Dirk Nowitzki is the Mavs’ free agent alpha, which makes every slight modification in his plans an item of interest.
First, Nowitzki opted to fly to the States rather than have Donnie Nelson meet him in Germany. No big — Dirk calls Donnie before he boards the plane, and Nelson agrees to meet Nowitzki at his home in Dallas. Then, word came that Dirk won’t be coming to Dallas on Thursday at all, but will wait one more day and meet Nelson on Friday. Also not of monumental concern; although the Mavs want to reach an agreement with Dirk as soon as possible, one day isn’t going to make radical difference in their free agent plans either way. However, there is one note that makes that one day layover a bit more interesting: Dirk will be spending it in New York.
Don’t sound the alarm just yet. Even if Dirk chooses to meet with another team (the Knicks and Nets being the obvious possibilities) while in NYC, it really doesn’t make that big of an impact. While it’s better for the Mavs if Nowitzki speaks to them and them alone, there is absolutely no way that Dirk would agree to a deal without first meeting with Cuban and Nelson first, and there’s no way that Cuban and Nelson let Nowitzki go without offering him everything they can. If we know what we think we know about Dirk, he wants to stay in Dallas and he wants to play for a competitive team. It’s likely that neither one of those things would happen in either New York or New Jersey. Both teams are set to make substantial jumps next season if free agency plays out favorably, but their rosters are still very incomplete and on a far different timeline than Dirk.
Maybe Nowitzki really does want to get a second opinion before he signs with the Mavs, or maybe he doesn’t. At the moment, Dirk’s exact motives for staying in New York for a day are unclear (the company line states that Nowitzki is simply trying to stay low-key and dodge the fanfare — believable, though convenient), but we do know that he’ll be meeting with Jason Kidd for dinner. That doesn’t mean much either, but at this point it’s all we’ve got.
Even though everything in the Mavs approach with Dirk seems to have changed, nothing really has. Nowitzki still wants to return, and the Mavs still need him to. Whether the negotiations take place in Dallas or Würzburg matters very little, as does Dirk’s location at this very minute. The Mavs will have their chance to make their pitch, Nowitzki will hear them out, they’ll work together, and almost certainly come to some sort of agreement. Of all of the premier free agents, Dirk’s destination is still the most inevitable, and while news like this gives us something to bat around in the interim, there’s nothing to fret about.