NBA: 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.”
•Blazers waive Gomes: The Portland Trail Blazers have waived forward Ryan Gomes, who was acquired by Portland via a draft day trade with Minnesota.
Gomes, a five-year NBA veteran, averaged 10.9 points and 4.6 rebounds last season with the Timberwolves.
Portland picked up Gomes and Luke Babbitt, the 16th overall pick, from Minnesota in exchange for forward Martell Webster.
The move helps take the Blazers below the luxury tax threshold.
•Yao will return to Rockets: Yao Ming is returning to the Houston Rockets – a giant selling point for general manager Daryl Morey as he begins courting big-name free agents this week.
The 7-foot-6 All-Star center said that he has picked up his player option for next season, the last year of his five-year contract. Yao sat out last season following reconstructive foot surgery and said he wanted to see how the injury healed before making his decision.
Yao said he’s resumed basketball activities and should be 100 percent when training camp begins.
•Heat eye Anthony: The Miami Heat have made center Joel Anthony a qualifying offer, announcing the move shortly after waiving forward James Jones in a salary-cap related decision.
Anthony’s hold on the Heat salary cap will be $1.06 million, which is $175,000 more than he made last season. By making him a restricted free agent, Miami would have the right to match any offer from another team.
•Wizards acquire Yi: The New Jersey Nets traded forward Yi Jianlian to the Washington Wizards, creating even more room under the salary cap as they head into free agency.
The Wizards dealt forward Quinton Ross to the Nets, who also sent an undisclosed amount of cash to Washington.
The Nets freed up another $3 million with the deal, leaving them about $30 million to spend once free agency opens on July 1.
•Bol remembered: The body of Manute Bol lay in an 8-foot-long, specially built casket in the vast splendor of the ornate Washington National Cathedral. There couldn’t have been a more appropriate setting for a man who seemed larger than life in so many ways.
The 7-foot-7 former NBA player who worked diligently to improve conditions in his native Sudan was remembered as a shot-blocker to be feared and a humanitarian to be loved at a funeral service.
“Wow. That guy is tall. He’s a giant,” said former NBA player and league vice president of player development Rory Sparrow, reciting his first impressions upon meeting Bol. “And little did I know how true that statement was. Because not only was he an intimidating force on the court, someone to be reckoned with in the game … but he was also a giant off the court. And he had a heart that was also very large and full of compassion for his fellow man.”
Bol died June 19 at age 47.
Seattle Seahawks sign safety Ellison
NFL: The Seattle Seahawks have signed safety Kevin Ellison to a new contract a week after claiming him off waivers.
The team says it had to claim the former San Diego Chargers player last week, then waive him and allow him to clear waivers before Seattle could rework a new deal.
Ellison was an All-Pac-10 selection and team captain at USC for new Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.
He started nine games at strong safety as a rookie for San Diego last season.
The Chargers waived Ellison after police in Redondo Beach, Calif., stopped him for speeding in a school zone near his former high school in late May. Police said a search of Ellison’s vehicle turned up 100 Vicodin pills.
USA women remain unbeaten at worlds
Softball: Jennie Finch hit an inside-the-park home run and the United States finished group play unbeaten after defeating the Czech Republic 9-0 at the world softball championships in Caracas, Venezuela.
The victory gives the United States the top spot in Group B.
Eileen Canney was the winning pitcher with eight strikeouts and Alissa Haber had a three-run double. Haber is leading the team with a .750 average and has 12 hits, six doubles and 16 RBIs.
Japan also went 7-0 in Group A after its 10-0 win over South Africa.
Short-handed Storm breeze to victory
WNBA: Lauren Jackson had 31 points and 15 rebounds to lead the short-handed Seattle Storm to an 86-72 victory over the San Antonio Silver Stars in Seattle.
Despite playing without leading All-Star vote-getter Sue Bird, Seattle (14-2) matched the 1999 Houston Comets and 2002 Los Angeles Sparks for the fourth-best start in league history.
Swin Cash scored 16 points, and Svetlana Abrosimova, Tanisha Wright and Le’coe Willingham each had 11 for the Storm, who are now 10-0 in Western Conference play.