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Dallas has strung together 10 consecutive 50-win seasons and Nowitzki became the NBA's first European-born MVP in 2007.
But owner and star have shared plenty of pain as well, stemming mostly from the Mavericks' collapse in the 2006 NBA Finals. The Mavericks have won only one playoff series since that capitulation to Miami after taking a 2-0 series lead. They also stand as the only franchise without an NBA championship of the four to have won 50 games for 10 or more consecutive seasons. But Cuban has been a rock for Nowitzki during some rough periods in his off-court life, which has only cemented the bond and enabled them to weather the contentious free-agent departure of Nowitzki's best friend, Steve Nash, in the summer of 2004. Nowitzki's longtime adviser and personal coach, Holger Geschwindner, told The Associated Press late Saturday night that Nowitzki and Cuban have agreed "to get it done." Nowitzki can't actually sign and team officials are precluded from discussing the deal before July 8, which is the first day teams and players can execute new contracts. But having the All-Star power forward's verbal commitment enables Dallas to seriously begin its pursuit of marquee names through sign-and-trade offers, with Cuban now able to assure prospective targets that Nowitzki will be in Dallas through at least 2013-14. The Mavericks remain hopeful that James will give them a chance to be the seventh team to make a presentation to the two-time reigning MVP, despite the fact Dallas could only acquire him if James tries to force a sign-and-trade to Texas.
Sources with knowledge of James' thinking have maintained for months that the Mavericks -- with Cuban's aggressive and player-friendly ownership, Nowitzki's presence as an ideal, floor-spreading complement to James' slashing game and James' close friend Jason Kidd leading Dallas' recruiting efforts -- can't be dismissed as a dark-horse contender to land him. Cuban has nonetheless convinced Nowitzki that the financial sacrifice he's made will pay off for both of them, even if they don't get a shot at James and can't immediately acquire another franchise player.
Sources say that the Mavericks have identified Minnesota's Al Jefferson and Charlotte's Tyson Chandler as potential trade options, but those are secondary targets given Nowitzki's need for someone on the wings who can consistently occupy defenses, create his own offense and open things up for him. The sides have been negotiating for weeks in the wake of Dallas' first-round playoff ouster, after team officials learned in mid-May that Nowitzki was determined to opt out and become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career as opposed to signing a three-year extension before June 30. Nowitzki and Geschwindner were formally presented with a contract Friday and then sealed an agreement after a Saturday flurry of meetings. The discussions didn't start until the afternoon, however, to allow the ever-patriotic Nowitzki to host a morning gathering at his home in Dallas to watch Germany's quarterfinal demolition of Argentina in the World Cup. "I think it's a great deal," Geschwindner said, according to the AP. "I like it." The Mavericks' all-time leader in scoring and rebounding is one of three marquee free agents -- of the 10 or so available this summer -- to quickly become unavailable.
Nowitzki joins Memphis Grizzlies forward Rudy Gay, who received a five-year deal worth nearly $82 million on the first day of free agency to stay with the Grizzlies, as well as Boston Celtics guard Paul Pierce, who agreed to a four-year contract in excess of $60 million on Saturday. Atlanta Hawks guard Joe Johnson is also close to accepting the Hawks' $120 million offer. Nowitzki becomes the second player in the league to secure a no-trade provision, which can only be added to new contracts -- not extensions -- when a player has at least eight years of NBA service time and four seasons with the same team. The Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant is the only player with an active no-trade clause, though Pierce is also eligible to secure one in his new deal. Marc Stein is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.