The Mavs' Scoop On Dirk's Scope
LOSS OF A GAME-CHANGER :
The Dallas Mavericks announced Friday that Dirk Nowitzki underwent arthroscopic surgery on his bothersome right knee earlier in the morning. There were essentially three potential results of the surgery and the good news is that the result -- an expected six-week recovery period for the 34-year-old -- is the expected one.
A source tells DB.com that Dr. T.O. Souryal likely discovered in Nowitzki's knee some meniscal "fraying.'' The procedure cleans up that fraying by smoothing or "shaving'' the area. I am also told that whether it was "fraying,'' or a "floating body'' or both is immaterial as to the seriousness of the operation -- that both represent what one expert tells me means "no alarm here.''
It is the Mavs' medical position that Dirk's recent work to strengthen his legs will benefit him greatly as he works to return. That strength makes a recovery in as little as four weeks a medical possibility, though my source cautions that when the team carefully reports that Dirk can "resume on-court activities within approximately six weeks,'' that doesn't automatically mean he can play in six weeks. In this scenario, eight weeks total is most likely.
"Well, 34-year old guys that are in the top-10 players on the planet know their bodies," coach Rick Carlisle said. "Dirk is going to know when the right time is to come back."
In the meantime, the Mavs are talking about working as a "team of go-to guys.''
"We've got to really buckle down," Carlisle said. "Six weeks is a long time. A week-and-a-half of it is non-season time, so that's a bit of a plus, but NBA games are hard and we're going to have to have everybody ready to play. Simple as that."
One Mavs plus: The club benefits from having the easiest schedule in the NBA from the time the season starts on Oct. 30 (at the Lakers) until Thanksgiving. Opponents have a .403 winning percentage from a year ago. Eight of the Mavs' first 12 games are against non-playoff teams from last season. How does November begin? With a group of seven games including six against Charlotte, Portland, Toronto, Charlotte again, Minnesota (without Kevin Love) and Washington.
Have-not teams ... playing against a Mavs club that is, for hopefully a short time, a have-no-Dirk team.
THE DIRK-LESS LINEUP:
So the Mavs simply shift gears and start Elton Brand next to Chris Kaman, right?
Not so fast.
"It's never going to be easy to lose a game-changer for six weeks," Carlisle said. "We know that, but we're going to have to make up for it in other areas. We're going to have to play with grit and guts, and we're going to have to raise our level of efficiency in all areas."
They might also have to play with SmallBall.
Carlisle mentioned, almost as an aside, that he's been displeased with the work of the Brand-Kaman combo.
I visited with Rick one-on-one on the subject earlier this week, and he indicated that ultimately, that would be the best plan upfront, with Marion at the 3. But in meeting with the media at large on Friday, the coach didn't want to commit to the idea.
I don't know who's going to start,'' he said. "We haven't been doing too well with the two guys starting. We're working through some things, figure out who's available, and go with them. ... We're going to be small-ish a lot. And we're going to have to make that work for us.''
So start coloring outside the lines here. This isn't just about Brand replicating Dirk. It could be about Vince if Dallas goes smaller. It could be about Jae if Dallas goes younger. B-Wright is also volunteering for duty.
We've just got to ride it out," Brandan Wright said. "We've got guys that need to step up, myself included. We've got to play hard and lift our level."
The Mavs have been planning for life without Dirk ... but it's a little unsettling that things are this unsettled.
AND THEN THERE'S KAMAN:
Chris Kaman looked frisky enough as I watched him jog up the staircase following Friday's practice. But in fact, the center did not fully participate in the session at the AAC, as was also the case on Thursday. And now Carlisle says Kaman will not accompany the Mavericks in their trip to Atlanta for an exhibition game against the Hawks on Saturday due to a straight calf.
Trainer Casey Smith will apparently remain in Dallas this weekend to work with Dirk and Kaman. Kaman could return to practice on Monday.
"We'll see what's what," Carlisle said. "It's been bothering him for a few days."
With uncharacteristic candor, Carlisle said the Mavs will have their eyes open to acquiring a player while Dirk is out. Because they have 15 guaranteed contracts now, Dallas would be required to to trade away or cut a player to make that happen ... Roddy B was the last man on the floor, showing no ill effects from the ankle injury and nailing 3's with remarkable consistency. If his ankle responds properly, he'll play in Atlanta ... From Vince Carter, on Dirk's absence: "Nobody's giving us a chance with or without him, so we've just gotta play basketball and let the chips fall where they may." ... Regarding tanking: You can say it. You can post ideas about it on DB.com Boards. We'll get together at Red Rock on Oct. 30 for a DB.com Mavs Watching Party and I'll buy you a beer while we discuss it. But I dare you to say it to Rick Carlisle's face. He'll Tagg Romney you. ... The stat-related number to adjusting to no UberMan: per 48 minutes last season, Dallas scored 97.4 points with Dirk on the floor but just 89.0 points with him off it. That doesn't necessarily cement in similar results this year, of course; remember, a year ago, the person who was pinpointed to fill Dirk's spot was none other than Lamar Odom. This year's club can quite possibly do better than that.
THE FINAL WORD:
"If it's any comfort to you, I had a scope two years ago and I was back playing ping-pong within six weeks." -- Rick Carlisle, trying to paste a smiley face on this thing.
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