Thursday, July 1, 2010
Nowitzki changes travel plans again
By Jeff Caplan
A second last-minute travel change by Dirk Nowitzki in as many days again initially caught Dallas Mavericks president Donnie Nelson off-guard and will further delay a meeting that is expected to yield a new contract for the unrestricted free agent.
Expected to arrive in Dallas on Thursday, Nowitzki and adviser Holger Geschwindner are now expected Friday, the team announced in an e-mail. Nelson was at the airport on Wednesday, prepared to board a plane bound for Germany until Geschwinder called and told him he and Nowitzki were flying to Dallas.
Nelson later learned that Nowitzki was stopping in New York because he didn't want to deal with all the fanfare that was expected to meet him in Dallas upon arrival. He also said he had no knowledge of Nowitzki having any meetings arranged with other teams.
"It doesn't matter if it's today or tomorrow," Nelson said. "We are going to have a discussion."
Mavericks guard Jason Kidd said he is having dinner Thursday night in New York with Nowitzki.
"I'm going to do whatever I have to do," Kidd said. "I told them I'd go to Germany if I need to.
"Dirk is Dirk. He's not for all that glitz and glamour."
What these twists mean in terms of Nowitzki's thinking is unclear. The face of the franchise became an unrestricted free agent late Wednesday night for the first time in his career. It has been widely presumed that Nowitzki would quickly agree in principle to a four-year, $96 million contract and then serve as a recruiter as the Mavs try to improve the team through free agency.
On Wednesday, Nelson stressed that Nowitzki fully understood that the Mavs' pursuit of other top free agents can't genuinely begin until those players can be assured that Nowitzki is committed to the Mavs.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, meanwhile, was scheduled to return to Dallas on Thursday after spending the week in Los Angeles, team sources told ESPN.com's Marc Stein.
Sources say that the possibility of Cuban meeting with prospective free agents such as Joe Johnson and Amare Stoudemire in L.A. while shooting a cameo role in HBO's hit show "Entourage" was never a priority for the team, because the Mavericks acknowledge that they are only a sign-and-trade contender for elite free agents and that those players are more apt to meet first with teams with salary-cap space.
Jeff Caplan covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.