as opposed to the nirvana that he’s provided here for close to two decades,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “The one thing that I think this period should point out to historians of the game is his level of greatness. It’s just another strong indication of how great he has been [and] is and the kind of impact he has. When he’s out there on a consistent basis, it’s a game-changer.” There is plenty of proof of that. Start with the Mavs’ 15 playoff appearances, 12 50-win seasons, two Finals trips and one title during a stretch in which Nowitzki had more than twice as many All-Star selections as all his teammates put together. Nowitzki, the sixth-leading scorer in NBA history, ranks seventh in win shares, one spot behind Duncan.

“Did you see what I paid him this year?” Cuban said. “He got maxed out except for one contract and then he opted out of that contract and more than made up for it. He is the franchise. Any money I didn’t give to him, I put in my pocket so I was fine with giving it to him.” I asked Cuban if there was any doubt in his mind whether Nowitzki would ultimately retire in a Mavericks uniform? “No,” Cuban replied. “I don’t see why it would be any other way. He’s had plenty of opportunities to leave and he’s chosen not to.”

Dirk Nowitzki on a possible career as Head Coach: “Becoming a Head Coach was never my goal. A Head Coach not only needs to have basketball knowledge, he has to evaluate characters, has to mix them, to motivate – even yell at someone once in a while. That is not part of my personality. I am not the person to stand somewhere and hold a 20 minute speech. I think player development is more my ideal role; I sure learned a lot from Holger Geschwindner about that in the last 20 years. But Head Coach? No way.”

Go out like Kobe or go out like Duncan? Dirk Nowitzki: You know, I loved the way Kobe went out … with a 60-point game? That’s so Kobe like. The whole arena was standing up the whole fourth quarter. So much fun to watch. But I’m more like a Duncan guy. More a quiet guy. I don’t need the limelight as much. Maybe not quite the just e-mail, Hey, by the way Tim Duncan is retiring. I thought that was a little low profile. Maybe there’s a little press conference or something. I don’t know, I don’t really want to think about it because I know it’s gonna come up soon anyway. I’m just gonna enjoy the last couple of years.

He added: “If [Nowitzki] takes care of his body, I think he’s got a couple of more good years in him. And who knows, he might be one of those guys that actually hits 40. But those are decisions that he makes, in terms of what the goal is, and the goal will always be winning with Dirk. No matter what, he’s all about winning, so we’re hopeful that it’s here in Dallas.” Looking to ink Nowitzki to a longer deal this summer, the Mavericks will try to maximize the future Hall of Famer’s final seasons by remaining competitive in the West. But after seeing the emergence of rookie Justin Anderson and second-year standout Dwight Powell this season, the Mavs will also try to surround Nowitzki with a younger supporting cast that’s capable of growing together over the years.

The 37-year-old Nowitzki said he does hope to play at least two more seasons, which would take him to 20 in his legendary career. Currently sitting just more than 500 points away from 30,000 for his career, the German will become just the sixth player in NBA history to reach that milestone. Obviously individual accolades don’t matter to Nowitzki as much as they might to his fans, as the 2011 Finals MVP would rather compete for a second championship in his final seasons in the league.

Dirk Nowitzki: “I signed on for three years a couple years ago. My intention was always to finish this contract. I always said I wanted to retire [with] the Mavs, especially after we won the championship a few years ago. There’s no reason to go anywhere unless the Mavs are rebuilding. I always said that the last couple of years, I’d never want to be a part of rebuilding. Next season, I’ll be 38. As long as we go for it and every summer we add guys and keep competing, then I’ll be a Mav for the rest of my career.”

But the Mavs star said a farewell tour is not something he is interested in. “I don’t want to go into a season knowing this is my last,” Nowitzki said. “I’m going to go from summer to summer and re-evaluate how the body feels after the season. So I don’t think I’m going to have this whole tour where everybody knows I’m going to retire. I’m just going to play as long as I can…It’s going to be, hopefully, a few more years down the road, and then, like I said, when I’m gone, I’m gone.”

“Stats is never really something I played for,” Nowitzki said. “I think if it’s no fun anymore to get up in the morning and go to practice, then I better call it a day. I started playing because it’s a fun sport to me and I’m gonna quit while it’s fun. I’m not going to play another year saying I have to get into the top five [in scoring]. That’s never how my mind worked.” “… But like I said, as long as I get up in the morning, it’s still fun [and] I don’t have to take a bunch of meds to play, I’ll probably play one more.”

Mark Cuban on… whether Dirk would really hate a farewell tour: “Bullshit! Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit, bullshit, bullshit, bullshit! Yeah, he loves that little wave when he comes out and passes a milestone. He loves it. LOOOVES IT! I don’t care what he says. ‘I don’t like going to the All-Star Games. I don’t want a farewell tour.’ He loves it! I remember his first All-Star Game, we literally told him he had to pack a knapsack, just in case we roadtrip from Philadelphia to Miami, and he packed one. Me, him and Nash…Oh my God…the shit we did. Can’t believe it’s been, what, 16 years.”

Unlike Bryant, Nowitzki has no interest in a farewell tour. “I don’t want people to high-five me everywhere I go or make this a big deal about me,” he said. “What [Derek] Jeter did or what the closer, Mariano Rivera, did—every ballpark you get some gifts, you know, sausages in Milwaukee?” Nowitzki shook his head, shifting onto one elbow. “No chance I’d ever do that. I’m not the guy who will say, ‘This is my last year.’?” He paused. “When I’m gone, I’m gone.”

He is 2,810 points away from passing Wilt Chamberlain for fifth on the all-time list, a possibility if Nowitzki opts to play at least one more season after this contract expires. “I mean, 30,000 would be unbelievable, but that’s not something that I would strap it on and say I’ve got to have one more year to get to 30,000,” Nowitzki recently told “I think when it’s enough, it’s enough, when the body can’t do it anymore and it’s not fun anymore. The goal of 30,000 or top five is not what motivates me to do another year. “It’s gotta come natural, gotta be fun. I always said, I started this game for fun, and I’ve got to end it that way. When it’s time, it’s time.”
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