Although the Dallas Mavericks were eliminated from the playoffs Wednesday for the first time since the 1999-2000 season, forward Dirk Nowitzki isn’t ready for the off-season.
The 11-time All-Star knows the Mavs still have four games remaining. So, reflecting on what went wrong this season will have to wait.
“I’ll be reflective after the season is over,” Nowitzki said after Thursday’s practice. “We still have four games and I don’t want to mail it in.
“I want to play hard, and hopefully win some. I think a winning season would be nice for this up-and-down tough season, so that’s what we’re going for.”
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The Mavs are 38-40 and must win three of their final four games to avoid their first losing season since they were 40-42 in the 1999-2000 campaign.
“We still want to get back to .500 and we want to have a chance to go above .500,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “If the playoffs are off the table, they’re off the table.
“We’ve still got to do everything possible to finish this thing out with pride and dignity.”
The Mavs hope to start displaying some of that pride and dignity at 7:30 p.m. Friday when they face the Denver Nuggets (54-24) at American Airlines Center.
After Friday night, the Mavs play the Hornets in New Orleans on Sunday, and then host Memphis on Monday and end the season at home on Wednesday against the Hornets.
While Nowitzki is focusing on the final four games, others are thinking about the future.
“We have a lot of room to improve,” owner Mark Cuban said. “We are what our record says we are.
“But we’ve got some good pieces that know how to play and can help us and will be able to help us next year. Barring injury we should be better, no matter what.”
Perhaps, but the Mavs still need a rim protector along the lines of a Tyson Chandler, a small forward along the lines of a Caron Butler, and a big point guard along the lines of a Jason Kidd.
With nine expiring contracts and lots of salary-cap space, Cuban noted that he doesn’t know if his team will undergo a complete overhaul during the off-season. But one major target is likely to be Dwight Howard, the soon-to-be free agent center of the Los Angeles Lakers.
“We’ll see what’s available,” Cuban said. “We’re not going to do things just to do things.
“We’ll do the same way we do every year. We try to have our cake and eat it, too, in some respects, but we’re going to be opportunistic and do the best we can.”
There will be many opportunities to think about what went wrong this season.
“I think we can reflect once we do the exit interviews,” Nowitzki said. “I’ll do plenty of reflecting, trust me.
“But until then, I think we’ll talk about the next opponent and see what’s going on here and see if we can make this a winning season somehow.”
Dirk Nowitzki missed the first 27 games this season after right knee surgery, and has endured a few other injuries this season.
But Rick Carlisle doesn’t plan on resting Nowitzki and the other veterans the remaining four games.
“It’s four games, and it’s a long summer,” Carlisle said. “For the foreseeable past, Dirk hasn’t had a summer like this where there’s no playoffs and you get done on April 17.”
The younger Mavs players will play their usual minutes the remainder of the season.
“We’re going to keep doing whatever we’ve got to do to win games,” Carlisle said. “That’s going to be the approach. Any departure from that I think is the wrong way to go. I really believe that.’’