DALLAS - Add Dirk Nowitzki to the bumper crop of talented free agents.
A person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Nowitzki has notified the Dallas Mavericks he is opting out of the final year and $21.5 million on his existing contract. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team wasn't planning to announce Nowitzki's decision.
Mavericks president Donnie Nelson already has booked a flight that will have him overseas at 12:01 a.m. ET on Thursday - 6:01 a.m. in Germany - when free agency begins to show Nowitzki how sincere the club is about keeping its all-time leading scorer and rebounder.
He'd obviously scrap the trip if Nowitzki decides to be elsewhere, but the Mavs hope that being there sends a strong message.
"He is our No. 1 priority - period," Nelson said.
Dallas had been discussing an extension with Nowitzki, but it would've been for only three years. He can get a four-year contract as a free agent, and perhaps a no-trade clause, something his existing deal lacks.
Nowitzki hitting the market could be a good thing for the Mavericks, but it also creates the chance he could leave, like his buddy Steve Nash did in 2004.
"We know what we hope will happen," Nelson said. "Come July 1, all kinds of unknowns may enter."
Mavs point guard Jason Kidd said last week he expects Nowitzki to stick around, but that he also wouldn't be surprised if Nowitzki allowed other teams to wine and dine him. Nowitzki has never been on the market, and was never wooed by colleges because he went straight from a German club team to the NBA as a teenager.
"In some respects, it would confuse the marketplace, push things back for us," Nelson said. "But if there's a bug inside Dirk that wants to see what that's all about, then do it."
Then again, Nowitzki is a 32-year-old former MVP who has accomplished pretty much everything but win an NBA title. He's said many times that winning it all for another team wouldn't mean as much as doing it in Dallas, and this could be a chance to do his part off the court.
A quick decision to return could turn him and Kidd into tag-team recruiters, especially for wing players like Dwyane Wade, Joe Johnson or even the biggest prize of all, LeBron James.
Getting them isn't as simple as owner Mark Cuban writing big checks.
Dallas lacks the salary cap room to sign a top-tier guy, so any major additions have to be of the sign-and-trade variety. Those require the player's existing team to be willing to make a deal, and for them to accept the Mavericks' offer over anyone else's. Dallas has plenty to offer, though, having stockpiled the kind of contracts teams are willing to take on and coming out of the draft with plenty of future picks.
It's a lot to think about, for all 30 NBA teams. In fact, the glut of options could work to Dallas' advantage; teams might prefer targeting guys who seem more ready to move than Nowitzki has been.
Then again, it only takes one team, as the Mavs learned the hard way with Nash. And Dallas has won only a single playoff series since blowing a 2-0 lead in the 2006 NBA finals.
"It's a very odd, weird, strange time," Nelson said. "If there's anything good about this process, it's as someone goes through it, the thing that comes out is what is really important to them - whether it's location, money, winning, those types of things. Those things really, really come out."
DALLAS MAVERICKS/Former MVP will opt out of final year of contract