Dallas Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki has been treated to standing ovations at every away arena this season as a show of respect for his incredible 21-year career all with the Mavs. And in Dallas, billboards around the city are counting down his final number of home games.
The NBA made Nowitzki and Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade honorary All-Star team members. Of course, Wade has announced that this will be his final season. Nowitzki, on the other hand, well, his retirement has only been assumed.
The 7-foot German and sure-fire Hall-of-Famer still has not made anything official. He's having fun, and after the Mavs traded for the still-recovering Kristaps Porzingis, perhaps Nowitzki will want to come back to mentor the franchise's next potential stars in Porzingis and Rookie of the Year frontrunner Luka Doncic.
What will become official, and likely as soon as Monday's home game against the New Orleans Pelicans, however, is Nowitzki surpassing Wilt Chamberlain as the No. 6 leading scorer in NBA history. Nowitzki enters the game needing just four points to top Chamberlain's career total of 31,419 points.
Nowitzki nearly did it during Saturday's home win against Cleveland, scoring 14 but missing his final five shots.
"Obviously, I was going for it there, just didn't have the hot hand down the stretch," Nowitzki told reporters after Dallas snapped a seven-game losing skid with a 121-116 victory over the Cavs. "Forced it a little bit and didn't really have any great looks. But, hey, it is what it is. They didn't go in. We won the game and we're moving on."
Whether Dallas moves on to Monday's game with Doncic, remains to be seen. The 20-year-old sat out Saturday's game with a sore right knee, diagnosed as a contusion. The injury isn't considered serious, and Doncic was walking Saturday without any noticeable limp. It was just the fifth game this season that Doncic missed.
The Pelicans come to Dallas dealing with a serious limp. They've lost six in a row, including an overtime defeat to the cellar-dwelling Phoenix Suns, a game they led by three points and had possession with 7.7 seconds left. Incomprehensible blunders, including a technical foul assessment for calling a timeout the Pelicans didn't have, turned a sure victory into one of the most demoralizing losses of the season.
"I think it was a lot of, just, miscommunication, you know, of the situation at the end," Pelicans forward Julius Randle told reporters afterward. "Everybody was a little bit confused."
A New Orleans team that swept Portland out of the first round of the playoffs last season, and had high hopes for this season, is instead out of the playoff chase and in jeopardy of sinking below the Mavs in the West standings with a loss.
Anthony Davis' decision not to re-sign with the Pelicans and to ask for a trade derailed the season and has reduced the All-Star to basically a 20-minute-a-night player.
Davis, who won't become a free agent until after the 2019-20 season, still has been a highly effective player in his reduced role, but that reduced role has made the Pelicans far less effective when it comes to winning basketball games.
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