Believe it Dirk, No. 7 all-time coming soon

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: Nowitzki optimistic about upcoming season in Big D

DALLAS — When the NBA season opens next Tuesday night with the Dallas Mavericks taking on the defending champion San Antonio Spurs on TNT, two of the greatest power forwards to ever play the game will resume their more than a decade-and-a-half-old rivalry.

San Antonio’s Tim Duncan, 38, enters his 18th season, all with the Spurs. Dirk Nowitzki, 36, begins his 17th season, all with the Mavs. Both players have won titles in the last four years and both accepted  significant pay cuts to help keep their teams competitive. And both will continue to climb multiple all-time lists on their way to enshrinement in The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

When it comes to the latter, all eyes will focus on the 7-foot German’s rapid ascension up the NBA’s most coveted list of all — the game’s all-time greatest scorers.

Nowitzki enters the 2014-15 season at No. 10 with 26,786 career points, a number that just doesn’t seem possible to the Wurzburg, Germany native no matter how many times he hears it.

“Not really. That is still weird to me,” Nowitzki said. “All these guys on that list I admired and watched, so that’s weird. That’s weird.”

Thing is, Dirk, it’s going to get weirder. Fast.

Nowitzki is 161 points away from passing No. 9 Hakeem Olajuwon, arguably the league’s greatest foreign-born player. He’s 528 points from passing No. 8 Elvin Hayes and 624 away from passing No. 7 Moses Malone. If Nowitzki averages 20 points a game, he’ll assume No. 7 all-time just 32 games into the season, his first under a new three-year contract.

At that point, he’ll only be about 1,170 points shy of No. 6 Shaquille O’Neal, a takeover that ultimately might have to wait until next season, but it will happen. Nowitzki would need to average around 24 points if he were to play in no fewer than 75 games to do it this season.

He averaged 21.7 points last season and totaled 1,735 points, the most points he’s scored in a season since topping 2,000 in 2009-10. What Nowitzki will average this season will be intriguing. He’s surrounded by the most potent supporting cast since the 2011 title team.

During that championship season, Nowitzki scored 1,681 points. He missed nine consecutive games with a knee injury and struggled for a time after admittedly returning too early as the team fell apart without him. He played 62 games during the lockout season, struggled with knee issues early, and finished with 1,342 points, and followed that with 917 points in 53 games following knee surgery prior to the start of the season 2012-13 season.

Now, with Chandler Parsons adding scoring pop at small forward in place of Shawn Marion, Tyson Chandler back at center and Monta Ellis capable of dropping 20 a night, owner Mark Cuban has said he doesn’t expect Nowitzki to average 20 a game. In fact, Cuban said he doesn’t want anyone to average 20 because if that happens it will mean coach Rick Carlisle‘s movement-based offense will be getting everybody involved.

Even if his scoring takes an expected dip (just as his minutes are expected to once again), Nowitzki, assuming good health, will pass Shaq no later than early next season. And by the time he’s closing out his contract, No. 5 Wilt Chamberlain (31,419 points) will likely be making room for Dirk, who now says he might even entertain another couple of years once he reaches that point.

“I think that’ll sink in once my career is over and as I get older and more time goes by, I think that’ll be sweet then,” Nowitzki said. “Right now I’m still so worried about winning games, staying in shape, competing with the young guys that come into the league every year. I think stuff like that is going to be way sweeter once my career is over, and then maybe I show my kids and grandkids. That will be unbelievable.”

Duncan begins the season at No. 19 with 24,904 points. He will also continue up the charts with No. 17 Jerry West (25,192), No. 16 Reggie Miller (25,279) and No. 15 Alex English (25,613) all in striking distance before the All-Star break.

However, how high Duncan moves up depends on how two more still-chugging future Hall of Famers do. No. 18 Paul Pierce (25,031) begins his 17th season and first with the Wizards, and No. 14 Kevin Garnett (25,626) is looking for a bounce-back with the Nets in his 20th season.

15 Comments

  1. Walt says:

    Loling at all the Mavs supporters. I like the Mavs i really do and they are going to be a good team
    But the Spurs are elite. Elite in offence, elite in defence, elite team players and ball movers, elite shooters and an elite coach (although Rick Carlisle is up there too).
    Someone above suggested they would be a great defensive side, Parsons and Chandler are the only 2 starters that could be considered good defenders.

    Mavs will probably make the second round, but barring injury they will not beat the spurs.
    Much love to Dirk though, i look forward to him being top 5

  2. Dirk is great and if Steve Nash would have stayed Dirk would be past number 7!!! Congrats to Dirk

  3. AkronsBig Mike #1 fan of LBJ says:

    The Spurs and the Mavs. have improved this year with the talent they added, but everybody is overlooking the fact that the Cavs have a superb cast of supporting and leading players. Each player who is not starting can and will step in and the team will not skip a beat. LaBron is not only the greatest of all, but he is a teacher to the young and gifted playing along side of him. This team wants to win and I pity the teams that play against them. Go Cavs

  4. timothy2123 says:

    Let’s go Dirky.let’s get it mavs.

  5. ryan41 says:

    The Mavs will surely wipe out all their playoffs opponents come post season time and they will rout the cavs in the finals to get their no. 2 Championship in 4 years.

  6. Hunter says:

    I think mavs can do it this year. They can take the title GO MAVS!

  7. ILikeSoap says:

    Ok people, I’m gonna lay it out straight right here and now. The Dallas Mavericks will be your NBA champs this season. They’re an even better team than last year, which as we can all recall, was the only team to really challenge the Spurs in the playoffs. They’re not gonna push for the number one seed in the west, cause Carlisle knows that they don’t have to in order to win the championship. He doesn’t want his them to be all worn out for the playoffs. They will make it to the finals where they will face a cavalier team that is good, but not cohesive enough for a title yet. The defense will come people and the mavs will take title number two home this year.

  8. ism says:

    Mavs have a good foundation and one of the best organizations, most people have them aiming for a 4-8 seed in the West. So, anything can happen but for now, this is not a title contender. However, Monta has probably got to be the leading scorer and with Parsons the scoring could become even more spreaded. Gal Mekel could be a surprising boost as point guard. Given that Dirk steps back a little like Duncan and still is the anchor, they could still grow better for 2 or 3 years… Good thing is that this is a team that we always saw at the best they could achieve, even when they had 2 rather bad seasons after the title. Chemistry won’t be an issue and Carlisle, if anybody, is capable of getting the most out of everything.

  9. Dawn of Da 2nd Bulls Dynasty says:

    Dirk’s lucky to have one ring… & he can thank Kidd for that.

  10. CraigSagerSwag says:

    I like what the Mavs are doing and added but i feel like there still a player or two away from being real good, like a good power forward like david west, to help out the front court, and consistent three point shoot off the bench, and some dfense, thats what won them the title was dfense and there 3 point shoting was really good off the bench, terry, but i do like what there doing, and this is not the last year for a title chance for dirk hes just know geting back to full strength from the knee injures that he had the last few years just put a few more players around him that can help carry the load. Because the spurs are not going to win for ever.

  11. theholyspectator says:

    this is the year for mavs, if they want to win, its got to be this year. if they dont win it this year, dirks shot at title number 2 is over.

  12. harriethehawk says:

    Dallas is good! San Antonio watch out!