Dallas Mavericks: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

ESPNDallas.com will compare the Mavericks, Lakers and Rockets in five facets -- other than money -- that could play a role in Dwight Howard's free agency decision in a one-per-day series: owners/front office, coaches, co-stars, supporting casts and franchise tradition. We focused on Chris Paul last week.

The list of teams that can match the Lakers’ tradition is awfully short.

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Mark Cuban joins ESPN Dallas GameDay to discuss the Mavericks' plans, the free-agent market and what possibilities there are for Dallas.

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In fact, it features just one team, and the Celtics aren’t going to be involved in this summer’s Dwight Howard derby. The Mavs and Rockets certainly have respectable traditions, but they can’t come close to comparing with a franchise that has 16 NBA championships.

Of course, all-time great big men are a big part of the Lakers’ championship tradition. George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal set a sky-high standard for centers who wear purple and gold. That might not necessarily help the Lakers’ cause in trying to keep Howard.

There’s a ton of pressure that comes along with following that line of legends in the nation’s second largest media market. Shaq’s disdain for Dwight, which manifests itself in many nationally televised verbal jabs, doesn’t help matters. There’s a theory that Howard would prefer to create a different path instead of simply following Shaq’s Orlando-to-Los Angeles footsteps.

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Galloway & Company discuss Chris Paul's situation with the Clippers. Paul is unhappy being linked to the firing of his former coach. Could he join the Mavericks?

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And what if Howard doesn’t win a title with the Lakers? That’s a distinct possibility with his fellow future Hall of Famers on the roster closer to the rocking chair than the prime of their careers. He’d be perceived as perhaps the biggest letdown in Lakers history, the lone perennial All-Star big man incapable of lifting his team to the top of the league.

How heavily will that weigh on the mind of a man who has made it clear he’s searching for happiness this summer?

If Howard goes to Houston, he’ll be constantly compared to Hakeem Olajuwon, a Hall of Famer and two-time Finals MVP.

To a lesser degree, there will also be comparisons to Moses Malone and Yao Ming. However, as dominant as Malone was during his Houston days, he never won a ring with the Rockets and isn’t a Houston legend. Ming only got out of the first round once during his injury-abbreviated career.

The Rockets have tradition, but it’s been years since Houston has been considered a legitimate contender. Over the last decade and a half, the Rockets have been a distant third among NBA franchises in this state. The scrutiny wouldn’t be anywhere close to as suffocating as it is in L.A.

All due respect to James Donaldson and Tyson Chandler, but Howard would be the best big man in Mavs history as soon as he tied his shoes. There could still be some unflattering comparisons for Howard when it comes to Chandler’s excellent intangibles, but there’s no question that Howard is the superior center.

While only one championship banner hangs on the Mavs’ side of the American Airlines Center, this franchise has established an impressive winning tradition during Mark Cuban’s ownership tenure. (Or during Dirk Nowitzki’s career, if you want to assign credit to the man who did more heavy lifting.)

The Mavs and Rockets can’t stack up to the Lakers’ tremendous tradition, but that might be a good thing in the Dwight sweepstakes this summer.

EDGE: That all depends on Dwight’s mindset … which infamously can change with the wind.
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?

Think again.

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.
Jason Kidd will rest during the Mavs' regular-season finale, which means that he'll fail to record a triple-double in a season for the first time in his 18-year career.

Kidd came within one point of a triple-double earlier this month, when he had 10 rebounds and 12 assists in a win over the Golden State Warriors. His 107 career triple-doubles rank behind only Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson in NBA history and are more than the combined total of the next four active triple-double leaders (LeBron James, Grant Hill, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett).

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Kidd's 17 consecutive seasons with a triple-double is by far the longest such streak in NBA history. Next on that list: Johnson (12), Robertson (11), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (10) and Larry Bird (9).

Jason Kidd: 'I would like to get to 20'

December, 9, 2011
12/09/11
7:24
PM CT
DALLAS -- Jason Kidd has found reason to keep playing this game.

"I got to keep playing because Jet wants to now pass Peja on the 3-point list," Kidd joked Friday. "And I don’t want him to pass me."

Jason Terry is eighth all-time in 3-pointers made and sits 90 behind No. 4 Peja Stojakovic and 145 away from the No. 3 man in NBA history, Kidd. Terry is four years younger so it figures he has the upper hand by the time both call it a career.

Not so fast. Who's saying Kidd plans on calling it a career any time soon? After completing the first practice Friday of his 18th NBA season -- and final one under contract with the Dallas Mavericks -- Kidd said he wants to play 20 seasons.

