The Mavericks without Dirk Nowitziki.
There are images that come to mind:
— The Sahara without sand.
— Niagara Falls without water.
— Las Vegas without casinos.
Is there really even a reason to visit?
The bad news out of Dallas is that the uber-Maverick forward underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee today and the doctors have said that he’ll be off the court for roughly six weeks.
The good news from sources is the Mavs’ worst fears — a need for microfracture surgery — were not realized, and that Nowitzki has historically been a very quick healer.
When Dallas planned to unveil a new starting lineup with Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo and Chris Kaman, nobody ever expected it to be missing the sun in the center of their solar system. It is Dirk’s ability to score from anywhere and command the attention of defenses that is supposed to open things up for the new trio. Toss in the other newcomer Elton Brand and the heat is on.
If Nowitzki is sidelined for six weeks, the Mavericks would play 13 regular season games without him, and that means the new pieces to the lineup puzzle — especially forward Brand and center Kaman in the frontcourt — will have to step up right away to prevent Dallas from falling into too big a hole in the standings in what promises to a crowded and fierce Western Conference race for the eight playoff spots.
As alarming as it might be for Mavs fans to see Nowitzki undergo any type of surgery for the first time in his 14-year career, it was likely a decision that will prove beneficial over the long run of the season.
Nowitzki’s knee problems first arose last year in training camp and he eventually had to take four games off in January to work on his conditioning. He also finished with the lowest stats — 21.6 points and 6.8 rebounds per game — since his second season in the NBA. He had already missed the last three preseason games this year.
“If it’s going to keep swelling up on me, that’s obviously not a way to go through an 82-game season and hopefully a long playoff,” Nowitzki told Dallas reporters following a practice earlier this week.
Brand, who was claimed by the Mavericks after getting an amnesty release by the Sixers, was expected to be valuable as a backup to Nowitzki and also play at times in tandem with the 11-time All-Star. The thought was that Brand’s low-post skills would be a complement for Nowitzki and allow him to get away from the beating he often takes inside. Now the 33-year-old is on the spot from opening night Oct. 30 against the Lakers.
Being without Nowitzki to start the season definitely could put the Mavs in a deep hole. But the decision for surgery now could prevent them from getting buried later.
As pretty pictures go, six weeks of Dallas without Dirk might look like dogs playing poker on velvet. But it doesn’t have to be a hand that cashes the Mavs out for good.