On Tuesday, the Dallas Mavericks closed out a disastrous season with a blowout loss to the similarly-abysmal Phoenix Suns.
At 24-58, the Mavericks finished the year as one of the worst teams in the entire NBA and are in the midst of a complete rebuild.
It was Dirk Nowitzki’s 20th season in the league. Although he’s at the tail-end of his future Hall of Fame career, the 39-year-old big man averaged 12.0 points and 5.7 rebounds in 24.7 minutes per game and therefore showed an ability to produce in limited minutes. He also moved past a number of NBA legends in the record books along the way.
All year, he hinted that he planned on returning next season despite the fact that he’s well past his prime. But, last week, he underwent ankle surgery to remove bone spurs. That created a bit of confusion about his future.
On Tuesday, he confirmed that he will be making a return next season, barring a major setback to his ankle.
"That's the plan," Nowitzki told reporters, per Tim MacMahon of ESPN. "That's why I went ahead and got the surgery, kind of get the whole process started, get the rehab process started early. I'm planning on coming back. … I didn't miss a lot of games this year. I felt fine most of the time. I always said all year that I want to fulfill that two-year contract if possible. I saw nothing this year that was going to stop it. So, as of now, we'll see how the rehab goes the next few weeks and how the ankle responds, but obviously I'm going to work towards the season.”
Interestingly, the iconic German star didn’t state that next year would be his last, suggesting that he might try to keep playing until he is physically unable to perform on the court anymore.
"I'm hoping the ankle will be tons better than this year, and then I'm hoping I can play some decent basketball next year, and we'll kind of go from there," Nowitzki said. "I always kind of leave the end open. It's just hard for me at this point to commit further than one year or say one year is it. I kind of want to see how it goes."
Most importantly, Nowitzki wants to leave the organization in good hands and with a bright future.
"I've said it numerous times: I want to help push through the tough times," Nowitzki noted. "I came into the league here, we had some tough times, didn't make the playoffs a few years. Then we were riding the high time. We won 50 games every year. It seemed like it was easy. We took it for granted. And the last couple of years have been tough, so hopefully I can help the team push through those times. We have some interesting young pieces that can get better and hopefully be cornerstones of this franchise one day. I think we're on the right path. We've just got to keep pushing, and I'm here to help push through.”
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