"I would like to get to 20," said Kidd, who turns 39 in March. "I think that would be a great feat through everybody forgetting my name and always just calling me old. You can call me '20' at that point. I think it’ll be something. As a kid, you just think about playing. When you look back at it if you can go past eight years than your like, 'Man I had a great career.' Now it’s going on 18, so why stop now?"

Especially after the remarkable postseason run Kidd put together in winning his first championship. He was spectacular with the ball in his hands and he received widespread praise for his defensive chops against some of the game's best offensive weapons, some of whom entered the league a decade or more after Kidd was drafted second overall by the Mavs in 1994.

"I feel great, so if I can survive this sprint of 66 games," Kidd said, "we’ll see how I feel come next year."

This season will be a unique challenge with the delayed start due to the labor strife. After a two-week training camp, one in which coach Rick Carlisle said he will tread lightly with his old-man at the point, the shotgun season takes off with an immediate back-to-back and no sympathy. There'll be 20 of those, plus a back-to-back-to-back and some wild stretches such as seven games in nine nights and nine in 12.

"You never know what happens in this league. You just play it out and hopefully my talent will stay at a respectable level that I can help a team out," Kidd said. "You know I would love to stay here and finish it out. I would like to get to 20 years. There's probably some individual goals there to be reached, some not to be reached, but we’ll see what happens."

Kidd won't get an extension this season, but there's no reason to believe that owner Mark Cuban wouldn't re-sign a still-effective Kidd for a 19th season and then even possibly to a 20th season when he would turn 41.

It would be quite a feat. Only Robert Parrish (21 seasons), Kevin Willis (21 seasons) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (20 years) can claim 20-year NBA careers. This season Kidd will match Reggie Miller and Cliff Robinson at 18 seasons, and if he suits up for a 19th season he'll join Karl Malone and John Stockton.

As for individual records, Kidd is already second all-time in career assists and too far behind Stockton no matter how long he might play. He won't reach newly crowned 3-point king Ray Allen or Miller in second. However, Kidd is eyeing a move up one all-time chart and he won't need to play 20 seasons to get there. He needs just 38 steals to pass Michael Jordan for second all-time in steals. Kidd had 134 steals last season, plus another 40 in 21 playoff games.

"I have a good reference on this because I had Reggie Miller when he was 39 and at that point he was averaging 33, 34 minutes for us at Indiana and he was scoring 16 to 18 points a game and he was still big-time player," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "Reggie chose to stop at age 39, he felt that was enough for him, but Jason Kidd is very similar to Reggie -- takes great care of his body, has great love and respect for the game and he’s adapted as the years have gone on, not only to the way the game has changed, but the way his skills have changed. And when I say his skills have changed, things he’s added to his game, not anything he’s lost. He’s a very unique person. You see guys like this about once or twice a decade."

Who knows how long Kidd can go? But, it is interesting that his goal of 20 seasons meshes with his 33-year-old teammate Dirk Nowitzki, who begins his 14th season with two more to go on his current contract.

"I would love to keep going," Kidd said. "I was joking with Dirk, I said we can retire together."

Where does Dirk rank among NBA legends?

May, 10, 2011
5/10/11
12:42
PM CT
DALLAS – Rick Carlisle’s take on Dirk Nowitzki’s place in NBA history is on the record.

"In my opinion, he's a top 10 player in NBA history because of the uniqueness of his game and how he's carried this franchise on his back for over a decade," Carlisle told "ESPN First Take" on Monday.

All due respect to Dirk, but that seems to be a slight exaggeration. There’s still plenty of time to prove his coach right – and it’ll take at least one title to do so – I’d rank Nowitzki somewhere in the upper teens or lower 20s right now.

Nowitzki ranks 23rd on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, and he’ll likely end up in the top six by the time he finishes the four-year contract he signed last summer. But it’s not stepping out on a limb to suggest that some players who rank below him on that list – Bill Russell, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Tim Duncan, Julius Erving and John Stockton – are on a tier above Dirk among the league’s legends.

One man’s opinion on the top 10 players in NBA history at this point (and it’s assumed LeBron James will earn a spot here in the near future):

1. Michael Jordan
2. Wilt Chamberlain
3. Bill Russell
4. Magic Johnson
5. Larry Bird
6. Oscar Robertson
7. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
8. Tim Duncan
9. Kobe Bryant
10. Hakeem Olajuwon

Can Dirk crack a list that even Shaq didn’t? It’d take a phenomenal finish to his Hall of Fame career.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Dirk Nowitzki
PTS AST STL MIN
21.7 2.7 0.9 32.9
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsD. Nowitzki 6.2
AssistsM. Ellis 5.7
StealsM. Ellis 1.7
BlocksB. Wright 0.9