Jason Kidd smiled. More than Media Day positivity, it was as if Kidd were laughing to himself over a joke that was never told. “Nah, I slept well this summer,” Kidd said, still grinning, now chuckling. “I wasn’t worried about Dirk.”
Dirk Nowitzki’s free agent flirtations didn’t cost Kidd a wink. The same could likely be said of many Mavs fans, who considered the star’s return a virtual certainty. Yet that sound you heard when Nowitzki agreed to a new four-year deal with Dallas this summer?
One giant collective sigh of relief.
Kidd may not have been worried. Mavs fans may not have been worried. Even Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson may not have been worried. But don’t think that all of those parties, confident or not, were oblivious to the magnitude of Nowitzki’s decision. Had some team caught Dirk’s eye, everything — the 50 win seasons, the quasi-contention, the well-paid roster built to compliment his talents — would have come crashing down. It didn’t. Dallas may not have the same bright hope for the coming season that Los Angeles and Miami bask in, but they certainly have that.
“I looked around,” Nowitzki said, “but this is where my heart was. It wouldn’t have felt right to put another uniform on. The fans, and everybody here, and Mark, obviously, and Donnie have been so loyal to me over the last 12 years that it would’ve felt like running away a little bit in a way.”
Still, Nowitzki wasn’t so swayed by his loyalty as to dismiss reason. There are valid justifications for “running away,” and one of them was put before him at Media Day: What if LeBron James and Dwyane Wade had called Nowitzki up to present him with the basketball opportunity of a lifetime? What if, instead of Chris Bosh, it could be Dirk Nowitzki playing with two top-five players?
“It would’ve been tough,” Nowitzki said. “That would’ve been something I would have had to think about very hard. My goal is a championship, and that would obviously have been a nice option to have. But it’s something that never happened so I never really had to think about it.”
In terms of NBA stars, Nowitzki is as reliable as they come. His production is rock steady, and his keel absurdly even. He’s grounded. He’s loyal. He’s a walking, talking 25 and eight, and his absurdly dependable production and efficiency can be written on the stat sheet in pen before the season even begins. Let Nowitzki’s comment serve as a reminder, though, that his trademark statistical exploits didn’t have to come with him in a Maverick uniform. Sometimes even the most consistent of stars on the most consistent of teams can be prey to mere falling dominoes. They never fell Dirk’s way. He never got that phone call, and Nowitzki is every bit the Maverick he’s always been.
Smile. You were never worried.