The 36-year-old Nowitzki is taking a big pay cut with a contract similar in value and structure to the one Tim Duncan signed with San Antonio two years ago.
Duncan, who also took a much lower salary, is exercising a player option to return for the final season of his deal after helping the Spurs win their fifth title since 1999.
Nowitzki just completed a four-year deal worth $80 million, and he left money on the table in that deal hoping the Mavericks could get some pieces around him.
The pursuit of other stars is even more urgent with Nowitzki getting close to the end of what figures to be a Hall-of-Fame career. The 2011 NBA Finals MVP put off finalizing the deal until after the Mavericks met with free agent Carmelo Anthony, which happened Wednesday night.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban recently acknowledged that he couldn't offer Anthony a max contract, so Dallas figures to be stressing the 2011 title led by coach Rick Carlisle, Nowitzki and center Tyson Chandler, who recently rejoined the team in a trade with the New York Knicks.
If the Mavericks miss out on Anthony, there are a number of other small forwards on their wish list, topped by Houston's Chandler Parsons. He is a restricted free agent, and the Rockets can match any offer.
Dallas also wants to re-sign point guard Devin Harris, and will target several others at that position if Harris goes elsewhere.