After two decades in the NBA, more than 31,000 points and exactly 50,573 minutes played, Dirk Nowitzki is ready to do something he hasn’t done since he was a wide-eyed, 20 year old rookie. Head Coach Rick Carlisle made it known at the Mavericks’ media day that Nowitzki is “likely to come off the bench” in what could be his last season.
This doesn’t come as a surprise to the sixth all-time leading scorer. The idea of a bench role began to form in the early hours of July 1.
“I’ve spent most of my time playing the 5 position the last couple of years because of... movement issues,” Nowitzki joked. “The fours in this league are all quick, mobile and can shoot. When we signed DeAndre [Jordan] it was pretty much clear in my head that I’m going to come off the bench.”
Nowitzki averaged 12 points and nearly six rebounds in 24.7 minutes per game last season while connecting on 41 percent of his three-point attempts. Still able to contribute on a nightly basis and command the defense’s respect, the move to the bench is not about a lack of production.
“Dirk knows this, and we’ve talked about it ... We have to move the franchise forward in the right way,” Carlisle said when explaining his decision. “Dennis [Smith], [Wes]Matthews, Harrison [Barnes], Luka [Doncic] and DeAndre [Jordan}, right now, to me, look like the best team to start games. We need Wes out there to guard the best perimeter player. We need DeAndre to be our center. The other pieces will fall into place.”
Nowitzki shouldn’t be too uncomfortable coming off the bench. Immediately one of the most decorated sixth men in the entire league, Dirk figures to play many minutes with long-time teammates J.J. Barea and Devin Harris. Last season that trio sported a 9.5 net rating and were a plus-114 for the entire season per nba.com stats.
Nowitzki’s biggest concern is how his 40-year-old body will adjust to sitting for an extended amount of time after warmups.
“If that’s the case, and I’m coming off the bench, then we better keep a bike ready and a couple of message therapists in the back, and I’ll be ready to go,” Nowitzki laughed. “When you come off the bench you usually don’t have the luxury of easing into the game. You have to be on right away, which was never really my thing. I was always kind of a slow starter. But, you know, I’ll have an extra coffee or something and come out firing.”