(CBS Local)- The Dallas Mavericks and their fans said farewell to one of the franchise’s and league’s all-time greats this season when forward Dirk Nowitzki announced he was retiring from the game. Dirk has been a mainstay in the Dallas sports scene for the past two decades and his mark will always be left on the franchise. That idea is something that CBS Sports NBA writer James Herbert did an oral history on and discussed with CBS Local.
“In many ways he is the Mavericks. That is what a lot of people around him said,” said Herbert. “It’s an interesting career arc for him because when he came into the league, he was so unsure of himself. Talking to Donnie Nelson who was there when he was drafted, they weren’t even sure he would come over. They had to fly over to Germany and speak with him and his mentor.”
Once he did decide to come over, things weren’t easy in the beginning and Dirk struggled. Despite our now fond view of Dirk, Herbert reminds fans that there was a time early in his and Steve Nash’s career that the pair weren’t exactly fan favorites.
“I think we forget, they were both booed at Reunion Arena back then,” said Herbert. “To see how he [Dirk] really improved on the court and took on a leadership role, became this guy who is now an ambassador for the game who is synonymous with the Mavericks, the story was fun to do.”
All that said, Dirk is now enjoying the retired life, reportedly eating ice cream and not working out. As the franchise stares down its first Dirk-less season in 20 years, they seem to be in pretty good hands with Luka Doncic who was just recently named to the league’s All-Rookie 1st team. Add to that the 7’3″ Kristaps Porzingis who missed this past season recovering from an ACL injury and you have a pretty good foundation upon which to build entering the post-Dirk future.
“Donnie Nelson or Rick Carlisle, one of the power brokers in Dallas immediately said we want them to be our next Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki,” said Herbert. “It is a little bit of an easy comparison to make but those are the cornerstones of their team. Every decision they make from here on out, whether its free agent signings or who they draft, will be all about maximizing those two guys. Rebuilding gets a lot simpler when you have those pillars there and you can build around them.”
For Mavericks fans hoping the team will break out of a three year playoff drought, that is the good news. The team has found its building blocks to move forward with. With Doncic and Porzingis and plenty of cap space, Herbert sees this as a team that is merely a few years and good moves away from possibly contending.
“This is no longer a 10 year plan. It’s about the next few years,” said Herbert. “It’s not like we expect Dallas to go and be in the championship picture next year but their next decade is going to be built around what these two guys can do.”