Nowitzki not retiring, all but certain to return to Mavs

DALLAS (AP) Dirk Nowitzki is not retiring and almost certainly will spend a 19th season with the Mavericks.

The 7-foot German even says he might have to ''unretire'' from his national team if uncertainty with European basketball leads to a pre-Olympic tournament ending up in Nowitzki's home country this summer.

In other words, the Dallas star figures he has something left after leading the Mavericks in scoring again, a season after someone else did it for the first time in 15 years.

''Felt great this year,'' said Nowitzki, who turns 38 in June and has a player option for the final season of a three-year deal. ''Feel like I can still play efficient enough to be there for the team.''

Nowitzki said Tuesday it was ''pretty much'' crazy talk for coach Rick Carlisle to suggest after a first-round elimination in Oklahoma City that Nowitzki might consider playing elsewhere.

And even though the Mavericks haven't won a playoff series since winning the franchise's only title in 2011, Nowitzki believes owner Mark Cuban and president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson can return the team to championship contention while he's still around.

''The only way I would ever leave is if we're rebuilding and start with five rookies,'' Nowitzki said. ''As long as we go for it and compete, then I'll be a Mav.''

Nowitzki said it's too early to start talking names that might join him in free agency, but the best place to start is Houston's Dwight Howard. The soon-to-be free agent center and Mavericks forward Chandler Parsons played one season together with the Rockets.

And Parsons still plans to be Dallas' chief recruiter even after his pursuit of DeAndre Jordan had a messy ending when the Houston native changed his mind in free agency last summer and stayed with the Los Angeles Clippers after orally committing to the Mavericks.

''I think he's going to leave Houston,'' Parsons said of Howard. ''So why not come here?''

There's one tricky part, though. Like Nowitzki, Parsons has a third-year option on his contract. He is expected to opt out, but Dallas has to decide what his balky right knee means for his future.

Parsons missed all but one playoff game in his two seasons with the Mavericks, and had right knee surgery twice.

''There are issues and there is a situation there,'' Nelson said. ''It's not that it's unmanageable. It's just that if affects things. We'll have those conversations at the right time.''

Things to consider after Dallas was eliminated in five games in the first round for the second straight year:

MASH UNIT: The Mavericks' offseason assessment is somewhat compromised by the massive injury list they carried in the playoffs.

Parsons was out, point guard Deron Williams was essentially limited to one half because of a sports hernia that will require surgery and Williams' replacement J.J. Barea lost a lot of explosiveness because of a groin strain sustained late in the regular season. Midseason pickup David Lee, who helped the Mavericks with athleticism in the front court, missed three playoff games with a foot injury.

''We never really got to see the full, full potential of this team,'' said guard Wesley Matthews, who just finished his first season after signing as a free agent last summer.

HOMETOWN REPLAY? Despite injuries that limited him late, Williams considered the first season playing for his hometown team a success after taking a buyout in Brooklyn. ''He had fun for the first time in a long time,'' Nelson said. Williams, who was a high school star in a Dallas suburb, has an option on the final season of his two-year deal, and Nelson wants him back.

OH, TO BE YOUNG AGAIN: Dallas had the second-oldest roster behind San Antonio this season, and those were the only two teams with an average age above 30, according to STATS. But rookies Justin Anderson and Salah Mejri, a 29-year-old from Tunisia, showed promise, particularly late in the season. ''We're excited about those guys,'' Carlisle said.

WAIT TILL NEXT YEAR: Matthews returned much earlier than expected after rupturing his Achilles tendon in March 2015 while still with Portland. But he had the worst shooting season of his career, finishing at 39 percent overall and 36 percent from 3-point range. His second season in Dallas should be a much better indicator of what he can bring.

CENTER SEARCH: The Mavericks will need a center in free agency, one reason the pursuit of Howard makes sense. Zaza Pachulia, who came in a trade with Milwaukee after Jordan's stunning reversal, is a free agent. Pachulia had a career high in double-doubles by early February, but his production dipped late in the season.

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