Rockets Interested in Dirk?
The Houston Rockets are interested in Dirk? Wait. What?! It’s an odd, almost-throwaway line in the fifth paragraph of an Adrian Wojnarowski story on Yahoo Sports that is actually about Houston’s Chandler Parsons.
Maybe there’s confusion because Dirk is to be ‘renounced.’ Maybe Woj is just doing some back-scratching. Maybe the Rockets are trolling Mark Cuban as they did a year ago regarding Dirk Nowitzki’s availability. But ‘Dirk-to-Houston’ is a tale that suddenly has legs. Legs we’re happy to amputate with facts.
Houston plans to pursue the major stars who could be available upon opting out of deals, including Miami’s LeBron James and Chris Bosh, and New York’s Carmelo Anthony, league sources said. Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki is expected to be a target too. The Rockets are pursuing Minnesota’s Kevin Love in trade talks too….
In my humble opinion this mention of Dirk-to-Houston merits deeper explanation, at some point, from the respected Woj. In the meantime, I can handle it from the Dirk-in-Dallas angle. Dirk Nowitzki’s cap hold, until he signs or is renounced, is $23.86 million. If the Dallas Mavericks were to retain his Bird Rights and not renounce him, they’d only have about $7 million in summer cap room instead of the $31 million they are planning on (as detailed here). http://mavericks.scout.com/2/1387979.html
And so … Dirk might be “renounced.” Which sounds like an awful, scary thing….. and to the uninitiated, may make him sound “available.”
But Nowitzki will be back with the Mavs in 2014-15 and beyond. This is preordained. There are a few provisions he’s hoping for with his new deal. But these aren’t going to be problematic negotiations. Just ones that require patience.
“We’ll find a good way where I feel respected for what I did and where we still have enough money left for us to get great players in here,” Nowitzki said recently. “Cubes has been great to me, has been loyal to me for a long, long time. I’m sure we’re going to find a great solution for everybody.”
“Respect.” That means no “veteran’s minimum” for the man who remains this team’s best player and — despite Dallas’ best efforts to upgrade — could remain just that over the course of the next two years or so. But that “respect” is volleyed back to Cuban, Donnie and Carlisle — “The Triangle of Trust” — in such a way that Dirk knows asking for a Kobesque $24-mil-a-year deal would be crippling to the Mavs franchise.
Dirk has no intention of crippling the franchise he loves. “I have no idea honestly what it will be right now,” Nowitzki said of the exact dollar figure. “But like I said, Donnie and Mark were talking to me planning this summer and we’ll figure something out.”
What they will first figure out is how best to attempt to spend that $31-to-$32 million — and that doing so is more about luring fresh new talent into town than it is “keeping The Boys In Blue together.” And then, after whatever new talent is secured, a “respectable leftover” — $10 mil a year? $12 mil a year? — is earmarked for Dirk.
Nowitzki’s four-year, $80-million contract expires on July 1. Maybe he could command that sort of annual salary again if he wished. But like Tim Duncan of the Spurs — a player and franchise he respects very much — you can bet he sees the wisdom of their $10-mil-a-year arrangement.
All involved need to take time to breathe. Soon enough, Dirk will return to twice-a-week weight training (“As you get older, you need to do more of that, not less,” he said). He will take a family trip to Europe, go backpacking and spend some time “on a beach.” But his homebase will be Dallas and as much as ever he will serve in his capacity of “unofficial assistant GM” at Mavs HQ.
(Note: At the risk of overcomplicating things, regarding the “Dirk renouncing” angle, it’s possible Dallas will juggle things so he is never technically renounced while at the same time Dallas never technically is under the cap. … because the team can keep its cap-hold players on the books until the switch is actually flipped. This applies to Dirk, and to Marion and Carter if the Mavs eventually retain them. Again, it’s a nuanced technicality but worth noting when we talk “renouncing.”)
So where does this story come from? Maybe Woj simply felt an obligation to write the information he was given. Maybe the Rockets are trolling the Mavs, as they did a year ago after they beat out Dallas in the Dwight Howard sweepstakes and then playfully inquired about the availability of The UberMan. Maybe this is simply covering every base (like the relatively paltry Dallas bid that will come on Love) with one important difference: Love wants out of Minnesota. Dirk is staying in Dallas. The Triangle of Trust knows how fortunate it is to have Dirk as its fourth corner.
“Obviously, Dirk’s not going anywhere,” GM Donnie Nelson said recently. “He’s built this franchise. He’s been with us from day one. Certainly, there’s negotiations to take place, but he loves this city and he wants to call it his home. We certainly reciprocate those feelings, so our hope is we’ll get something done that’s not only in Dirk’s best but also affects the flexibility of the future of the Mavericks.”