- Jean-Jacques Taylor, ESPN Staff Writer
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Dirk Nowitzki is the epitome of what every city wants from its superstar athlete.
Humble. Gracious. Honest.
And, occasionally, self-deprecating, too. He's involved in charity work, and takes his responsibility as the face of the franchise seriously.
Dirk makes himself available after every game. Win or lose, blowout or not, he's there.
And that's why Dirk, who has matured from the 19-year-old kid sporting a hoop earring to a married father of a toddler during his 16 seasons with the Mavericks, has made his name every bit as synonymous with Dallas as Emmitt Smith, Mike Modano or Sonny Bryan's BBQ.
You believe Dirk when he says he cares about the city and considers it as much of his home as Wurzburg, Germany.
And he removed any sliver of doubt skeptics might've had when he signed a deal this week that will pay him $25 million over the next three seasons -- chump change for a player of his skill and accomplishment.
Clearly, Dirk doesn't care, and that says more about Dirk the person than it will ever say about Dirk the basketball player.
He could've demanded more and Mark Cuban would've willingly paid him. He could've reportedly signed a contract with Houston and had a real chance to contend playing a supporting role to Dwight Howard and James Harden, while making a ton of cash.
Or he could've reportedly signed a max deal with the Los Angeles Lakers and teamed with Kobe for an unlikely title run.
Now, Dirk was never going to leave the Mavs. He wants to take one more stab at winning a title in Dallas.
A noble venture, for sure, but has the front office -- Cuban and Donnie Nelson -- given him enough help to get out of the first round?
No matter how you spin it, the Mavs are 0-for-everybody when it comes to landing the "big fish" they've coveted since breaking up the championship team of 2011.
As far as we can tell, Dirk remains the best player on this team. While that's a wonderful testament to Dirk's ability and work ethic, it's also an indictment of the front office's inability to draft or persuade the league's best players to sign with the Mavs.
There's a lot of giddiness surrounding the acquisition of Parsons, which is fine, but aren't you the least bit suspicious about why Houston didn't want to match the offer for a player who averaged 16.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists?
The Mavs have made a flurry of moves in the past few days, but the Western Conference is so ridiculously tough, they still seem destined to finish between sixth and eighth in the playoff chase.
Dirk will be 36 next season. We just can't assume he's going to average more than 20.0 points and be among the NBA's most efficient players again.
It's OK to hope he does, but at this point of Dirk's career, we have to see how every season plays out and whether he can maintain his health the way he did last season as opposed to the previous two seasons.
Parsons and Ellis will be fine, and getting Richard Jefferson and Rashard Lewis to replace some of the 3-point shooting the Mavs lost off the bench with Vince Carter's signing with Memphis was a good idea.
And if the Mavs can persuade Mo Williams to take less money and join the team, then the off-the-bench offense should really be good.
One of the biggest questions is whether you think the 32-year-old Chandler can have the same type of impact as the 28-year-old Chandler? And do you think Raymond Felton can find his game again?
Chandler hasn't played in more than 66 games since he was with the Mavs in 2011, and he averaged single-digits for the first time in four seasons last year. In New York, for what it's worth, they think he's done.
He stayed healthy in Dallas, in part, because he played 27 minutes a game thanks to Brendan Haywood. If the Mavs can keep Chandler in that minute-range, then they'll have a good chance of keeping him on the court for 75 games.
Coach Rick Carlisle, one of the game's best, excels at getting players to maximize their talent. Perhaps, he can do for Felton what he has done for others.
It'll start with him getting Felton to consistently push the ball so the Mavs can start their offense before the defense gets set up.
Even if everything works out in the Mavs' favor, the Western Conference remains rugged.
San Antonio, Oklahoma City, the Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis and Portland remain better. Losing Parsons will hurt Houston, and we have no idea how Golden State will react to coach Mark Jackson's getting fired.
The reality is the Mavs, Rockets, Warriors and Suns will battle for the final three playoff spots.
Obviously, much can still change between now and the start of the season, and even more will change between now and the end of next season.
One thing that won't change is Dirk's legacy in Dallas, no matter how this season goes.
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