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Dirk Nowitzki is better than the Mavericks

For five years, the Mavericks organization has failed its greatest player. A bad stretch as Dirk continues to defy odds at age 37 only reinforces that.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

There are just three players that have done something better than what Dirk Nowitzki is doing at age 37.

Those three players are Karl Malone, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Jordan.

Karl Malone.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.*

Michael Jordan.

Those three players -- three of the top four scorers in the history of the NBA -- are the only three players that have averaged more points per game in a season at age 37 or older than Dirk Nowitzki.

Instead of enjoying that of level of play, instead of basking in winding down one of the greatest careers in NBA history, Dirk Nowitzki -- Dirk god damn Nowitzki -- is giving out postgame interview answers like this:

"I always make the best of whatever we've got," Nowitzki said when asked how concerned he was about the long-term state of the Mavs. "That's what I've always done my entire career with the players we bring in. I'm going to give it my best and try to compete at the highest level. That's what I will do for the rest of my career."

It's an answer it feels like Dirk has give about a dozen times in his career, the sort of comment he would give after the Mavs had been bounced from the playoffs in the countless years before the 2011 title run.

This is where the greatest franchise player in the history of Dallas basketball is. Not celebrating on a retirement tour like Kobe Bryant, not being a complementary piece on a stacked roster like Tim Duncan but shrugging his shoulders  as his team pisses about for the umpteenth time.

Dirk Nowitzki is better than this. He's better than this team. He's better than the Dallas Mavericks.

The road that got us here has been broken down and dissected. The title team dissolved. Tyson walked -- twice. Rajon Rondo. DeAndre Jordan.

It's remarkable that despite all the Mavericks f--- ups this season, that they're still even relevant. Sure, sucking down the tailpipe of the Western Conference playoffs stretches the definition of relevant in the NBA, but it's more than expected.

Of course the only reason the Mavs have defied those meager expectations set by their front-office blunders has been Dirk. The steadying presence of the greatest shooting floor-spacing big of all time and one of the greatest closers ever.

It has to run out eventually. Relying on an ancient (by NBA standards) to carry your team just isn't practical or realistic and the last two years started to show hints. Dirk missing easy buckets. Going cold for entire months. In fact just this season, Dirk appeared on the verge of another iffy year (for him) after posting some ugly shooting numbers in December and January.

Yet somehow, he finds a way. As the Mavs have sunk to their lowest levels in a  recent five-game losing streak, Dirk has been at his finest. He's scored 30 points twice and in the month of March alone he's averaging 23.6 points a game on 53 percent shooting from the field. AT AGE 37. THIS IS NOT NORMAL.

He's doing all this for a team that is clinging to a .500 record and clinging for a chance to be slaughtered against the Golden State Warriors or San Antonio Spurs. Dirk Nowitzki is better than this.

*  *  *

Despite Dirk's seemingly bleak, aware-of-his-fate answers after the disheartening loss to Indiana on Saturday, he hasn't give up yet. As long as he can kick ass in the NBA, there will be asses to be kicked. The Mavericks needed another one to break their losing streak on Monday.

So of course, of course, Dirk started at center. Manning the middle against a Charlotte team that had won seven in a row, featuring athletes all over the floor, Dirk needed to not only carry the offense but guard the rim.

His response? Just another ass kicking: 23 points, 11 rebounds, one assist, two blocks and only one turnover in 28 minutes in a double-digit, streak-busting win. The Hornets center rotation of Cody Zeller, Frank Kaminsky and Al Jefferson shot a combined 3-of-13 -- with Dirk guarding them on a majority of those shots. At age 37.

He's unbelievable.

Perhaps the best part wasn't the statistical output but what Dirk didn't do in the fourth quarter. After putting Dallas up for good with a jumper somewhat early on in the frame, Dirk sat the final 7:22 as the Dallas lead ballooned to 10.

From there, his teammates carried the burden. Chandler Parsons knocked down three 3-pointers en route to 11 fourth quarter points. Deron Williams made buckets. Raymond Felton sprung out of the grave to make some pretty drives. Rick Carlisle showed off his warlock powers as he continues to maximize David Lee at center. Dirk's teammates carried him.

It was a rare sight. Too rare for that 37-year-old phenom. He's better than this.