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Nowitzki is happy for Kobe, but his next contract will be different

Nov 26, 2013, 3:30 PM EDT

Philadelphia 76ers v Dallas Mavericks Getty Images

He’s the face of the franchise and the heart of the team’s marketing, but also an aging veteran in the final year of a massive contract, one that will determine what and how the team can move forward the next couple of years.

Kobe Bryant? No.

We’re taking Dirk Nowitzki with the Dallas Mavericks.

But their situations are similar — Nowitzki is a star and the face of his team, and one in the last year of a massive contract ($22 million) that could hamper the team’s ability to bring in more players around him.

Nowitzki, however, plans to go a different route than Kobe and his massive new extension — Dirk will become a free agent then re-sign in Dallas, he told Jeff Caplan of NBA.com.

“Obviously, it’s good for Kobe,” said Nowitzki, who passed Garnett Monday for 14th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. “That’s a lot of money for a 35-year-old, but if one guy earned it, it’s definitely Kobe….

“I don’t really want to look forward too much,” Nowitzki said. “I’m not going to extend, obviously. I want to play the season out and then we can talk about the summer. I want to have a good season. I want to have an injury-free season and then [his coach/agent] Holger’s going to take his leather coat and meet with [Cuban] in the bunker suite and we’ll go from there.”

By becoming a free agent Nowitzki can take a lot less money with his next deal — if he wants to take $10 million (which is what Tim Duncan did in a smaller market than LA), he can. At that price the Mavs would have about $21 million on the books (if they renounce Shawn Marion and Vince Carter), which would allow them to make a run at some guys. Monta Ellis and Nowitzki are clicking this season. All of it together means Dallas has some flexibility.

How much flexibility the Lakers have with Kobe at $23.5 million next year depends on who you ask — they certainly have some (they could bring in a max player) but they could have had more. You can debate who they might have gotten or not, but they lost flexibility.  It’s their choice, Kobe and the Lakers knew what this deal meant, they still think it can work.

The situations are different in key ways — Kobe’s value to the Lakers brand is astronomical and keeping him at this price is still a value. Question the basketball decision if you want, but the Lakers needed to do this deal.

Nowitzki is a different personality in a situation with some similarities but plenty of differences. So he wants to handle this like Dirk. Not Kobe.

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