By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com
DALLAS – Dirk Nowitzki is reaping the benefits of his unselfishness, at least on paper for the moment, anyway. When he sat down this summer to draw up a new contract with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, the term “negotiation” hardly even seems applicable.
“Actually, for us, it was always three-25,” Nowitzki said Wednesday, referring to the exceedingly modest three-year, $25 million deal he signed in July.
Now 36 and entering his 17th season after making his 12th All-Star team, Nowitzki made it known last season that he would give his employer and friend of the last decade-and-a-half a serious discount on a new deal. Chuckling one day not long after Kobe Bryant signed a two-year, $48.5 million extension with the Lakers, Nowitzki said he wouldn’t be taking the Kobe deal.
Still, Nowitzki’s final figure fell below even what most league observers would have viewed as generous. It had mostly been assumed that Nowitzki would follow the Tim Duncan blueprint, a three-year, $30-million deal the Spurs great signed when he was 36. Nowitzki “negotiated” an even lower price.
“I think somebody reported it a little more, but that was never the deal,” Nowitzki said. “We agreed on three-25 from the beginning on. How’d we get that number? I’m not sure. It was just about leaving a lot of cap space and going for players. We already had Tyson [Chandler] at the time. Mark and [president of basketball operations] Donnie [Nelson] obviously made it clear we’d love to get some more pieces, so that’s the number we settled on.
“I’m glad it worked out with Parsons because if a guy’s restricted, you’ve got to throw a lot of money at him, and it worked that way. I’m glad he’s here.”
Three-point shooting small forward Chandler Parsons is indeed wearing Mavericks blue because of the Nowitzki savings. Cuban floored rival Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey by offering the 25-year-old Parsons a three-year deal in excess of $45 million. When Morey passed on matching, Parsons, who never made $1 million in any of his first three seasons, instantly became Dallas’ second-highest-paid player, a hundred-thousand or so shy of re-acquired center Chandler.
Nowitzki actually ranks fourth on Dallas’ 2014-15 payroll, also behind Monta Ellis. Paying Parsons $14.7 million this season with raises of about $700,000 in each of the following two seasons might seem like a hefty price. But taken as a package with Nowitzki, it’s practically ideal. Nowitzki’s low cost also helps the club in the coming summers when Dallas again will be flush with cap space.
Getting Parsons was a game-changer for Dallas, which has been moving players in and out ever since Cuban decided to dismantle the 2011 championship team following the lockout and ratification of a new collective bargaining agreement. After a first-round sweep by the Thunder in 2012, missing the playoffs after a dozen years in 2013 and nabbing the eighth seed at the wire last season, the Mavs are younger, more athletic and seemingly more capable at both ends, and they’re back in the conversation at least as a Western Conference contender.
“I always trust Mark and Donnie,” Nowitzki said. “Did I like us letting everybody go after the championship? Obviously not, we all know that. They were my boys and we just won it all, so we would have loved to get a chance to repeat.
“But I trusted Mark and Donnie with the business decision that they had to make after the lockout. And then I think it took us a while to get our feet back under us after that decision. We tried for some free agents, we didn’t get them, and last year we started slowly building something.
“I think we got a lot better again this summer. Tyson should help us a lot. I think Chandler (Parsons) is going to be a nice player on the wing for us. So I think we’re a good team, but you know how the West is. It’s going to be tough to break into the top three or four, they’re so good up there. But we’re going to try. Hopefully we’ll stay injury-free and see what happens.”
None of it happens, however, if Nowitzki had not “negotiated” that three-25.