- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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Think Dirk Nowitzki was sending a subtle message to Mark Cuban with his tweet after playing two more years and then seeing how he feels?
It was just an honest answer to a fan’s question. That’s it.
Nothing has changed for Nowitzki in terms of how he views his basketball future once this contract expires. He has consistently said since he signed the four-year, $80 million deal that it could be his last NBA contract.
Nowitzki’s loyalty to the Mavs, and Cuban, hasn’t wavered. He made that clear later during his impromptu weekend Twitter Q&A when asked why he doesn’t try to jump to a so-called super team.
“I bleed blue,” Nowitzki replied.
Maybe the quality of the Mavs’ roster will influence Nowitzki’s decision on whether to continue his career into his late 30s. Maybe he’ll figure he needs to play for a legitimate contender to muster the competitive fire at that point in life.
Perhaps Nowitzki’s family life will be a major factor, too. He got married this summer. Maybe he’ll decide to become a stay-at-home dad.
But here’s betting that Dirk’s decision comes down to how his then-36-year-old body feels after 16 seasons of the NBA grind.
Nowitzki’s knee trouble early in last year’s lockout-shortened season was the first sign of wear and tear taking its toll. The Mavs hope and believe, however, that the knee soreness was a result of the sudden end to the lockout and compressed schedule, not necessarily a painful sign of things to come.
Nevertheless, Nowitzki is likely to have logged close to 50,000 NBA minutes, including playoffs, by the time his contract expires. Plus, that 7-foot frame made a ton of trips up and down the floor while playing for Germany in international competition.
On the other hand, Nowitzki’s game should age well. It isn’t as if he became one of the best power forwards of all-time because of awesome athleticism.
It’s not like Nowitzki will suddenly lose his shooting touch in his old age. He preferably wouldn’t have to create his own shot so often and carry the Mavs’ offense on his shoulders, but Nowitzki could be a scoring threat until his blond hair goes gray.
And Nowitzki has the benefit of working on a daily basis with Mavs athletic trainer Casey Smith, who is widely considered one of the best in the business and happens to be one of No. 41’s best friends.
While Nowitzki has never focused on his numbers, there’s something to be said for cracking the 30,000-point barrier, an exclusive club that includes only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain and should be joined by Kobe Bryant this season. Nowitzki will probably need two more pretty good seasons to get there after this deal is done.
If his body is still able, it’s hard to envision Nowitzki not being willing to continue cashing Cuban’s checks and knocking down jumpers in a Mavs uniform.