LOS ANGELES – Dirk Nowitzki had no idea why LA Clippers coach Doc Rivers called a timeout with 9.4 seconds remaining and his team leading by nine points Monday night.
Rivers' reasoning became clear after the second when he walked to the scorer's table, picked up the public address announcer's microphone and gave an impromptu tribute to Nowitzki, the legendary face of the Dallas Mavericks franchise who is in his 21st season.
"Dirk! Dirk!" Rivers hollered, gesturing to the Staples Center crowd to show its appreciation to the all-time great who played perhaps his last game on the arena, then pointing toward Nowitzki. "Let's go!"
The Clippers broke their roster for the second season in a row, but they're still right in the middle of the playoff chase.
Will the Lakers make the playoffs Kevin Pelton breaks down the tightest races
"One of the greatest of all-time, Dirk Nowitzki!"
Nowitzki, who was standing in the paint, responded with a sheepish smile and a thumbs -up to Rivers He then waved to the crowd as he was given a standing ovation, with Rivers and Clippers joining fans to applaud him. Several Clippers approached Nowitzki to congratulate him on his career as the ovation continued.
"It was sweet. I'm really appreciative," Nowitzki said after the Mavericks' 121-112 loss to the Clippers. "At first, I was like, 'Why is Doc calling a timeout? What's he doing with [9.4] seconds left? What's he up to?' Nowitzki hit a milestone on Monday, playing in the 1,500th game of his career, ranking behind only Robert.
Nowitzki hit a milestone on Monday, playing in the 1,500th game of his career, ranking behind only Robert Parish, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and John Stockton in the NBA history. Nowitzki kept a game ball
Rivers said he did not plan the tribute, but he seized the opportunity to give Nowitzki a worthy sendoff, having regretted not having done so for retired Dwyane Wade when Miami Heat visited earlier this season
"It was just that we had a lead and I had a timeout," Rivers said. "Honestly, I did not plan it. I just felt like he deserved that.
" You know what's funny, was it Miami? I think we did not give [Dwyane] Wade, like it was a close game and I think they won the game and Wade played like he should play five more years – so I would not going to let that happen again. I just did it. "
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle thanked Rivers for the gesture when they had a brief conversation after the game.
" It was one of the greatest things I've seen, "Carlisle said." I know there will be more moments like that, but this was original. I've never seen anything like this. "
It was the continuation of an unofficial farewell tour for Nowitzki, who had 12 points and five rebounds in a season-high 26 minutes Monday. While he still has to decide whether he will Nowitzki first noticed the special treatment during the Mavericks '' '' '' '' '' '' '' '' '' '' '' '' '' '' '' '' Road win over the Charlotte Hornets, when fans chanted "We want to dirk!" in the final minutes. He mentions the recipes in Boston, Indiana and New York as being particularly memorable as well.
"They're making the decision for me, I guess, "Nowitzki said, smiling." We'll see what the rest of the season brings, but it's been great. I mean, really emotional in some of these buildings. The reception from the fans has been incredible. Much love, for sure. "
ESPN's Ohm Youngmisuke contributed to this report.