It’s the ninth day of July in the year 2014, and the entire NBA is at a standstill. GMs, coaches, players under contract, fans and nearly all free agents alike find themselves sitting on their hands or twiddling their thumbs, collectively waiting for two superstar free agent small forwards to choose the teams with whom they will continue their careers.
All teams other than the Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat appear to be waiting around for the decision of LeBron James as a formality more than anything at this point, as they look to be the favorites in that race. Despite the low likelihood of being selected, however, no team that can afford either player financially can afford to move on from either player until the competition is officially decided.
With that being the case, and with these players enjoying the attention as much as they seem to, we wait.
With the basketball world frozen in place, it’s challenging to create compelling reading for an audience on a daily basis. I think we, the members of a basketball-loving community, can all agree that if we read one more article rearranging words to convey the same messages regarding the “best fit” for Anthony, or a team sitting down with James’ agent Rich Paul, we’re going to throw up.
Both players will make their decisions when they do, and it would be refreshing to discuss some topics that have nothing to do with them until they do.
That brings us to this: Dirk Nowitzki is what every team should want in the face of its franchise.
In a world where an aging, injured and recently often absent Kobe Bryant accepts a mountain of money that cripples the financial flexibility in Los Angeles; where James shouts from the rooftops that nothing is more important than the opportunity to continue competing for championships, then keeps completely silent for the first two weeks of free agency, only speaking publicly to state that he will not accept anything less than a maximum-level contract; where the Knicks have become the favorites to lock down the services of Anthony next season even though Anthony himself would not claim that New York would give him the best chance to win a title; Nowitzki — by far the most important player in the history of his team’s existence — just accepted a tremendous pay cut because it gives the Dallas Mavericks the opportunity to improve and take big steps toward another NBA Championship.
Like every other player in the league, Nowitzki says he wants to do whatever it takes to win, but unlike most of those players, his behavior and decisions make it clear that he means it. You could say the same about Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs. Outside of those two players, you would be hard-pressed to find a franchise-type guy who has actually shown us that winning championships is more important than getting paid.
Fans of the Mavericks should take some time to give thanks for Nowitzki, not just as a player, but as a man. He has never accepted a major endorsement. He has never made a bunch of noise to get the spotlight off of someone else and onto him. He has endured some difficult times and gone through some drama in his personal life, but he has never brought it with him to a press conference.
He has been an absolute superstar on the basketball court for a decade and a half, but he has never forced the Mavericks, the only team he will ever play for, to carry around any baggage attributed to most superstars.
Nowitzki wants to play basketball, and more than that, he wants to win in the sport of basketball. He has never shown an interest in anything else like celebrity, attention, glitz and glamour. He’s getting older, but his game has proven to age well. His jump shot continues to fall, his footwork continues to dazzle, and he continues to compete at a high level.
In fact, if you turn down the volume on ESPN, where the indecision of James and Anthony continues to dominate, you might hear something that sounds like Nowitzki dropping in another mid-range jumper, because he’s getting ready to compete in the 2014-15 basketball season. Privately.