Updated: February 12, 2013, 2:51 AM ET

Bank's Open? Once Mighty Mavs Still Can't Close

By Tim MacMahon | ESPNDallas.com

DALLAS -- Shawn Marion declared last week that he would refuse to report if the Dallas Mavericks traded him to a, um, stinky situation.

That's certainly the versatile veteran forward's right, but reasonable minds might wonder what exactly there is to like about the Mavs' situation at the moment.

"Man, I'm done talking about that," Marion said after the Mavs' 105-100 loss to the Atlanta Hawks at the American Airlines Center. "I don't even want to talk about it no more, really. It doesn't even matter. I'm here. I ain't going nowhere."

Dirk Nowitzki
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsDirk Nowitzki couldn't get the Mavs past Josh Smith & Co.

Barring a miracle turnaround, neither is the Mavs' season.

Marion could have mentioned the Mavs' winning tradition, their 12 consecutive playoff appearances or the fact that a front office, coach and superstar remain from a team that won the title two seasons ago. However, Marion was in no mood to discuss the matter after another Mavs clutch meltdown Monday night dropped Dallas seven games under .500.

The cold, harsh truth is that there almost certainly isn't any help on the way via the trade market. Over the past few days, Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson and coach Rick Carlisle have expressed strong doubt that the team would make a deal before the Feb. 21 deadline.

Owner Mark Cuban insists that the "Bank of Cuban" remains open for business. But Cuban acknowledges the odds of the Mavs pulling the trigger on an impact trade are slim, especially since he's willing only to sacrifice summer cap space to acquire a player that can be a foundation piece for years to come.

"There's a lot of deals we would make," Cuban said before Monday's game, punctuating the thought with a laugh, "but nobody seems willing to do what we want to do. You never know, but nothing imminent. The bank's still open.

"It's gotta be something really, really, really good."

A Ben & Skin discussion on the Mavericks' trade possibilities turns into a discussion about why the Mavs need Dwight Howard.

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Don't hold your breath for that to happen.

And, no, the Mavs aren't interested in on-the-block Hawks forward Josh Smith, even after he dominated Dallas with 26 points, 13 rebounds and 6 assists. If the Mavs wanted to commit close-to-max money to a guy who isn't great enough to be a franchise player, they never would have let Tyson Chandler go in the first place.

Dirk Nowitzki, the struggling superstar who publicly questioned the franchise's grand plan to "build around hope" last month, certainly isn't bracing for a blockbuster deal to provide a boost to the Mavs' desperate playoff push. He's savvy enough to see the logic behind entering this summer's Dwight Howard sweepstakes, even if the Mavs have slim chances of winning the big man's signature.

"It makes really no sense to take a contract back when you won't have cap space this summer," Nowitzki said after his slump-busting 24-point performance. "That's how I look at it. The only move you can make is a lateral move, but it doesn't really do any good anyway. So we've got to ride with what we've got."

If Nowitzki is going to take a razor to his furry face the rest of this season -- something several Mavs have vowed not to do until they hit .500 again -- it's on him and his potluck supporting cast, primarily made up of rental expiring contracts, to figure out how to finish games.

A championship banner hangs in the AAC rafters because the Mavs were some of the best finishers in league history a couple of springs ago. Those days seem so distant now as the Mavs constantly seem to figure out ways to give games away, evidenced by their 8-13 record in contests that were within three points in the final minute this season, including a 1-8 overtime mark.

The loss to the Hawks added to that heap of frustration. Despite spotting Atlanta a 10-point lead, the Mavs fought back and led by five at one point in the fourth quarter only to fold down the stretch.

"It's the story of our season," Nowitzki said with a sigh. "Down the stretch, we had our chances. For some reason, we can never pull those close games out. That's just a game we've got to have no matter what happens. We've got to find a way to win that game."

It's easy to point to O.J. Mayo's two turnovers in the final 23.9 seconds, a frequent problem this season. But Nowitzki is quick to note he missed a wide-open 3-pointer that would have given the Mavs the lead with a little more than two minutes remaining and failed to corral a critical rebound. And it definitely didn't help that Dallas went a stretch of more than four minutes without a field goal.

The late-game failure had Nowitzki reminiscing about the Mavs' most memorable midseason acquisition: Jason Kidd. But Kidd isn't returning to Dallas and Dirk accepts that he almost certainly isn't getting a co-star this season.

Nowitzki promises to keep pushing, determined not to miss the playoffs for the first time since he was an NBA pup.

"We've got to be smarter," Nowitzki said. "We've got to do the little things better. And if you keep making little mistakes, they add up into big losses."

And long beards.

Tim MacMahon covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com. Follow him @espn_macmahon

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