Emo­tional tribute for Now­itzki on tap

The Buffalo News - - SPORTS -

The Dal­las Mav­er­icks are de­scrib­ing it as a night­long party to cel­e­brate Dirk Now­itzki’s his­toric 21st sea­son, but even the guest of honor con­cedes that it sounds a lot like a re­tire­ment party.

Not that Dirk Now­itzki knows all of the night’s planned de­tails. He has made it a point to not know them. He’s plan­ning to pre­pare for tonight’s home fi­nale against Phoenix as if it’s any other game, rather than, po­ten­tially, the last time he’ll play at Amer­i­can Air­lines Cen­ter.

“It’s go­ing to be weird ap­proach­ing it,” he said. “But I’m still go­ing to do my same rou­tine.”

The rou­tine will be the easy part be­cause he’s been do­ing vari­a­tions of it for 21 sea­sons, all with the Mav­er­icks. The game it­self, how­ever, will be any­thing but or­di­nary, with the Mav­er­icks plan­ning sur­prises, mostly video trib­utes, through­out the game.

Mav­er­icks owner Mark Cuban isn’t di­vulging any of the sur­prises, but he ad­vises fans to ar­rive early and, above all, stay late.

Fol­low­ing the game, the court will be cleared, play­ers and coaches will go to the locker room, cool off, then re­turn to the court. A mi­cro­phone will be brought out to the court, en­abling coach Rick Carlisle, Cuban, then Now­itzki, to ad­dress fans.

Will Cuban be able to hold his emo­tions to­gether?

“No, I won’t be able to,” he said. “But that’s OK; I’m an emo­tional guy. It won’t be easy. I know for Dirk it won’t be easy, ei­ther. But Fa­ther Time is un­de­feated, for all of us.”

As for fans, many of whom have paid Mav­er­icks reg­u­larsea­son-record prices on the se­condary mar­ket for the priv­i­lege at­tend­ing the game?

“We should be giv­ing out boxes of tis­sues,” Cuban said. “With Dirk’s face on them.”

For the 1,666th time in his ca­reer (1,521 reg­u­lar-sea­son, 145 play­off), Now­itzki will try to put on his game face and main­tain it for as long and stead­fastly as pos­si­ble.

He said he will “go to the game like it’s a reg­u­lar game and then kind of be sur­prised by ev­ery­thing and any­thing that’s go­ing to hap­pen. But I’ve still got to fo­cus on my game, on my shots and en­joy com­pet­ing one last time, maybe.”

Mean­while, all around him, the party will en­sue, all evening, start­ing at 5:30, when fans are en­cour­aged to ar­rive and walk the blue car­pet on Vic­tory Plaza, lis­ten to mu­sic, get their faces painted.

Once in­side AAC, every fan will re­ceive limited edi­tion Dirk t-shirts, a com­mem­o­ra­tive game ticket and a Dirk Build-A-Head. And, of course, the Dirk­burger and Dirk­wurst have been brought back to con­ces­sion stands.

“It’s go­ing to be fun,” Now­itzki said. “I’m go­ing to make it fun. I’m sure there’s some stuff planned, but I try to stay away from it, ob­vi­ously. I don’t want to know too much.

“I want to still fo­cus on the game and hope­fully have fun. Have fun com­pet­ing and I’m go­ing to go re­ally from there. Ev­ery­thing else will be a sur­prise to me, as well, but hope­fully en­joy it. This is what it’s all about.”

Tri­bune News Ser­vice

Mav­er­icks for­ward Dirk Now­itzki could pos­si­bly play his fi­nal home game at Amer­i­can Air­lines Cen­ter.

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