There’s no doubt about it: Dirk Nowitzki will eventually be an NBA Hall of Famer.
Universally regarded as the best European player in league history, the 40 year old is entering his 21st season with the Dallas Mavericks and is coming off a campaign in which he averaged 12.0 points and 5.7 rebounds in 24.7 minutes over 77 games.
Playing 1,471 regular-season contests and 145 playoff games, the German sensation has an NBA title under his belt and re-defined what it means to be an NBA big man based on his elite perimeter shooting skills.
Although he’s lost some of his speed and athleticism based on the sheer wear and tear that he’s accrued over the years, it’s wildly impressive that he’s still able to make an impact this late in his career.
Dallas is coming off of a terrible 24-58 campaign, but Nowitzki isn’t ready to walk away and retire now. Since the team signed DeAndre Jordan in free agency and drafted Luka Doncic and Jalen Brunson, they’re most likely going to be a much-improved club this season, especially if second-year point guard Dennis Smith Jr. can take a step forward.
Apparently this might not be Nowitzki’s last year, either.
Keeping an open mind
“I’m going to make that decision (about retirement), I guess, once obviously I see how the season goes,” Nowitzki said, per Dwain Price of Mavs.com. “I almost played the entire season last year, was healthy and obviously could have played almost every game.
Nowitzki had surgery on his left ankle earlier this offseason and is seemingly approaching the new season with a carefree attitude.
“I decided to have surgery early, but if next year is going to go sort of the same, then hey, maybe, and we’ll leave the door open and I’m going to play another (season). But I want to approach this as if there is no tomorrow and then just hopefully have a great year. I’m going to try to be efficient again as I’ve often tried my entire career. We’ll just go from there, but hopefully it’s going to be a lot more fun than last year," he added.
Comically, he noted that his ankle got swollen at Mark Cuban’s birthday party.
“Obviously you don’t heal like you’re 20, so there were some frustrated weeks where I’m partying it up at Cuban’s 60th (birthday) and the next thing you know my ankle is swollen, so there were some frustrating moments,” Nowitzki said. “You know you kind of want to see improvement from week-to-week, from every two weeks to two weeks, and I think that’s been the case."
The aging vet also provided an update of his current progress.
“Now I’m sort of running and sprinting. I haven’t really done a lot of side-to-side stuff, which we’ll add probably a little later here this month. But as we know camp is going to come flying," he explained.
While Nowitzki’s role is not yet defined for the upcoming season, he will undoubtedly provide a great deal of leadership.