There is no bitter expression hidden underneath Dirk Nowitzki's mangy beard. No covert biting of the tongue, either.

The Dallas Mavericks star may have been critical of his owner's approach in the past, back when the wounds of Mark Cuban's cold and calculated roster-building ways were still fresh. But as Nowitzki nears the end of this memorable stretch of 12 consecutive postseason berths and ponders his future, the future Hall of Famer who vowed not to shave until his team reached the .500 mark swears he's not still upset about the way Cuban broke up the 2010-11 championship team and ushered in all this mediocrity.

But if nothing has changed by next season, if the Mavericks' imperfect-but-prudent plan to counteract the league's harsh new collective bargaining agreement backfires because they aren't able to land an impactful free agent this summer and return to the elite level during the twilight of Nowitzki's career? Might Nowitzki — who will be a free agent in the summer of 2014 — considering retiring in a jersey other than the Mavs' one he has always worn?

"Now that I already reached my goal (of winning it all), I really want to finish my career in Dallas," Nowitzki told USA TODAY Sports recently. "But saying all that, I don't want another year next year with the same as this year, (with) the frustration and playing for the eight or nine seed. I think we all know that this is a very big summer for us. (Mavericks general manager) Donnie (Nelson) knows. Cuban knows. We want to get back to the championship level."