Dirk's New Mavs Target: Mid-December

Dirk Nowitzki anticipates being back in the Mavs lineup right around the holidays. But not the Thanksgiving holidays. The Dallas icon revealed on Tuesday that he is 'seeing the end of the tunnel' of rehab on his knee. But that tunnel remains a month long.

Conventional wisdom had the Dallas Mavericks attempting to stay afloat while The UberMan was out and rehabbing after knee surgery. At 6-6, that's been accomplished. (If "accomplished'' is really the right word.)

But that was originally a stay-afloat concept that could take Dallas through November. Now it appears the healthy Mavs will have to be buoyant enough to do it through December.

"Well, unfortunately (my return will be) not as soon as we all hoped, I think," Dirk Nowitzki said on Tuesday afternoon at the AAC. "I think originally when the last statement we put out was it's going to take six weeks before I do any basketball activity. Unfortunately, I tried, but I couldn't cut the time down."

It's been a month since the arthroscopic surgery on his right knee was performed. At that time, there was talk of a three-week wait but more logically, a five-week target. That would've meant a return right after Thanksgiving.

"I think I'm still about two weeks out before even getting on the court and start working out, start running, start shooting," Dirk said, and if you count those weeks that takes us to mid-December before he is likely to come back onto the game floor. "That would put me right at six weeks before I get on the court. By that point, I'm assuming I need a good week or two to get in halfway decent playing shape running and shooting and doing all sorts of stuff. ... From the beginning, the goal is that the swelling has to be gone 100 percent and the strength has to be back 100 percent. And once that goal is reached, then I can obviously think about playing again. But I think we're still far away from that.''
Knowing the 11-time All-Star, perennial MVP candidate and future Hall-of-Famer as we do, there is no doubting the effort being put into rehab. He noted that he stepped up his strength work on Monday and we spotted him a week ago working up a sweat while running on the sideline during a team practice at the AAC. What there is, though, is a realization that being a reputed "fast-healer'' doesn't serve as a cure-all for a 34-year-old who makes his living as Nowitzki does. Additionally, Dirk was careful again Tuesday to note his unwillingness to make the unhealthy mistake of returning too soon and to be "patient.''

"It's been a frustrating time for me, especially watching and (there's) nothing I can really do,'' Dirk said. "So there's been some hard days, some frustrating days.''

That frustration figures to continue for the club, which worked through a supposed "easy'' schedule in Dirk's absence. The team's next two games are at home, and are against 7-1 New York and against the vaunted Lakers.

"Dirk will get there and we know he'll be back at some point,'' coach Rick Carlisle said. "Nobody knows exactly when that's going to be."

Well, it'll be around a holiday. Just not the next one on the calendar.

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