Darren Collison may not be back for a second year in Dallas after twice losing the starting job at point guard on a team that couldn't extend a 12-season playoff streak.
He at least left owner Mark Cuban and coach Rick Carlisle with something to ponder.
Collison scored 25 points, Dirk Nowitzki added 16 and the Mavericks finished their worst season in 13 years with a 99-87 victory in New Orleans' final game as the Hornets on Wednesday night.
"Personally, I felt like I withstood some things a lot of players can't withstand," Collison said. "I had a lot of point guards come in and start in front of me. But I put my head down and kept working. It's good to leave on a good note."
The Mavericks (41-41) avoided their first losing record since going 40-42 in 1999-2000 — Nowitzki's second season and also the last time they missed the playoffs.
Al-Farouq Amini had 16 points and a career-high 20 rebounds for New Orleans, which will become the Pelicans next season. Eric Gordon also scored 16 for the Hornets, and Robin Lopez had a double-double with 14 points and 13 boards.
Collison, brought in to bring youth to the Dallas backcourt but twice replaced in the starting lineup by 30-something point guards, scored 13 in the first half and was 10-of-15 from the field for the game.
Mike James, the 37-year-old who joined Dallas on a 10-day contract and replaced Collison in early March when Carlisle decided the young guard was a better threat off the bench, went 3-for-4 from 3-point range for nine points.
Shawn Marion scored 15 for the Mavs.
"I thought we had some guys play well, but I thought (Collison) was our most consistent and most dynamic guy out there," Carlisle said.
Nowitzki, who also had a team-high nine rebounds, scored nine points in the third quarter, including a three-point play on a jumper and his one-legged step-back shot to beat the buzzer for a 75-64 lead.
The Hornets got within six in the fourth quarter, but Collison scored eight straight points to key an 18-4 run that put the Mavs ahead by 20.
"Guys fought, battled," New Orleans coach Monty Williams said. "Guys played out of position most of the season for us. I wish we would have had a healthy team from the start to finish, but that's not something we can complain about right now."
Dallas was trying to get back to .500 against the Hornets for the second time in four days. The stakes were a lot higher Sunday, when Nowitzki and other veterans finally got to shave some shaggy beards after vowing two months earlier not to break out the razors until they reached the break-even mark for the first time since mid-December.
The Mavericks, who were 10 games below in early January, had a chance to finish above .500 before a deflating loss to Memphis a night after the 107-89 win in New Orleans.
"I expected us to battle back, and I expected us to get to, and I thought we would get above .500," said Carlisle, who avoided his second losing record in 11 seasons as an NBA coach. "It didn't happen, but we never lost our spirit."
Nowitzki added four assists, and his line over the final five games — 20.8 points and 7.2 rebounds — looked a lot closer to his career numbers after he worked all season to overcome sitting out the first 27 games because of knee surgery. The 7-foot German wrapped up his 15th season as one of just three rotation players under contract for next season.
"I think the team is going to look a lot different next year," Nowitzki said. "Nobody has a crystal ball. We'll have to wait and see who we bring back."
The Hornets (27-55), long since eliminated from the playoffs for the third time in four seasons, were just looking for a better showing than the 107-89 loss to Dallas over the weekend, when they fell behind 62-40 at halftime and shot just 38 percent for the game.
New Orleans got some energy early from Aminu, who nearly matched his career high of 16 rebounds in the first quarter. He finished the period with 14 and had already matched Kurt Rambis' franchise record of 13 in the first 8 minutes.
Aminu had two more boards than the entire Dallas team in the first half, and New Orleans outrebounded the Mavs 58-37 overall.
"He's just competing," Williams said. "He just played hard. He played so hard he didn't have anything left at the end."
NOTES: O.J. Mayo was sharply criticized by Carlisle after Monday's loss to Memphis. Carlisle faulted the effort of Mayo, who had two points on 1-of-6 shooting with four turnovers and just one assists. "I don't blame him," said Mayo, speaking at Wednesday's shootaround after leaving without talking to reporters Monday. "I didn't play like I'd like and just didn't have the energy I needed to play that game." Mayo held or shared the team scoring lead in 17 of the first 25 games without an injured Nowitzki, including a season-high 40 in a win at Houston on Dec. 8. But he was the leading scorer just twice in the final 25 games — the last was more than a month ago — and was easily passed by Nowitzki in scoring average. "I thought this year was a great learning curve," Mayo said. ... Dallas G/F Vince Carter matched his career high with 162 3-pointers. He did it the first time 12 years ago.