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Ball in Nowitzki's court regarding future

As Dallas Mavericks president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said on the day the team dispersed for the offseason, keeping Dirk Nowitzki in a Mavericks uniform is the club's top job.

That begins with working to prevent the 7-footer from opting out of his contract this summer other than to restructure his deal to remain the face of the franchise long-term. Nowitzki has three options: He can either do nothing and go into the final year of his contract that will pay him $21.5 million; he can opt out and test free agency; or he can opt out and restructure his deal to help owner Mark Cuban reduce payroll, as Cuban said he has discussed with Nowitzki during a radio appearance last week. Cuban seemed confident that Nowitzki, whether he opts out or not, wouldn't be going anywhere.

The Mavs' preference would be to work out an extension now and prevent Nowitzki from opting out and testing the market, so clearly Nelson and Cuban have been working in that direction since the season abruptly ended. Nowitzki, who chooses not to use an agent, said he would take a few weeks to "drown his sorrows" before thinking about his options, and the former MVP seems to be keeping to his word as the omnipresent TMZ cameras recently snapped Nowitzki doing as much in a Miami club.

"We can't imagine Dirk not being in a Maverick uniform," Nelson said. "I mean, he's been here for so long and he's paid the ultimate price and sacrifice. ... I can tell you, from Mark [Cuban] to management, all the way down, we will do whatever needs to happen to make sure he's in a Maverick uniform."

The Mavs can extend Nowitzki three more seasons for the maximum -- or a lower rate Nowitzki agrees to it -- if an agreement is reached before July 1. After July 1, they can extend him for four more seasons.

"The only other difference is he can't opt out of his contract if we extend now," Nelson said.

Nowitzki raised eyebrows after the Game 6 loss at San Antonio when he said he would examine his options before making a decision whether to opt out. Those words came as a surprise only because Nowitzki has always been quick to express his desire to remain with the team and work to build a champion in Dallas. He's always said winning an NBA title somewhere else wouldn't feel right.

He seemed to have changed his tune somewhat after a third first-round defeat in four seasons since the unforgettable 2006 Finals meltdown. Since, the Mavs have also become the first No. 1 seed and the first No. 2 seed to go down since the first round expanded to best-of-7 in 2003.

Even so, Charles Barkley recently said that Cuban and the city of Dallas have been too good to Nowitzki for him to opt out and leave now.

So, perhaps Nowitzki was just frustrated in the heat of the moment. But, now it's up to him to either commit now, commit later or opt out and see what life might be like somewhere else.