Make of this what you will: Dirk Nowitzki will fly back to Dallas a day later than originally expected, arriving on Friday morning according to ESPN's Marc Stein, after stopping over in New York on Thursday, per a report from DallasBasketball.com.
So what is Nowitzki doing in New York? Cue the baseless speculation! Meeting with low-level officials from the Nets and Knicks (who sent contingents of their owner/coaches/former players to woo LeBron in Cleveland)? Or a secret rendezvous with Bulls officials? Or how about having dinner with Jason Kidd. Indeed, according to a report passed along by ESPN Dallas' Tim McMahon, Nowitzki will idle away some of time in the Big Apple over a meal with his (former?) teammate.
The Mavs, for their part, are continuing to put a brave face on the situation, claiming that there's nothing to see here, just move along folks. Mavs GM Donnie Nelson told DallasBasketball.com
[Nelson does] not believe Nowitzki's time in New York is designed to allow the free-agent superstar to meet with other suitors, and assume his visit with Mavs officials in Dallas on Friday will be his first - and hopefully only - job interview.
Impressive spin. Bravura performance, really. Nelson went on to tell reporters that he "doesn't think a day [waiting to meet Nowitzki] is going to matter" but that "if you're talking a week or something" then it'd be "a different story." But that doesn't exactly sound like someone who's apprised of Nowitzki's intentions. Although Nelson did finish with a tour de force of spin that would make Ari Fleischer blush, explaining why Nowitzki may have put off returning to Dallas for a day (via Marc Stein):
[Nowitzki] really doesn’t want fanfare [of airport reception]. ... That’s probably the major piece of it
Probably...right? Because there won't be any fans waiting to mob Nowitzki on Friday, rather than Thursday...right? If it sounds like Nelson is not in control of the situation and is completely grasping at straws, it's because he is. Remember, Nelson was going to fly out to Germany to court Nowitzki, before the star German decided to head back to Dallas instead, before deciding to hang out in New York for a day. Not exactly a sign of the apocalypse for the Mavs, but certainly at least a case of mixed signals between the team and their presumptive franchise player.
Granted, the smart money is still on Nowitzki staying with the Mavs, and Dallas trying to land a marquee free agent to pair with the big German via a sign-and-trade, but the maybe, just maybe our assumptions that Nowitzki would never leave Dallas were wrong. There's at least a little smoke.