Now that Heat fans have discovered that Dirk Nowitzki has an early termination option in his contract that could make him a free agent this offseason, many are asking about a potential tandem with Dwyane Wade in South Florida.
It had been widely assumed throughout the season that Nowitzki will remain with the Mavericks. Dirk even indicated as much prior to the playoffs. But Dallas’ first round ousting, its third such exit in the past four years, left him shocked, his comments unconvincing and people wondering.
I nevertheless continue to believe Nowitzki won’t leave the Mavericks.
Dirk wants to win a championship. That would be the impetus for any potential jump, because otherwise life is exceedingly good in Dallas – the facilities, the staff, and the treatment of players are all first class.
There is simply no compelling alternative in the west. Oklahoma City, which has the most free cap space of all potential western conference contenders, is the only even remotely viable scenario. Dirk would seem to be a perfect fit, and perhaps the missing link to a legitimate title run. The two stadiums are also just 200 miles apart. But the $16.5 million the Thunder could offer is more than $5 million less than he is set to make by remaining in Dallas.
All potential scenarios in the east involve rebuilding projects with questionable pasts and unproven futures. There’s simply too much uncertainty for him to take such a huge risk.
Remaining in Dallas seems logical. Owner Mark Cuban is eager to extend Dirk’s contract, which would have him making $21.5 million next season. And the Mavericks, despite its recent early round playoff exits, continue to be a significant title threat.
Cuban is committed to that end like no other owner in the league.
He spends whatever it takes. His is the only team in the N.B.A. that has both exceeded the tax threshold in every season since 2005/06 — before which there was no tax — and has guaranteed contracts for next season which exceed next season’s projected threshold.
He does whatever it takes. He is reportedly preparing to make a pitch to pair Dirk with prized free agent LeBron James, though I don’t see how in the world such an acquisition would ever come to pass.
Dirk isn’t leaving Dallas.
As far as the Heat is concerned, it’s not such a big loss. Dirk is an elite player. But he also turns 32 next month, commands a salary far too high for the team’s liking (Wade, by comparison, is set to make $5 million less), and he’s not the tough, banger-type that could shift over to the center position in a pinch.
Dirk in Miami? It’s a nice thought, but it’s not going to happen.