DALLAS — Dirk Nowitzki‘s return to greatness is clearly going to be a rigorous climb as the Dallas Mavericks find themselves between rock and a very hard place.
Dirk came off the bench for the third game in a row Friday night against the Nuggets and although he took 10 shots, making just two for five points, it was almost as if he wasn’t there.
“I’m going to work myself into better shape obviously and can help a little more, but right now I’m not helping that much,” Nowitzki said. “I’m just a step slow, that was obvious, had really no lift on the jumper so everything was kind of in and out.”
The Mavs dropped to 0-3 with the franchise’s leading scorer back from October arthroscopic right knee surgery. They were blasted by San Antonio, beaten in OT at OKC on Thursday and then rocked at home by the Nuggets 106-85.
They’ve lost five in a row and eight of nine, slumping at 12-18, with the Spurs coming to town on Sunday. A week ago at San Antonio, the Spurs dropped a franchise-record 20 3-pointers on Dallas and led by 46 points late in the game.
Dirk played just 18 minutes against the Nuggets and not a second in the fourth quarter, even in the first half of the period when the game was still somewhat within striking distance.
But with the Mavs struggling every which way with Denver, coach Rick Carlisle said he decided enough was enough.
“It was too much tonight. That was my decision,” Carlisle said. “It was back-to-back games and he isn’t limping or anything, but he just can’t give us what everyone expects him to give. We had to get a different guy in there and this process is going to be ongoing.
“It is tough, but we have to hang in there and in the big picture we have to keep working towards his total health and sometimes that means pulling the plug.”
In this three games back, Dirk is averaging 7.3 points and he is 8-for-25 (32.0 percent) from the floor and 3-for-8 from 3-point range. He has 13 total rebounds and two assists while averaging 21.7 minutes.