The 1998-99 season marked the first and only time so far that the Dallas Mavericks’ forward/center, Dirk Nowitzki, came off the bench for the team. Then a 20-year-old rookie picked eighth overall in the 1998 NBA Draft, Nowitzki was brought along slowly. He went on to win a starting job later on in his rookie campaign, never relinquishing it in the two decades that followed. However, it appears that Nowitzki, who turned 40-years-old in June, might have to play a reserve role for the Mavericks in the 2018-19 NBA season.
On Thursday night, Dallas Morning News reporter Brad Townsend cited the Mavericks’ longtime coach, Rick Carlisle, who told him that Nowitzki will “likely come off the bench” in 2018-19 after starting for close to 20 years. This comes two months after the German big man signed a new one-year contract with Dallas, allowing him to come back for what would be his 21st season in an NBA career exclusively spent with the Mavericks.
“It will be a challenge,” said Carlisle, as quoted by Townsend in the aforementioned tweet.
Despite being a natural power forward, Dirk Nowitzki was moved to center in the 2017-18 season, and his numbers and playing time continued to decrease. With former Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan joining the Dallas Mavericks as a free agent, Bleacher Report pointed out that Nowitzki appears to be unfazed by the possibility of a move to the bench, as suggested by comments previously made to the Dallas Morning News.
“Obviously, DeAndre’s going to be our starter at the five position and the rest will just kind of fall in place after that. If [Harrison Barnes] goes back to the four or we start other ways, I have no idea as of yet. But it’s a great problem to have. We want to be a franchise that is back in the playoffs and plays well and has fun again.”
After starting for 20 straight seasons, Rick Carlisle says 40-year-old Dirk Nowitzki will "likely" come off the bench for the Mavs pic.twitter.com/T1jBhP9ZWO
— Bleacher Report NBA (@BR_NBA) September 21, 2018
Despite Nowitzki’s hopes of returning to the playoffs while he remains an active NBA player, it is widely expected that the Dallas Mavericks will remain out of playoff contention in 2018-19. The Mavericks, who finished 24-58 last year, are projected to finish with about 34 wins in 2018-19 as the team focuses its rebuilding efforts on young guards Dennis Smith Jr. and Luka Doncic, according to the Sporting News.
As noted by Bleacher Report, Dirk Nowitzki’s rookie campaign was the only one where he came off the bench more than six times in a season. Nowitzki played 47 out of 50 games in the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season, starting 24 games and averaging 8.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, and one assist per game. He has career numbers of 21.2 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game, and has played in 13 All-Star Games and won MVP honors in the 2006-07 season, according to his Basketball-Reference player page.