The first fifth of this dismal Dallas Mavericks season has been marred by many things -- none of which are more critical or more notable than the absence of Dirk Nowitzki.
That absence rears its ugly head again this week as the Mavs announced on Tuesday that The UberMan will be out at least two more games with the right Achilles tendon injury that has contributed to the Dallas icon sitting out 11 of the first 16 games this season.
"He's making gradual progress, but not enough to play him right now,'' coach Rick Carlisle said. "So, that's where we are ... He's out at least two games. He won't play tomorrow, he won't travel to Charlotte and we'll go from there."
Nowitzki, 38, returned from an eight-game absence because of the injury and played in losses to the Clippers and at Cleveland last week. Then he sat again at home in 3-13 Dallas' third win of season against New Orleans on Sunday.
Dirk, who also missed two games early in the season with an illness, is averaging 12.2 points and 6.4 rebounds - but despite the numbers, he remains Dallas' best shot at success.
The Mavs are off to their worst start since beginning 1-23 in 1993-94. Their recent eight-game losing streak is the longest of the Cuban era, and all of this of course feeds story lines from the ridiculous to the realistic.
The realistic? Hey look forward to how next summer's NBA draft might salvage this situation. (We've got analysis of an assortment of college stars coming off on DallasBasketball.com.)
We also hope it's realistic to suggest we see Dirk healthy and at his best sometime soon. But it won't happen for Wednesday’s game against visiting San Antonio and it won't happen for the trip to Charlotte on Thursday.
Some would suggest Dirk shouldn't rush back at all, "Organic Tanking'' being available to this team as it is. What we want is what Dirk wants and needs … And what he needs right now is rest.