But that’s no reason to rush the rehabilitation on his surgically repaired knee.
Dallas was given a gift when Nowitzki made a surprise return against the San Antonio Spurs. Since then, he has continued to come off the bench and his minutes have been limited. Which is smart.
And according to Tim McMahon of ESPNDallas.com, it’s going to stay that way for awhile:
“My wind actually felt fine for the first game back after two months,” Nowitzki told reporters after Thursday morning’s shootaround in Oklahoma City. “But my legs were a little heavy. There was just a little pep missing. I can’t really move around or get up out there. So I think we’re going to monitor my minutes until I start feeling better and moving better out there. But for the first time in two months, it actually was decent.
“Up and down running, I was fine the last couple weeks, but the showing on defense, the pushback, the jumping, the rebounding, I’m still having a little trouble with. Not kneewise, but just the muscles are not firing that quick as they should.”
Nowitzki will continue to come off the bench because that’s the easiest way to manage his minutes.
Are such circumstances optimal? Of course not. Especially when the Mavericks are five games under .500 and three games out of the Western Conference playoff picture. That said, monitoring Nowitzki, limiting his minutes, is a necessity.
Because Dallas can’t afford to have any setbacks later on.
As we’ve already seen, the Mavericks aren’t much, let alone a playoff entity, without Nowitzki in the fold. Sure, they started the season 4-1, but have since lost 15 of 23 contests. Though that increases the urgency surrounding Dirk’s unconditional return, it also preaches patience at the same time.
Dallas is going to be hard-pressed to make a playoff push as it is. With the top four teams in the West basically written in stone, the Golden State Warriors playing out of their mind and the Los Angeles Lakers inevitable resurgence. the Mavericks’ chances of making the playoffs are slim.
But there is still a chance.
Should Nowitzki be forced to miss any more time—any more at all—a postseason berth is out of the question, though. As talented a roster as Dallas boasts, it lacks the multitude of players who now how to win consistently. Guys like Shawn Marion have been around the block before, but key components such as O.J. Mayo, Chris Kaman and Darren Collison aren’t what you would consider perennial winners.
Nowitzki is, and the Mavericks could certainly use all that he brings to the table; they need all that he brings to the table.
Yet that need for him in the lineup is exactly why he has to be kept out of it for a majority of the time, for now anyway. Nowitzki isn’t 25 anymore. His body is more susceptible to injury. We’ve already seen it this season.
Which means going on without him in the starting lineup, without him playing 35 to 40 minutes a night is essential to his health.
As well as the Mavericks’ immediate future.
Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.