The Mavericks declined to sign Pavlovic for the rest of the season Saturday night, as required by NBA rules if they wanted to keep him when his second 10-day contract expired.
Coach Rick Carlisle informed Pavlovic of the decision after the Mavs' 102-89 win over the Atlanta Hawks, Dallas' fifth win in six games with the eight-year veteran as the starting small forward. Carlisle thanked Pavlovic in front of the rest of the Mavericks, who gave him a standing ovation.
Pavlovic, who averaged 4.1 points in 10 games with the Mavericks, quickly dressed and departed before the locker room was open to the media. He left his protective mask in his locker, which was necessary after he suffered a broken nose on the final day of his first 10-day contract.
"We appreciate what he did and the guys gave him a great round of applause in the locker room, so it was a nice moment," said Carlisle, who used Pavlovic as a starter because he wanted to bring Shawn Marion off the bench. "I'm sure he's disappointed, but I'm also sure he'll hook on with someone else or if he comes back with us, it will be for the rest of the year. The decision comes down from the top and it basically involves flexibility going forward."
Owner Mark Cuban said he would have liked to sign Pavlovic to another 10-day contract, but he wasn't willing to commit for the rest of the season to a player who would probably be inactive once small forward Peja Stojakovic (knee) and guard Rodrigue Beaubois (foot) got healthy.
Stojakovic, who signed with the Mavericks on Monday after receiving a buyout from the Toronto Raptors, is likely to eventually become Dallas' starting small forward. However, Carlisle said he doesn't expect Stojakovic to join the team on next week's road trip.
The Mavs could use the open roster spot to sign another player to a 10-day contract. The flexibility could be useful in a trade or if the Mavs, who still have their full mid-level exception, pursue another veteran who receives a buyout.
"It's not a reflection on Sasha," Cuban said. "And it could change. There's a chance he could be back once we see how things play out."
Guard Jason Terry said he was "just stunned" when informed that the Mavs weren't keeping Pavlovic. He was one of several core members of the Mavs who expressed gratitude for Pavlovic's contributions to the team during his brief stay in Dallas.
"It's tough to see him let go," star forward Dirk Nowitzki said. "The decision obviously comes from higher up, but to be thrown into a situation like that, be a starter and respond the way he has, he's been great. He's been learning the plays on the fly and competing.
"He'll be in the league somewhere. He's too good of a player and too good of a guy to not be in the league."
Tim MacMahon covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.