3-pointer: Can Dirk Nowitzki hit 30,000?

NEW ORLEANS – After arriving in the NBA, Dirk Nowitzki didn’t know whether he could survive 25 games, much less score 25,000 points.

Here he is, 15 years later, one of 17 members of the league’s exclusive 25,000-point club.

“And as he showed tonight, he’s still got a lot left in the tank,” coach Rick Carlisle said after Nowitzki scored 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting in 27 minutes while surpassing a major milestone in Sunday’s win over the New Orleans Hornets.

Enough left to reach 30,000 points, something accomplished by only five men in NBA history?

“That’s tough,” Nowitzki said. “I don’t know how much time it takes for me to get (5,000 points), but I’m going to be around.”

He certainly isn’t ruling out a run at 30K. Nowitzki has verbally committed to re-signing with the Mavs for two or three more years after his contract expires in the summer of 2014.

If Nowitzki can stay relatively healthy, 30,000 points seems well within his reach. Figure he averages 1,300 points per season for the rest of his career – around 17 per game, figuring he sits out a handful of nights each year – and he can join the 30K club if he sticks around four more seasons.

“Yeah, I mean, it would sound nice, but I don’t know that would be something that would keep me going on one leg at 41 if it’s not fun anymore,” Nowitzki said. “Just to drag it around to get to (30,000), I don’t think that’s what I’m about. If it comes in the next couple of years, that would be great. If not, that’s fine, too. I play to win.”

The way Nowitzki feels now, he’s confident he can contribute to a winning team for at least the next few years. He readily admits he was questioning that midway through the season, after he missed 27 games while recovering from a preseason scope of his right knee and struggled upon his return.

But Nowitzki believes his performance since the All-Star break (18.8 ppg, 50.9 FG%, 44.6 3%) is an indication of what’s to come over the next few years. He’ll have a precautionary MRI on his left knee next week, making sure he doesn’t need to get that one scoped, too, and is already thinking about conditioning during what will literally be the longest summer of his NBA career.

The plan: Put in the work to be in peak form at the beginning of next season.

If Nowitzki can maintain that kind of hunger, why not project him to hit 30,000 points?

“A lot of being successful like this is being true to each individual day,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I think it’s very hard to look ahead and say, yeah, this guy can play for four or five or six more years. In this league, it’s so competitive and it’s so uncertain, you’ve got to go day to day with it. That’s what Dirk has done for 15 years.

“I think that’s the reason he was able to reach this milestone. That’s the reason he was able to become one of the best ever to play this game. I think it gives him a chance to play for an extended period of time, but he’ll never look ahead.”

A few more notes from the win that finally bumped the Mavs’ back to .500:

1. Carter climbing all-time scorers’ list: Vince Carter will most likely hit a scoring milestone of his own Monday night.

Carter has 22,192 career points after scoring 16 Sunday, putting him four behind Clyde Drexler for 27th in NBA history. Carter has already surpassed Hall of Famers Hal Greer, Larry Bird and Gary Payton this season.

2. Marion’s monster night: It was overshadowed by Nowitzki’s milestone night, but Shawn Marion led the Mavs with 21 points, seven rebounds, six assists and two steals.

In a typical Mavs season, Marion would be peaking just in time for the playoffs. The 14-year veteran has been phenomenal in the last five games, averaging 20.6 points and 8.4 rebounds.

3. Stitches for Wright: Brandan Wright paid a price for his 16-point, 8-of-13 performance. He needed three stitches to close a cut on his left cheek, courtesy of an accidental elbow by New Orleans forward Al-Farouq Aminu.

Wright also caught an elbow from Aminu during a visit to New Orleans Arena last season, suffering a concussion in that case.

“I’ve got to watch out for him next time,” Wright kidded.