Bye Bye Big German
An open letter to Mark Cuban on the painful necessity of trading Dirk Nowitzki
How’s your summer going? How is Shark Tank going? Thanks for taking some time off this year to dip your toe into free agency with Dwight Howard. I know it didn’t end the way you wanted, but hey – at least you were there this time around.
By the way, I have a great business idea for you. It’s called “Fund my vacation to someplace tropical.” Any locale will do. I just need someone to pay for it. The return on investment will be great for me. Not so good for you. Think it over. You have my e-mail address, right?
Anyway, I’ve been watching the Mavericks in free agency, and you and Donnie Nelson have certainly signed some players – Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon and Samuel Dalembert, to name a few. You even signed Gal Mekel, the Israeli League MVP. He's doing some nice things in NBA Summer League.
Can you seriously look Dirk in the eye and say this franchise is on its way to a championship before he retires?
But despite your efforts to spin things last week, you must be disappointed by not getting Howard. I mean, that was the whole point of “keeping your powder dry,” wasn’t it? To snag one of those big-time free agents to pair with Dirk Nowitzki and, eventually, be the face of the franchise?
We’re two years into this “plan” and, frankly, it’s a failure. Like last offseason, you’ve signed some good players but no game changers.
So I’m going to broach this subject, one that is verboten here in Big D. But I’m going to be the brave one, sit you down and tell you how it has to be.
You have to trade Dirk. You don’t have to trade him now. But you have to trade him by the February trade deadline.
Dirk has watched the last two years with interest. He’s hinted in the past that although he wants to stay in Dallas, he doesn’t just want to play out the string with a mediocre team. He wants to continue to play for championships.
Can you seriously look Dirk in the eye and say this franchise is on its way to a championship before he retires? As much as you want it to be, the team you’ve assembled for the 2013-14 season isn’t a championship one.
Dirk’s a smart dude. So are you, Mark. He is entering the final year of his contract. Had you signed Howard or Williams, the Big German would have already signed a contract extension. No one would have issue with that, and surely no one locally would have an issue if you extended Dirk’s deal right now.
But we see the same thing other NBA experts see. He’s slowing down. He’s 35, has a tricky knee and remains the No. 1 option on a team that doesn’t have enough talent to compel defenses to do anything more than double-team him.
I hate bringing it up. I love the guy. We all do. How do you not love a guy who drives around Dallas singing the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” on auto-tune with a couple of Mavs cheerleaders?
He’s going to be a Hall of Famer. He’s going to have his jersey retired. He’s going to be a Mav for life, whether you keep him beyond next season or not.
But, Mark, think of the future before you commit to more years with Dirk, and think about what you can get in return for him. There isn’t a contender out there who wouldn’t pay handsomely for a player like Nowitzki, even at 35. Contenders won’t need him to be “The Man,” just an option. That’s why they’re contenders.
Dirk will be worth at least a young frontline player and a couple of draft picks. Don’t underestimate the desperation of wanting to win a championship. You know that feeling well, Mark.
Next year’s draft will be huge. Trading Dirk clears cap space and allows you and Nelson to move full bore into retooling the team, which must be done.
I think of 1990. The Mavs of Rick Sund and Norm Sonju were trying to hang on, so they went all in on three veterans – Alex English, Fat Lever and Rodney McCray. It didn’t work.
The Mavs gave up two first-round picks to get Lever. It was one of the many mistakes that hamstrung the Mavs for nearly a decade. Then you bought the team and brought the fun back, Mark. As Mavs fans, we are forever grateful.
But don’t be the owner that hung on too long to that piece of glory. Don’t put off the inevitable and get nothing in return.
Be the owner who did the hard thing, the tough thing, and thought of the future. Be the owner that trades Dirk. As much as it hurts. We won’t think any less of you.
Dallas Mavericks fans