SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- When his NBA career started with the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season, Dirk Nowitzki got accustomed to losing right away.
The Dallas Mavericks lost Nowitzki's first NBA game 92-86 in overtime on Feb. 5, 1999, in Seattle. They went on to lose eight of their next 10 games.
The losing didn't stop there, as later in that first season, the Mavericks dropped 15 of 20 games and finished with a 19-31 record.
Fast forward nearly 14 years and Nowitzki and the Mavs find themselves involved in another losing proposition.
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The Mavericks entered Thursday's late game on the West Coast against the Sacramento Kings having lost 13 of their previous 15 games, and had a 13-23 record.
It is an ugly stain on a franchise that won the 2011 NBA title.
"That's a lot of losing, but every day you've got to motivate yourself," Nowitzki said. "You've got to come in with enthusiasm and not with your head down.
"You want to work, you want to get better, and I think we've been doing that. We've been watching film daily trying to look at some of the mistakes we're making so we won't repeat those mistakes."
The losses are both painful and troublesome for Nowitzki. But he forgot that the Mavericks went through a stage when they lost 10 of 13 games during their championship season.
"I wasn't aware of that, either, but I know while I was out that year [with a knee injury] we were 2-7," Nowitzki said. "Then I came back too early, because we were struggling. It took me awhile to work myself back.
"I remember it was ugly times, but I didn't remember it was that ugly -- 10 out of 13? But we always worked our way out of it, and that's what we're trying to do here."
With each loss, Nowitzki said he doesn't let doubt creep into his mind. He always keeps thinking positively.
"We're pushing in practice daily and working on little stuff," Nowitzki said. "Maybe just a post feed here and there, or a simple bounce pass, or little stuff that we've worked on defense.
"The coaches have been doing a good job keeping the enthusiasm up, and they're really pushing us forward, even though it's been a tough time."
Coach Rick Carlisle said trying to strike a balance between being encouraging and getting on his players for not doing what they're supposed to do is just part of the job.
"That's one of the nuances of being a head coach in this league," Carlisle said. "But I don't want anybody to misunderstand -- we need to be encouraging and reinforceful of the things that we're doing well. But we've got to draw a line in the sand and say that we're not going to continue to make some of the mistakes that we're making in games."
Reports are swirling that the Kings may be sold to a Seattle investor and will be playing next season in Seattle.
If that's the case, count Rick Carlisle among those who are going to miss playing games in Sacramento and miss seeing Kings owner Joe and Gavin Maloof.
"This has been a great town for the NBA," Carlisle said before Thursday's game against the Kings. "Over the long-haul years, it's been an enthusiastic place. The building has always rocked, even in the down years."
The Mavericks play one more game at Sleep Train Arena on April 5.
"I know there's rumors -- I don't know what's true and what's not true," Carlisle said. "But the Maloof brothers are good people, and I've gotten to meet them a little bit over the year. You hope everybody ends up OK in the whole thing."
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760