The question was posed Thursday on ESPNDallas.com and is starting to be asked with regularity in Big D by restless fans of the Dallas Mavericks:

Could the Mavs make a legitimate play for Milwaukee Bucks big man Larry Sanders before the Feb. 20 trade deadline?

The answer, for now, appears to be no.

Sources briefed on the situation told ESPN.com that teams asking whether the defensive specialist has fallen far enough out of favor with his frustrated bosses to be made available are being turned away.

For now.

Even after the steady stream of Sanders missteps almost from the moment he came to terms on a four-year, $44 million extension in August, sources say that the Bucks don't seem to think they can afford to trade the 25-year-old this month.

Reason being: Milwaukee is said to be fearful that trading Sanders so soon, when his value has taken so many hits in the wake of that October nightclub fight and the Bucks' subsequent nosedive to a league-worst record of 9-40, makes it tough to get something resembling a fair return.

You can certainly understand why Dallas would have an interest. Before this stock-dropping season and despite a few clashes with teammates over the years, Sanders won raves from NBA numbers-crunchers for his ability to protect the rim and anchor a defense. And history shows that putting a defensive-minded center with athleticism next to Dirk Nowitzki -- as Dirk and Tyson Chandler proved together -- is an ideal tag team.