Now in his 20th NBA season, 39-year-old Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki is clearly on the tail end of his career.
Averaging 11.1 points and 5.6 rebounds in 25.0 minutes per game, the future Hall of Famer has performed well below his career averages of 21.5 points and 7.8 boards per contest.
But, he's been efficient during his abbreviated time on the court. In fact, he has knocked down 41.6 percent of his three-point shots, which is his highest mark since the 2009-2010 season, albeit with a smaller sample size.
With 1,423 regular-season games and 145 playoff contests under his belt, the German superstar has accumulated a lot of wear and tear over the years, but he is still able to gingerly run the court and provide offense for his club.
He also has a burning passion for the game of basketball. That has been evident throughout his career with his words and actions.
In a recent interview with Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News, Nowitzki made a surprising statement.
“I’m not going to say 100 percent I’ll be back -- but it’s looking like it,” Nowitzki said. “I feel fine so far. I’ve played every game. I’d love to play all 82. That would be amazing at [age] 39. We’ll see how the body feels. But so far, it’s been fine.”
Going into Thursday night's game against the Golden State Warriors, the Mavericks held a 8-20 record, which was tied for the worst in the Western Conference. Nowitzki signed a two-year, $10 million contract over the summer and the team holds a $5 million option for next season.
Based on who he is and what he's given the organization over the years, the team would presumably pick the option up if he wanted to return.
Since he already won a championship with the Mavs, Nowitzki wants to stay on board through the rebuild.
“We drafted an unbelievable prospect this summer [Dennis Smith Jr.],” he said. “I figured we’re going to be a team that’s rebuilding a little bit and trying to get better and trying to get back to winning ways. ... I signed up for, obviously, two years to help the franchise push through that and get better. I didn’t think we would be sitting here 10 [games] over .500. I mean, I wasn’t delusional. We felt like we might have a shot at sneaking into the playoffs. And we still do. We’ve played the toughest schedule in basketball to this point."
It sounds like Nowitzki has already made up his mind about next season.
“As long as my body feels fine like it has so far, with no setbacks like last year when I missed two months, I’m looking forward to hopefully fulfilling my contract," he explained.
It's not often that the veteran face of a franchise opts to stay in a rebuilding situation, but it's obvious that Nowitzki loves the Mavs franchise and wants to leave it in a good place when he eventually decides to walk away.