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Dirk Nowitzki has ankle surgery, still expected to return next season

Dallas Mavericks v New York Knicks

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 13: Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks looks on prior to taking on the New York Knicks during their game at Madison Square Garden on March 13, 2018 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

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Dirk Nowitzki can still get buckets — he’s averaging 12 points a game, shooting better than 40 percent from three — but he’s not moving as well as he once did. Being 39 and having played 50,573 regular season minutes in a 20-year career will do that.

However, it was a little more than just father time — Nowitzki’s ankle bothered him all season, and on Thursday the Mavericks announced he underwent “surgical debridement of his left ankle.” With less than a week left of games remaining, Nowitzki is obviously done for this season.

What about next season? He has talked steadily about wanting to come back for season 21, and that has not changed with this surgery, if anything it makes it more likely he returns, reports Marc Stein of the New York Times.

Next season Nowitzki — the greatest Dallas Maverick in franchise history, the greatest European player ever in the NBA and the best outside shooting big in league history — will be honored at every stop. The Mavs will sell out the American Airlines Center as Dallas fans get one last look at their favorite player (all while watching Dennis Smith Jr. and the rest of the younger Mavericks develop). It’s the kind of honors Nowitzki has earned and will want to play down.