(Reuters) - Picturing Dirk Nowitzki playing for anyone other than the Dallas Mavericks would take some getting used to and the German forward hopes he never has reason to slip out of the silver and blue.
Following Monday’s season-ending loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder many wondered if Nowitzki, who has not been beyond the first round of the playoffs since leading Dallas to an NBA title in 2011, will opt out of his contract and become a free agent.
But the highest-scoring foreign-born player in NBA history, who continues to perform at a high level and would garner plenty of interest as a free agent, wants to stick with the only NBA team he has ever played for so long as they make some improvements.
”When I signed on for three years a couple years ago, my intention was always to finish this contract,“ Nowitzki told reporters. ”But ... I always said that the last couple of years that I never want to be part of any rebuilding.
“Next season I’ll be 38. But as long we go for it, and every summer we add guys and keep competing then I’ll be a Mav for the rest of my career.”
Nowitzki’s Mavericks needed a late surge just to secure a playoff spot but were unable to carry that momentum into their best-of-seven first-round matchup where they lost in five games to a younger, healthier and better Thunder squad.
Now it is up to Mavericks management to add the pieces necessary to ensure they can convince Nowitzki that he can win a second NBA championship with Dallas rather than with another contender.
Following the loss to Oklahoma City, it was Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle who brought up the fact that the future Hall of Famer can opt out of his contract and become a free agent.
Carlisle was very clear in saying that he will go to great lengths to make sure Nowitzki, a 13-time NBA All-Star who was the Most Valuable Player for the 2006-07 season, stays a Mav.
“I‘m ready to get on a plane and go to Germany and recruit him to be back, but I don’t think we can take that for granted. I think we have to give him that kind of respect,” said Carlisle.
”He’s done so much for our organization. He’s sacrificed so much. And it’s been such a life-changing experience for me to be around a player of that magnitude.
“It’s indescribable. I think he will be back, but I don’t want anybody to just assume anything, because he’s been too great.”
Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Steve Keating