Untouchable?

"If I could trade him for Kobe and LeBron ... " Cuban jokes, "I might have to listen."

Other than the occasional night when he scores a season-low nine points in Houston or he's been forced into bad misses by unheralded Celtics defender Leon Powe, Nowitzki this season is better than ever. He's had four games of 40-plus points, is fifth in the NBA at 25 per game and would be a candidate for his second MVP if the Mavericks had a better record.

The Mavericks and center Erick Dampier couldn’t quite grab the ball— or the NBA trophy—in Miami in 2006.
REUTERS/Newscom
The Mavericks and center Erick Dampier couldn’t quite grab the ball— or the NBA trophy—in Miami in 2006.
Just when it seemed Jerry Stackhouse and the Mavs had risen above Dwyane Wade and the Heat, it all came crashing down.
REUTERS/Newscom
Just when it seemed Jerry Stackhouse and the Mavs had risen above Dwyane Wade and the Heat, it all came crashing down.

"He's been at an MVP level all season," Carlisle says. "But the reality is he's not in the conversation because our team isn't having the kind of success it needs to for him to be considered."

He's one of the most underrated, underappreciated athletes in the history of Dallas sports and by far the best Maverick ever.

At this point—whether rejoicing or rebuilding—it's impossible to imagine the Mavs without Nowitzki.

"You never say never," says Nowitzki, whose contract expires in 2011 but includes an opt-out clause after next season. "I want to stay here and win a championship here. I've poured my heart and soul into this team for 10 years, and I want to win here. I'm clear about that. But if they find a deal to make the Mavs better by trading me, they'd be foolish not to."

0:00 Nowitzki turnover, steal

by Wade— Heat 98, Mavericks 96.

"Dirk's not untouchable. Nobody is," Nelson says. "But he's the closest thing to it. He's in his prime, and we think we're still right there. If anybody leads us to a championship, it should be him."

Eight consecutive playoff seasons. An average of 56 wins. Two trips to the Western Conference Finals. One of the game's best players. That lingering scent of The Finals. And a hole still desperately yearning to be filled.

This is how it all stays held together.

For now.

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