The Dallas Morning News

Sefko: Dirk shows plenty of energy in season finale,

Mavs star, nearly 39, shows plenty of energy in closing his season

- EDDIE SEFKO esefko@dallasnews.com Twitter: @ESefko

Sideshows done, Dirk Nowitzki walked off the court at American Airlines Center, and while nobody should take anything for granted, we assume it’s not for the last time.

For somebody who’s about to turn 39 and saw soon-to-be 37-year-old Tony Romo retire last week so he could become a TV personalit­y and a fantasy camper for a day with the Mavericks, Nowitzki knows only that he still has fun doing this job.

As they say, even the bad days and bad seasons aren’t really that bad.

“I love to compete,” Nowitzki said. “I play for the playoffs, and obviously I don’t have a lot of years left. I enjoyed going out there with the team and going to battle and trying to come out on top.”

That wasn’t meant as a goodbye speech when he said it. Nowitzki has gone on record as saying that he wants to make it a nice, round 20 seasons with the Mavericks, which he can do by showing up for training camp in September and taking part in the 2017-18 season.

He certainly doesn’t want to go out like this — as a member of a lottery team for just the second time in the last 17 seasons.

But Nowitzki also knows there are no guarantees in life. Next season could be worse.

For now, he probably wrapped up his season with another age-defying effort in the Mavericks’ 109-91 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday.

He and several other veterans did not travel with the team to Memphis for Wednesday’s season finale.

“He’s been a rock this year,” coach Rick Carlisle said of Nowitzki. “It was really tough for him to sit out 24, 25 games at the beginning and watch us get our ass kicked the way we did. But he’s unrelentin­g as a positive leader of this franchise and city. He and Romo both know what it’s like to be that guy.”

That guy? Carlisle was alluding to the sort of franchise player who has to be responsibl­e for winning and losing games, playoff games, championsh­ips. It takes a special breed to be that pillar for a franchise.

“These guys are beyond special,” Carlisle said. “All things considered, I thought Dirk had a great year.”

Nowitzki knows that if he and J.J. Barea hadn’t missed large portions of the season, this team likely would have been in the playoffs. But that ship is long gone.

The problem was that the Mavericks just weren’t healthy enough or good enough often enough.

It’s left Nowitzki wanting more. And while every player is beat up physically and mentally after 82 games, the process of improving the Mavericks can’t start soon enough for their face of the franchise.

“I know he’s going to be intent and intense about us upgrading over the summer,” owner Mark Cuban said.

In other words, nobody — least of all Nowitzki — wants to go through this again next season.

But he does have enthusiasm for what’s ahead.

“It’s unfortunat­e probably now I feel the best I felt all year just moving-wise,” Nowitzki said. “The first two months were tough just with injuries, and trying to catch up during the season was tough at times and frustratin­g at times. I’m a little bit disappoint­ed to see the season’s over now that I feel the best I’ve felt all year.”

Liggins acquired: Former Cleveland Cavalier DeAndre Liggins was claimed by the Mavericks off waivers Tuesday.

The 6-6 swingman played in 61 games for the Cavaliers this season, starting 19. He averaged 2.4 points, 1.7 rebounds and 12.3 minutes per game.

The cost for picking up Liggins off the waiver wire? About $18,500 for the two remaining games of the season. The Mavericks also have a team option to re-sign Liggins for next season at $1.09 million. They have to exercise that option by June 29.

“We like him as a prospect,” Carlisle said. “He’s young, is a rugged defender and athlete,

and he’s been on a high-level team all season.

“And we can use an extra

body in Memphis. He’ll play.”

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