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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Nowitzki to test free agency waters

DALLAS (AP) Add Germany's Dirk Nowitzki to the bumper crop of talented free agents.

News photo
Come and get me: Dirk Nowitzki has reportedly told the Mavericks he is opting out of the final year of his contract. AP PHOTO

A person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Nowitzki has notified the Dallas Mavericks he is opting out of the final year and $21.5 million on his existing contract. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team wasn't planning to announce Nowitzki's decision.

Mavericks president Donnie Nelson already has booked a flight that will have him in Germany on Thursday — when free agency begins to show Nowitzki how sincere the club is about keeping its all-time leading scorer and rebounder.

He'd obviously scrap the trip if Nowitzki decides to be elsewhere, but the Mavs hope that being there sends a strong message.

"He is our No. 1 priority — period," Nelson said.

Dallas had been discussing an extension with Nowitzki, but it would've been for only three years. He can get a four-year contract as a free agent, and perhaps a no-trade clause, something his existing deal lacks.

Nowitzki hitting the market could be a good thing for the Mavericks, but it also creates the chance he could leave, like his buddy Steve Nash did in 2004.

"We know what we hope will happen," Nelson said. "Come July 1, all kinds of unknowns may enter."

Mavs point guard Jason Kidd said last week he expects Nowitzki to stick around, but that he also wouldn't be surprised if Nowitzki allowed other teams to wine and dine him. Nowitzki has never been on the market, and was never wooed by colleges because he went straight from a German club team to the NBA as a teenager.

"In some respects, it would confuse the marketplace, push things back for us," Nelson said. "But if there's a bug inside Dirk that wants to see what that's all about, then do it."

Then again, Nowitzki is a 32-year-old former MVP who has accomplished pretty much everything but win an NBA title. He's said many times that winning it all for another team wouldn't mean as much as doing it in Dallas, and this could be a chance to do his part off the court.

A quick decision to return could turn him and Kidd into recruiters, especially for wing players like Dwyane Wade, Joe Johnson or even the biggest prize of all, LeBron James.

Getting them isn't as simple as owner Mark Cuban writing big checks.

Dallas lacks the salary cap room to sign a top-tier guy, so any major additions have to be of the sign-and-trade variety. Those require the player's existing team to be willing to make a deal, and for them to accept the Mavericks' offer over anyone else's. Dallas has plenty to offer, though, having stockpiled the kind of contracts teams are willing to take on and coming out of the draft with plenty of future picks.

Report names Pierce

NEW YORK (AP) ESPN.com is reporting Boston Celtics star Paul Pierce has notified the team he will opt out of the final year of his contract and become a free agent.

Citing unidentified NBA sources, ESPN.com reported late Tuesday night the All-Star forward will forfeit next season's $21.5 million salary for a chance to sign a new four-year deal worth more than $90 million.

Pierce would become an unrestricted free agent and join a loaded group of NBA stars, including LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

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