Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki doesn't have much left to prove in his career, having won an NBA title, an NBA Finals and regular-season MVP while nabbing countless other accolades. Perhaps a run at the Kia Sixth Man of the Year award will be in Nowitzki's sights next season as he closes in on the twilight of his career?
The Mavs' offseason addition of free-agent center DeAndre Jordan should bump Nowitzki from the starting center spot he played in some lineups for Dallas over the last few seasons. In his 20 seasons with the Mavs, Nowitzki has started 1,440 of the 1,471 career games he has played with Dallas. As youngsters like Dennis Smith Jr., Harrison Barnes and rookie Luka Doncic fill into the rotation in 2018-19, Nowitzki told reporters yesterday he is open to a reserve role if that is what will help Dallas most.
Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News has more on how Nowitzki may fit into the Mavs' various lineups:
Nowitzki knows that the Mavericks are transitioning to a younger team with new stars. His prime was awesome. But this is a team that has to find a new identity with Dennis Smith Jr., Harrison Barnes, Luka Doncic and Jordan.
"Obviously, DeAndre's going to be our starter at the five position and the rest will just kind of fall in place after that," Nowitzki said. "If [Barnes] goes back to the four or we start other ways, I have no idea as of yet. But it's a great problem to have. We want to be a franchise that is back in the playoffs and plays well and has fun again."
In the last couple seasons, Nowitzki has played well with Devin Harris and J.J. Barea and logically it makes sense for him to help anchor that second unit.
And he's certainly open to the idea of coming off the bench.
"I've always said the last few years, if it makes our team better -- I want to be part of a winning team and if that's what helps us win -- then of course," Nowitzki said. "I have no problem with that. I already told [the training staff] if that's the case, they better keep me loose. We better get a [stationary] bike ready somewhere because if I warm up and sit for 15, 20 minutes, that's going to be an issue."
Coach Rick Carlisle has been opposed to bringing Nowitzki off the bench for years, even though the Mavs' star was open to the idea in early 2017. But, Sefko notes that all that matters to Carlisle this season is winning games.
"Hey, if that's the role, and we play great with it, then I'm all for it," he Nowitzki said. "But that's what camp is for -- to see what works, who works best with each other. So I don't think we necessarily need to answer that question now. But it's definitely something to look at as we go deeper into camp."
Nowitzki recently participated in his first scrimmages with the team since undergoing minor surgery on his left ankle in the offseason. He told reporters on Thursday that he had some mixed results as he works himself back into form.
"The ankle where I had the surgery is actually great," he said. "There were two bone spurs that kind of blocked me from doing things. So they took those out and now there's a lot more movement in the ankle. But all the tendons aren't used to moving that much now. Every now and then, it's a little stiff. I scrimmaged a little last week and on Monday and it hasn't really reacted amazing to it. But we're positive that it'll be fine. By the time we get into camp and especially the regular season, I'll be 100 percent."
The Mavs re-signed the 13-time All-Star Nowitzki this summer after they declined a team option on his contract at the start of free agency to create more salary cap room to add Jordan.
The 40-year-old forward averaged 12.0 points (on 40.9 percent shooting from 3-point), 5.7 rebounds and 1.6 assists during 77 games this season -- his 20th in the NBA. The 12-time All-Star sits 232 points behind Wilt Chamberlain for No. 5 on the NBA's all-time scoring list. Nowitzki is set to become the first player in NBA history to play 21 consecutive seasons for the same franchise. The 7-foot German is one of six players overall, and the only international player, with more than 30,000 career points.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.