Dirk Nowitzki’s got jokes.
The 35-year-old German will be a free agent this summer after a bounce back season where he averaged 21.7 points per game, up over four points from his average last year, and helped the Dallas Mavericks push the San Antonio Spurs to the brink of elimination in the first round of the playoffs.
However, while Nowitzki can obviously still play at a high level in this league, he figures to take a rather large pay cut this summer in order to free up enough space for the Mavs to pursue high quality players during free agency.
Nowitzki made $22.7 million this season, though, in theory, signing a Tim Duncan-like deal in the $10-million-per-year range would be the best option for the Mavs moving forward.
It seems that Dirk recognizes this, joking during his end of season interview that he doesn’t foresee himself signing a deal like Kobe Bryant’s this summer.
“We want to get better as a team,” Nowitzki said, according to Eddie Sefko from the Dallas Morning News. “And I’m pretty sure I’m not going to sign Kobe’s deal – unfortunately (Bryant signed a two-year, $48-million extension). “We’ll find a good way where I feel respected for what I did and we still have enough money left for us to get great players in here. Cubes has been great to me and been loyal to me for a long, long time. I’m sure we’re going to find a great solution for everybody.”
Bryant has been widely criticized for the $48 million deal he signed last year, though Kobe is a different player to Dirk and Tim. While Nowiztki and Duncan may be “the man” for their respective teams, they’re not the same kind of draw on and off the court as Bryant is. Kobe will bring fans to the arena and will get people to watch on TV, too. He’ll also help sell merchandise and keep the team relevant.
Lakers ownership – Jerry, Jeanie and Jim Buss – all wanted Bryant to go out as an appreciated member of the Lakers’ family, and so the deal made sense from that aspect, too.
Bryant’s deal will also enable the Lakers to add another max level free agent this summer or the next and in 2016, too, when the final year of the five-time NBA champion’s contract is set to expire, so things really aren’t as bad as they seem in Hollywood right now.