Opening Tip: Dirk encouraged by direction

DALLAS -- The disappointment over failing to land a big fish has passed for Dirk Nowitzki. He's cautiously encouraged about the direction of the Mavericks franchise at this point.

Nowitzki, who publicly questioned owner Mark Cuban's long-term plan in January and said it could be judged as "a mistake or not" after the summer, desperately wanted Chris Paul or Dwight Howard to come to Dallas. That didn't happen, with Paul not even listening to recruiting pitches before re-signing with the Los Angeles Clippers and Howard opting to go to the Houston Rockets.

However, Nowitzki was pleased with the Mavs' contingency plan, which consisted of signing a crop of free agents headlined by guards Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis.

"It was tough," Nowitzki told ESPNDallas.com about missing out on a proven superstar after Cuban essentially opted to sacrifice wins for salary-cap space. "First, it was Chris Paul. We didn't get him and then obviously went for Dwight. We went all-out. We all flew out there. Cuban put a suit on, so that already showed us how bad we wanted him.

"But hey, it is what it is. We didn't get him. I was frustrated there for a while, not knowing what we were going to do. Are we going to sign nine one-year deals again? But obviously Mark decided to go a different route. The first signing I think was Calderon, who I always liked as a point guard. I think Monta was probably a surprise to everybody. I didn't see that coming. I always thought he wanted a little more money somewhere else. He did. I was fired up to play with him, even though I didn't know how he was going to fit in here, but I was excited about the possibility of playing with him.

"I think as a franchise, we've moved on. We didn't go for the whole cap space deal again, like we did last year, so I was obviously pleased to see that."

The Mavs definitely aren't done with their roster remodeling, but Nowitzki believes the new backcourt can be part of the foundation for the future. Calderon signed a four-year, $29 million deal. Ellis signed for $25 million over three years, although the last season in his contract is a player option.

Nowitzki noted that the Mavs could be active before the trade deadline, especially if the first half of the season doesn't go as well as hoped.

The Mavs are set up to have ample cap space again next summer, when the contracts of Nowitzki ($22.7 million), Shawn Marion ($9.3 million) and Vince Carter ($3.2 million) all expire. Nowitzki has committed to re-sign a two- or three-year deal at a significantly reduced salary to be determined.

"I don't see us as being stuck," Cuban said. "I see us as a team that can and will get better. We're good and we can get a lot better."

Added Nowitzki: "We're still not done building. ... Our goal obviously since 2011 hasn't changed. We're not happy making the playoffs. We want to compete for the championship."

That would have been easier to do with Howard on his side, but as far as Nowitzki is concerned, hope is still alive.