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The Mavs Have Come to The End Of an Era...So What's in Their Future?

Blake GibbsCorrespondent IMay 14, 2009

DENVER - MAY 13:  Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks sits on the bench late in the game against  the Denver Nuggets in Game Five of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at Pepsi Center on May 13, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Mavericks 124-110 to advance to the Western Conference Finals. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

The Dallas Mavericks failed to accomplish the unthinkable against the Denver Nuggets.  Coming back from an 0-3 deficit in the NBA playoffs has never been done, the teams in the NBA are simply just too good. 

The Mavericks did however show that they have tremendous heart, refusing to die until the closing seconds of Game 5. 

Dirk Nowitzki finally showed all of his uneducated doubters that he can carry a team as far as it can go, and Josh Howard showed he can gut out solid performances through two bad ankles.  But let's talk a little bit more about Dirk...

With his superstar performance in a series against a team that could possibly be the most physical group of players in 10 years, he put to rest many of the accusations that have berated him over the past few years. 

Soft, not clutch, no heart, unable to carry a team, all of those criticisms should finally be put to rest.  If a person simply looks at the stats, it sounds pretty ridiculous not to put Dirk in the discussion as one of the greats. 

He's one of only four other players to have career averages of 25+ points and 10+ rebounds per game in the playoffs.  He's also second only to Shaq among active players with career 40+ point, 10+ rebound playoff performances. 

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If you are still questioning his greatness, look at how he performs in elimination games.  Going into Game 5 against the Nuggets, Dirk had played in 15 elimination games.  In those games he averages 30.8 PPG, and a little over 13 rebounds.  There's really not much more that a guy can do.

As far as the Dallas Mavericks go as a team, this core group of players should have just played their last game together as Mavericks. 

Jason Kidd most likely won't be back next year, as he will want to sign with a legitimate contender. 

Josh Howard has shown that at times he can be a legit second fiddle, however, those performances come once about every five to 10 games.  Even then, his basketball I.Q. is so low that sometimes he hurts his team as much as he helps them. 

Jason Terry is a great option to come off the bench, but at this point in his career he cannot be relied on as the second scoring option on a contending team. 

Eric Dampier is the most useless guy on the court the majority of the time.  He may be a very nice guy, and this is not a shot at his character.  The problem is that his personality may be what is wrong with his game, as well as his lack of offensive skills. 

Jerry Stackhouse will probably retire, or play somewhere else.  This core group of players that have been through so much, simply can't get anything else done at this point in their careers.  They have brought the first ever NBA finals to the city of Dallas among many other amazing feats, but this era is over.

As for the future of the Dallas Mavericks, it completely hinges on who they can find to pair with Dirk Nowitzki.  It is obvious Dirk is still a top 10 player in this league, and can be the No. 1 guy on a contender. 

The problem is that he has never had a legitimate "Robin" since he became Batman about six years ago.  The Mavs have a few options they can go with in this situation. 

They can work a trade with Howard and just about anyone else on the team to bring in an All-Star caliber swing man or center to be the No. 2 scoring option, or they can sign a free agent. 

One interesting possibility would be the idea of moving Dirk permanently to the center position, bringing in a legit banger power forward.  Either way, the Mavs will need to rebuild this team around the big German.  If they do this the right way, it is not inconceivable to see this team contending for the Larry O'Brien Trophy very soon.  When you have a truly unique superstar, rebuilding is much easier.

Whether the Dallas Mavericks do the right thing and rebuild, or if they decide, for some strange reason, to stay put with this current roster, one thing is for certain;  The Game 5 loss to the Denver Nuggets was the end of an era for this Dallas Mavericks team. 

There are big regrets and "what ifs," a few wins that were left on the table as well.  However, there were also many amazing feats accomplished, and a very passionate fan base that was developed.  It's sad to see this all finally come to an end, but man, what a ride.

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