The Dallas Mavericks have eight games remaining this season.
Although the franchise is in the midst of a rebuild, one important question remains. Will the next eight games be the last times we see NBA legend and future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki take the court?
Averaging just 12.2 points and 5.6 rebounds in 24.8 minutes per contest, all of which are the lowest marks since his rookie season, Nowitzki is clearly at the tail-end of his career. But, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been able to make a positive impact with his patented finessed-style of play.
In fact, he’s shooting 41.9 percent from three-point range this season. That’s the second-best mark of his career. If he makes a few more at a high percentage, he could easily eclipse his career-high mark of 42.1 percent from the 2008-2009 campaign. Therefore, he still might have something to offer on the court in addition to his leadership ability off of it.
As he previously indicated a few times this season, the answer is pretty clear-cut to him right now regarding next season.
The 39-year-old big man is most likely returning for his 21st season in Dallas.
“As of now, I’m planning to come back,” Nowitzki told Marc Stein of the New York Times. “I feel great. I’ve only missed one game all season. I signed a two-year contract because I wanted to play two more years. And here we are.”
If Nowitzki does indeed return, he will break a record that he shares with Kobe Bryant. Right now, both he and Kobe have played 20 seasons for the same team.
Additionally, Nowitzki will most likely pass Wilt Chamberlain to move into fifth place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list if he comes back and remains healthy next season.
The news of his return shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. In fact, he’s dropped some major hints throughout the year.
“I’m not going to say 100 percent I’ll be back -- but it’s looking like it,” Nowitzki told Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News back in December. “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.”
At the time, he revealed that he didn’t want to leave he beloved franchise until they had a strong core in place.
“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.”
Since he’s maintained his health all season, he should be good to go, barring any late-season ailments that could derail those plans.
“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,” Nowitzki explained.
Although he will already go down as one of the best players to ever step on an NBA court and has cemented his legacy as the best European player of all-time, it’s clear that he isn’t ready to walk away from the game quite yet. Since he has meant so much to the Mavericks franchise over the years, he will most likely be able to go out on his own terms.
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