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Dirk Nowitzki: 'Got to keep pushing'

SALT LAKE CITY -- After suggesting the Dallas Mavericks could explore trading him to rebuild their team following Saturday's loss to the New Orleans Hornets, Dirk Nowitzki was quick to clarify that he is making no trade demands.

"I never said I was going to be traded," Nowitzki said, following the team's shootaround Monday. "I said what I said numerous times: We have two options. We tried to sign (Deron Williams), but we didn't sign him, so we have two options: We either trade everybody and start over or we bring in a bunch of one-year deals -- which we did -- and try to be a player this summer."

Nowitzki told ESPNDallas.com late Saturday that "I always liked to think you don't want to build your franchise on hope."

That's the risk the Mavs took when they opted to make financial flexibility a priority in an attempt to hit a home run in free agency.

Nowitzki has not hid his frustration on how the season has played out for him personally and Dallas as a whole. His solution, however, is to fight it out and make progress with the Mavericks rather than opting for greener pastures elsewhere.

"The whole atmosphere is obviously not fun to be around, but it's not supposed to be when you're losing," Nowitzki said. "We got to keep on pushing."

What makes the Mavericks' regression from last season more frustrating for Nowitzki is that he has not been able to do much to stop it from occurring. The 34 year-old All-Star missed the first 27 games of the season after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, and it has taken time for him to shake off the rust since returning to the court.

In seven games this season, Nowitzki is averaging just 11.4 points and 4.6 rebounds in 23.9 minutes per game. Both are well below his career averages of 22.8 points and 8.3 rebounds. He is also shooting just 41.7 percent from the field.

Much of that dip in production is a direct result of the Mavericks bringing their star back slowly. He did not make his first start of the season until the loss to New Orleans on Saturday.

Still, Nowitzki shoulders much of the blame for the continued slide that has seen Dallas lose 11 of its last 13 games. He feels like his absence has put his team behind the eight ball and forced the Mavericks to make up extra ground to get back in playoff contention.

"I'm frustrated that I missed two months," Nowitzki said. "I'm not quite there yet where I can close those games out which I should -- especially the New Orleans game. I'm just not quite there yet. The whole situation is frustrating."

For Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, Nowitzki can't provide a silver bullet cure to the team's struggles. Winning will require a team-wide focus on doing all of the things that don't show up on the stat sheet.

"We want to win games," Carlisle said. "Everybody wants to win games. But in order to get there, we got to deal with the process. Keeping turnovers down is something we got to do, not only a couple games in a row, but we got to do that on a consistent basis. And the rebounding tonight is paramount."

Carlisle knows it will be much easier to do these things -- starting with the Utah Jazz on Monday night -- with Nowitzki getting back to his old self again.

The key is making sure that success or failure does not ride exclusively on what Nowitzki can do every night.

"It helps us from a personnel standpoint for sure," Carlisle said. "But we still got to go out there and do the things we got to do (to win). We got to guard the post. We got to rebound. We got to get back on defense."