When Nowitzki decided back in late May that he was opting out of his contract with the Dallas Mavericks, his team for the last 12 years, it was a scary moment for everyone in Dallas. Everyone except those that understand the way the NBA works — and more importantly, that understand Dirk.
Dirk is loyal to his Mavericks. He loves the town, the fans and his teammates. He even loves Mark Cuban. And he loved that he got a chance to cash in this summer, for four years and $80 million, when he agreed to terms on a deal that would keep him in Dallas.
Dirk was never planning to leave Dallas. His decision to opt out was simply good business — he had the choice of declining his early termination option, staying in town, and making $20 million next year, but he passed it up.
At age 32, Dirk understands that $20 million now is nice, but $20 million in each of the next four seasons is even nicer. That's a good concept to grasp.
The NBA will be re-working its collective bargaining agreement next summer, and it's unclear at the moment whether massive max contracts for superstars will still be big as ever. Rather than risk it then, Dirk is going for the gold now. He's raking in a lot of it.
In 2001, when the 23-year-old Nowitzki had all the potential in the world, he signed a six-year, $90 million contract extension with the Mavericks. At the beginning of his old contract, Nowitzki was a youngster with a lot of promise. Now he's a veteran with a lot of accolades.
He's now a nine-time All-Star, a 10-time All-NBA selectee, a former MVP (in 2007), and he's the Mavs' all-time leader in virtually every statistical category.
But he's done more than just pile up personal achievements. He's matured and has learned a little about how to do what's best for his team.
Dirk did a big favor to Cuban in agreeing to his new deal with the Mavericks — he agreed to a payday worth significantly less than a maximum contract would have given him. Because of his status as a 12- year veteran in Dallas, he was eligible for a max deal worth up to $96 million, but he cut the Mavs a break by taking less money.
For the loaded Mavericks, that doesn't mean a thing in terms of salary cap room. But it is a nice gesture to Cuban as Dirk has proven that it's not about his ego or his wallet — he thinks it's about winning.
He had a chance to win it all four years ago — he led the Mavs to the NBA Finals in 2006 and a 2-0 lead before they succumbed to Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat. And after coming that close, he's got to be dying for another shot at it.
Dirk cut Cuban a break, leaving a huge chunk of money still on the table. And Cuban's not just going to hoard that cash — he's going to turn around and spend it on a better supporting cast for his franchise big man.
Without cap room, Cuban basically has only the mid-level exception and possibly a couple if sign-and-trade offers to work with. Dirk is making sure Cuban will have the cash to splash around.
The only thing missing from Dirk's resume is an NBA championship, but if the Mavs get creative this offseason, they can find a way to build a real contender.
It's all about the team with Dirk Nowitzki, and the team is all about Dirk. Dirk has always had a good thing going in the Lone Star State — of course he can't leave his Mavs behind.
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