DALLAS — A bittersweet 82-game season for the Dallas Mavericks finally came to a shrieking end Wednesday night.With no playoff berth or winning season to play for, the Mavs reached back and let pride take over as they bounced the New Orleans Hornets 99-87 in the regular-season finale before a sellout crowd of 19,973 at American Airlines Center.Thus, the Mavericks ended this uneven season with an even 41-41 record and with tons of unanswered questions and work to do in the off-season.The .500 report card is somewhat of a bonus since the Mavs were treading serious water on Jan. 9 when they were walking around with a sub-par 13-23 record.“I expected us to battle back and I expected us to get to [.500], and I thought we would get above .500,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “It didn’t happen, but we never lost our spirit; we never lost our belief and our effort.“Those are all good things, but I’m not going to … tell you that we’re happy to be .500. That’s just how things go around here — I understand that and you guys understand that, too.”This is the first time the Mavs haven’t had a winning season since they were 40-42 during the 1999-2000 campaign.Owner Mark Cuban purchased the Mavs from Ross Perot Jr. on Jan. 4, 2000 and this is the first full season he’s missed the playoffs — a streak that stops at 12 years in a row.“I thought we would be a playoff team,” said point guard Darren Collison, who led the Mavs against the Hornets with a game-high 25 points. “I felt like we could do something special.“But when Dirk [Nowitzki] missed (29) games, that obviously didn’t go our way.”Almost everything went the Mavs’ way against the Hornets. Nowitzki collected 16 points and nine rebounds, Shawn Marion finished with 15 points and seven boards, and the Mavs shot 51.2 percent from the floor in beating the Hornets for the second time in four days.The Mavs clung to a 19-18 lead after the first period, stretched it to 47-39 at intermission and 75-64 after the third quarter before coasting to the finish line.“I’m glad we got the win and were able to close out the season and stay .500,” said Marion, who was 7 of 12 from the field. “We should have never been in this position in the first place, but it is what it is and we never gave up and we ended the season .500, so that’s definitely a positive.“It’s better than having a losing season, but at the end of the day I’m sad it’s over with and I wish we could turn back the hands of time. But we have to look forward to see what’s going to happen this summer and in the future.”No 1-year dealsMark Cuban has learned his lesson while addressing all the players he signed to one-year contracts last summer.“I don’t see any signing of one-year deals anymore,” Cuban said. “I think we want to grab onto some people to be part of a longer-term solution and we’ll see what happens.”Cuban, however, didn’t admit that going into this season with nine players on one-year contracts was a mistake that came back to bite the Mavs.“The [Utah] Jazz are playing with a ton [of players on the last year of their contract], we won a championship [in 2011] with a ton of last-year guys,” Cuban said. “It wasn’t the contracts.“Guys played hard, we just didn’t play well together. Like I said before, our basketball IQ wasn’t where it needed to be. It wasn’t about contracts.”No MockingbirdsAs of Wednesday night, the Hornets are no more. Next season the new mascot of New Orleans will be the Pelicans, which is the state bird of Louisiana. That begs the question, what if the Mavericks changed their nickname to the state bird — the mockingbird?“The Dallas Mockingbirds?” asked Mark Cuban. “Yeah, kill a Mockingbird. That’s all we need every game. I like the Mavericks.”Briefly• “We gave away more games than probably in all 12-13 years I’ve been here combined,” Mark Cuban said.• Vince Carter made one 3-pointer Wednesday, giving him a career-high tying 162 for the season. He also made 162 threes during the 2000-01 season for Toronto.
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @dwainprice