At some point far into the future, it's possible that a Dallas Maverick will mean as much to the franchise, and to the city of Dallas, as Dirk Nowitzki. It's possible, in the same way that it's possible that Dak Prescott could finish his career with more Super Bowls than Troy Aikman. One can imagine it happening; it's just exceedingly unlikely.
Nowitzki is the best player ever to suit up for the Mavs, the only player in franchise history to win an MVP award and the leader of the team's only championship squad in 2011. He's a community leader, a delightful presence on Twitter and, as far as everyone knows, an actual good person.
As the Mavericks have spun down from their championship six seasons ago, attempting to rebuild for the future, Nowitzki hasn't threatened to leave for greener pastures, instead continuing to play excellent, if less dominant, basketball. He gave the Mavericks yet another leg up Thursday afternoon as they continue their climb back to the top.
Although he made $25 million during the 2016-17 season, 39-year-old Nowitzki has reportedly agreed to a two-year contract extension worth just $5 million per season, well below what he could've received on the open market. As he's done in the past, the 7-foot superstar is making sure the Mavericks have adequate flexibility under the salary cap to pursue their off-season goals.
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This year, that means keeping the cash available to re-sign restricted free agent center Nerlens Noel, whom the Mavericks acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers at February's trade deadline. Noel's restricted status means the Mavericks have the right to match any offer made to Noel by another team. Under the NBA's collective bargaining agreement, the most a team besides the Mavs can offer Noel is $24.75 million per season. With Nowitzki's contract squared away, the Mavericks have more than that amount available to spend.
Noel is key piece to the Mavs' future success. He's a young, rim-protecting center, one of the hardest commodities to come by in the NBA. In creating the space for Noel's contract, Nowitzki fulfilled the commitment he made to the Mavericks and their fans in April.
"If we're rebuilding, then I'm the face of that. If we're a championship [team], then I'm here for that. I just identified myself with the organization for so long, with the fan base, with the city, that no matter what the franchise is going through, I'm right there to push it through," Nowitzki said during his end-of-season press conference.
While Noel and 2017 first-round draft pick Dennis Smith Jr. won't make the team a championship contender, their presence, alongside Nowitzki, Harrison Barnes and Seth Curry, will make the Mavericks eminently watchable over the next few seasons, which might be the next best thing.