Don't kick any dirt on Dirk Nowitzki's contract just yet.

The belief in many circles is the Dallas Mavericks must take full advantage of Nowitzki's current contract, which ends after the 2013-14 season, by fielding a contender. In other words, don't waste the final two years of the career of the franchise's all-time greatest player by rebuilding.

Nowitzki, 34, won't play forever. But he's also not nearing the end, especially if considering the status of a couple of his 7-foot MVP peers. Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett are both 36 and each recently signed three-year contracts taking them to the verge of 40.

Why can't that be Nowitzki?

"It's important not to assume anything," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "I think with these two years we've got to do the same thing we did last year and that's keep his minutes reasonable, we've got to surround him with the right guys and put ourselves in a position to be successful.

"If we do those things, he's going to want to continue to play. We're all involved with that. We know the challenges."

It wasn't so long ago that the Mavericks appeared to be in panic mode. The team finished second in the Deron Williams Sweepstakes -- in Mark Cuban's world that's the same as being last -- and the roster had nearly as many holes as a box of donuts.

The question was even raised: Is it time to trade Nowitzki? (He has a no-trade clause.)

The front-office rally over the last week has netted starters in Chris Kaman, O.J. Mayo and Darren Collison, and valuable depth with Elton Brand and Dahntay Jones. Nowitzki won't be forced carry the load alone.

"I don't foresee Dirk all of the sudden hitting some wall in the next year or two," Mavericks general manager Donnie Nelson said. "Our plan has always been to put ourselves in a positive position to win a championship. There's different ways of doing that.