Dallas Mavericks' superstar forward Dirk Nowitzki has just about seen it all over the course of the last four seasons.
In 2006, he and his Mavs were finally able to get over the hump known as the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals, only to blow a 2-0 series lead to the Miami Heat and lose in the Finals 4-2.
The next season, Dallas was an NBA-best 67-15.
Nowitzki won the NBA MVP award that season, and the Mavericks were the clear-cut favorite to finally win it all.
However, they ran into the buzz saw known as the Golden State Warriors, a team whose up-tempo style of play proved to be Dallas' kryptonite. Nowitzki and the Mavs were ousted from the first round in six games.
Nowitzki took tons of heat from both the fans and the media following that series, earning the label of a star player that just wasn't mentally strong enough to carry his team.
In the 2007-08 season, Dallas got caught up in the midseason trade frenzy, and ended up making the highly-controversial, highly-publicized Devin Harris-for-Jason Kidd swap.
Kidd struggled to adjust to head coach Avery Johnson's strict style of offensive coaching, and the Mavs squeaked into the playoffs with the No. 7 seed.
Dallas was quickly disposed of in the first round once again, this time by Chris Paul and his up-and-coming New Orleans Hornets.
Johnson was fired shortly thereafter and Rick Carlisle was chosen to be his successor.
After getting off to a slow start this season, there were whispers around Mavsland that owner Mark Cuban would try and blow up the team and rebuild it from scratch.
However, Carlisle eventually handed all on-court play-calling duties to Kidd, and the Mavericks started running and winning again.
Nowitzki has been enjoying an under-the-radar stellar season, averaging about 25 points and eight boards a game.
Unfortunately, it's been tough for the Mavericks to consistently beat teams over .500, and recent losses on the road to each of their in-state rivals appear to have worn on Nowitzki.
Not only did Dallas lose to San Antonio, but they lost by double-digits to a Spurs team playing without both Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili.
After the thrashing last night, Nowitzki was clearly not pleased.
"It's a gift that Duncan didn't play, and we didn't take it," he said. "It's a frustrating, disappointing loss. It was just an embarrassing effort."
For the third game in a row, Nowitzki visibly struggled, scoring just 14 points and was a lousy 5-for-15 from the floor.
Against the Rockets last Friday, Nowitzki mustered just nine points in a game that had him looking flustered and shaky.
Dallas blew a 16-point lead in that game, losing 93-86.
Over the course of those three games, Nowitzki has gone 15-for-46 from the floor, averaging about 11 points a game, with the Mavericks' only win coming over lowly Sacramento on Saturday night.
In a recent interview, Nowitzki discusses how he's been frustrated by lack of preparation in the past by certain teammates, as well as how it's become increasingly tough for the Mavericks to have enough firepower to compete with the teams currently at the top of the standings.
It's become quite clear that, although they're currently 10 games over .500 at 33-23, the Mavericks just don't have enough firepower to be able to compete in the end with teams such as the Lakers and Spurs in the West.
Dallas was rumored to be in the thick of trade negotiations with several clubs before the deadline, but nothing came to fruition and they ended up sticking with their current roster.
While they've certainly missed Sixth Man of the Year candidate Jason Terry lately due to his hand injury, it's unlikely that his return will be enough to vault them to the next level.
It recently came out that there would be mutual interest in the coming offseason for Dallas to re-sign Jason Kidd, whose contract expires after this season.
While Kidd is having a decent season, bringing him back at age 36 next season may not be a step in the right direction.
It seems as though the Mavericks may have blown their chance at winning a title three years ago, and although they still have a decent amount of talent, it would probably be a safer idea to blow the team up and start rebuilding.
The rebuilding process should undoubtedly begin with a decision on what to do with Nowitzki, who turns 31 this coming summer.
He has two years (with a player option for a third year) remaining on his current contract for $18 million per year and then going up to over $21 million, so he could be a tough piece to move.
They should probably try and keep Nowitzki to rebuild around him because, unfortunately, there isn't a whole lot of young, developing talent on their current roster.
Josh Howard, who has recently had several off-the-court incidents affect his image negatively, hasn't turned out to be the player Dallas thought they had when they signed him to a lucrative extension a couple of years ago.
Cuban and GM Donnie Nelson should look to trade parts like Howard and Terry while their value is still decently high, and try to take back a combination of young talent and/or draft picks.
While Brandon Bass and J.J. Barea appear to be nice, young players, they don't seem to be quite up to the caliber of players to build a winning franchise around.
Rick Carlisle is a solid coach and I think he would be the right man for the job.
While it's always hard to rebuild, I think it would be in the best interest of the Mavericks because they simply aren't going to be winning anything significant with the roster they have now.
Cuban came into Dallas several years ago and turned a perennial doormat into a perennial winner, so Mavs fans should be able to give him the benefit of the doubt, as well as the opportunity and time to try and rebuild this team from scratch.
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