DALLAS - Dirk Nowitzki heard about plans for thousands of fans to meet him at the airport in Dallas to beg him to stay with the Mavericks, so instead he spent the first day of free agency in New York.
Meeting with the Knicks? Or former coach Avery Johnson and the Nets?
Nope. Just hanging out with Mavs point guard Jason Kidd.
“I wouldn’t read anything into this other than Dirk trying to avoid a big scene here,” Dallas president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said Thursday. “I know that there is no ulterior motive.”
Nelson said he remains “cautiously optimistic” that Nowitzki will remain with the Mavs, his only NBA team. Over 12 seasons, Nowitzki has become the club’s career leader in points and rebounds, having won an MVP award and gotten Dallas to the NBA finals. But they haven’t won a title and at 32 he realizes his prime years are fading.
Nowitzki opted out of a guaranteed $21.5 million for next season to become a free agent for the first time. He could re-sign for up to four years and perhaps get a no-trade clause added.
Nelson said he expects Nowitzki in town soon.
“Knowing him it could be any day,” Nelson said. “He could get on any flight and try to slip in. It might be tomorrow, Saturday — who knows. When he gets here, we’ll have a chance to settle quietly into a meaningful, heart-to-heart conversation.”
Kidd has said he’ll do whatever he can to be a recruiter. So maybe their get-together was part Kidd convincing Nowitzki to stay and part gearing up on who they can target as a tandem.
Or maybe Nowitzki wanted to let his friend know face-to-face that he’s got something else in mind.
It’s all part of the uncertainty that is free agency.
Mavs owner Mark Cuban is doing his best to make sure Nowitzki feels loved and appreciated.
Despite the plans for the welcoming committee falling through, the team launched a “DFW Digs Dirk” campaign complete with a website and a song. Special T-shirts are being sold with a bottle of white shoe polish thrown in so fans can decorate their cars and enter a contest for the best design. A downtown building will flash “DFW Digs Dirk” in lights for the next week and a mayoral proclamation will be issued “once Nowitzki has re-signed with the team,” according to a news release.
Until Nowitzki’s future is decided, the Mavericks are in a holding pattern.
Nelson said officials are making calls and monitoring options, but can’t make any moves until their top priority is resolved.