DALLAS — Dirk Nowitzki’s intention to take a “significant pay cut” next summer will be part of the Mavericks’ sales pitch in July as they attempt to sign a superstar in free agency.
If the Mavs are able to meet with Chris Paul and/or Dwight Howard, Nowitzki plans to promise them that he’ll be extremely flexible in his next negotiations with owner Mark Cuban, ensuring that Dallas will have ample space under the salary cap to acquire more talent in the summer of 2014.
“At this point of my career, it’s all about competing and winning,” Nowitzki said Thursday after an event to promote AT&T’s “It Can Wait” program, which urges people not to text and drive. “It’s not about money. Obviously, Cuban took care of me for a long, long time. I always tried to pay him back by hard playing and being here for this franchise, so I don’t think we’re going to fight over money. I want to compete over these last couple of years. That’s going to be the goal.”
Nowitzki gave the Mavs a hometown discount on his current contract, signing a four-year, $80 million deal instead of taking the maximum of $96 million. The Mavs won the franchise’s first NBA title the next season, when Cuban essentially used most of the savings on Nowitzki’s deal to acquire Tyson Chandler in a salary-dump trade from the Charlotte Bobcats.
The 34-year-old Nowitzki, who will make $22.7 million in the final year of his contract next season, still has a higher salary than every NBA player except for Kobe Bryant.
With some tinkering, the Mavs would have enough cap space to sign Paul or Howard to a max deal this summer. At this point, the only contracts on the Mavs’ books for 2014-15 are team options on the rookie deals for Jared Cunningham and Jae Crowder.
Nowitzki, an 11-time All-Star who has never hired an agent, will have made more than $200 million during his NBA career by the end of next season. He has declared that he will sign a two- or three-year deal with Dallas next summer, and taking a drastically reduced salary comes with his desire to finish his career on a championship contender.
“I guess that’s something we need to look at next summer when it gets to the point, but I’m sure it will be a significant pay cut,” said Nowitzki, the lone constant on the Mavs’ roster during the 12-year postseason streak that was snapped this season.
Nowitzki is coming off the most frustrating season of his NBA career. He missed the first two months after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery and averaged 17.3 points per game – his fewest since his rookie campaign in 1998-99 – for the 41-41 Mavs. However, Nowitzki is confident that he can play at a high level for at least a few more years.
Nowitzki plans to join Cuban, president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson and coach Rick Carlisle on the Mavs’ recruiting committee this summer. The hope is to sell Paul or Howard — who would each have to sacrifice a fifth year on the max contract that they could get from the Clippers and Lakers, respectively — on the possibility of building a perennial contender in Dallas again.
“We’d love to get one of the main guys,” Nowitzki said. “It’s going to be tough to get them out of the situation that they’re in. I think that’s pretty easy (to see). I think both are in L.A., where you want to play basketball and both are in great positions and situations. We’ll just have to wait and see.
“I think they needed to get away a little bit and clear their minds the last couple of weeks. By now, I’m sure they’re starting to think about, ‘What’s my future looking like?’ So that’s where we swoop in and hopefully get something going, hopefully get a meeting scheduled somewhere in July and hit it out of the ballpark.”