His clock is ticking, they say.Zehn ... neun ... acht ...Dirk Nowitzki isn’t getting any younger. And with the German-born future NBA Hall of Famer as their lead performer, the Dallas Mavericks’ window of opportunity isn’t opening any wider. That’s the theory, at least. But so what?Wait for the next star free agent to tell the Mavericks no? Wait for that reportedly loaded 2014 draft? Tank the season? Trade Dirk? Start over?No, no, no, no and no.And an extra no on the trade-Nowitzki thing.On a radio talk show the other day, a host gushed about the largesse of draft choices that a trade of Dirk would bestow. No doubt Nowitzki could, even at age 35.But what kind of team, exactly, would be interested in trading for an aging, 11-time All-Star? A contending team that would view Nowitzki as its final missing piece. A team willing to take on the league’s second-highest annual salary, $22.7 million.In other words, a playoff team, not a lottery one. And if the Mavericks wouldn’t be picking from one of the first three places in the draft, what would be the odds of finding another Dirk Nowitzki?I’m not an old-school guy, really. But I do bristle under my button-down collar about this. I didn’t want to see Mike Modano skate in anything but a Stars uniform. Dirk, playing for the Houston Rockets, would similarly jar the senses.Fortunately, there is no apparent local movement afoot to package Nowitzki for either a bag of NBA beans or the family cow.It’s hard to imagine that owner Mark Cuban has ever seriously considered it.Dirk is not only the face of the Mavericks franchise, but also its voice. (Cue We Are the Champions). He is its heart and soul. Its beard.Most of all, unless a staggering amount of yet-undiscovered planets align — and do it within the franchise’s narrowing time window — a trade of Nowitzki just wouldn’t bring an equal value in return.That is also not to mention what such a trade would mean. For most Mavericks fans, it would be the day the music died. The franchise would be starting over.I can’t fathom Cuban doing that. He inherited a team at the bottom, and he knows what a long climb it was to get to the top. Besides, the lottery is different than what it used to be, like when the New York Knicks (circa 1985) just happened to own the pingpong ball that gave them Patrick Ewing, or when a team could drastically improve its odds just by purposely losing late-season games.Since 1991 only two teams that owned the league’s worst record actually won the lottery and received the first draft pick. The Cleveland Cavaliers took LeBron James in 2003, and the Orlando Magic selected Dwight Howard in 2004. How lucky does Cuban feel? That would be the question behind any deal that he makes for Nowitzki.Teams with high draft picks don’t need Dirk. They need more high draft picks.Here the Mavs are, therefore, anxiously waiting to hear word from Samuel Dalembert.Signing Monta Ellis to a reported three-year, $25 million contract makes sense from the franchise’s current standpoint.Howard is gone, Chris Paul isn’t coming, and even the Andrew Bynum dice roll didn’t work out.This is a Rick Carlisle deal and a Dirk deal. The Ellis signing, coupled with making wily Jose Calderon the point guard, is all about floor spacing and offensive options. The theory is that Carlisle, with Dirk’s and Calderon’s help, is going to make shooting guard Ellis a wiser, more efficient player.When have the Mavericks flustered fans most since the championship season? Down the fourth-quarter stretch, in the clutch. Ellis will give them a clutch-time option.And as Dirk’s career clock ticks away, it’s all about options.
Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @gilebreton