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Dirk Nowitzki "Shut Down" Over the Weekend, Hopeful to Return Next Week

Dirk Nowitzki spoke to the media on Friday afternoon to give a progress report on his sprained right knee.  The MVP candidate  has missed six consecutive games due to the injury, the longest stint of games Nowitzki has missed due to an injury.  The Mavericks are 2-4 during the stretch without Nowitzki.  He injured the knee early in the second quarter on December 27th at Oklahoma City and his injury has been classified as day-to-day.  Today, Coach Rick Carlisle ruled Nowitzki out for the game against the Orlando Magic on Saturday night.  "He’s making progress and there haven’t been anything setbacks or anything like that," Carlisle said.  "It’s just not time yet.

"I decided to shut it down here for the weekend," Nowitzki said.  He mentioned that he tried to work out the knee prior to the Oklahoma City game.  Movements involving jumping and pushing off gave him issues, so they decided to regroup over the weekend and start fresh next week.  After the game with the Orlando Magic on Saturday, the Mavericks will be off until Wednesday when they travel to Indiana to play the Pacers.

Over the last the six games, the Mavericks have tried to do everything that they can to stay competitive in games.  Key players have logged heavy minutes, they have tweaked their starting lineup and they’ve searched on the bench for sparks of energy to no avail.  At this point for Dallas, it’s just all about  a matter of survival.  "I think we would like to have a full team, but the NBA is like that," Jason Kidd said on Thursday night as he described the challenges of the regular season grind.  "It’s a fine line. It only takes a quick tenth-of-a-second for someone to get hurt."  Despite the injury concerns, even to their franchise player, Kidd remains confident that the team will find a way to make it all work.  "We feel we’re deep enough and we’ve got enough guys in here to get wins," he said.  "You can look at it so many different ways, but I think at the end of the day we’ll be a better team with Dirk getting back and us continuing to play the way that we’re playing."

Adding Nowitzki's injury to Caron Butler’s season-ending injury, the Mavericks are left with a talented but depleted roster.  Despite the setbacks, Carlisle is not concerned with the injury situation.  "I lost a whole team in the brawl year," he said.  "This is nothing."  When Carlisle spoke to the media, he continued to say that the team emphasis still needs to be centered around defense and rebounding.  Having to deal with the adjustments to personnel is just a part the regular season and Carlisle still believes in his injury-riddled team.  "My belief in these other guys has never been higher," Carlisle said.

During the rehabilitation process, Nowitzki has been restrained from rigors of daily practices.  Instead, he’s been building up a solid sweat by riding a stationary bike, running underwater and he gets daily treatment.  For Nowitzki, the times are tougher when the games begin and he has to go into cheerleader mode.  "It’s been a frustrating time for me, obviously, watching from the sidelines," said Nowitzki.  "We lost a bunch of games where I think I could have helped in the fourth quarter, so it’s been frustrating.  The team is holding it down and playing hard."

Nowitzki has had to battle numerous ankle injuries over his career and he's been able to bounce back from them quickly.  At the time of the knee injury, Dirk believed he would be able to recover quickly but it hasn't worked out that way.  "It’s frustrating. When it first happened I never thought I was going to miss two weeks," said Nowitzki.  "I guess I took the whole situation a little too lightly, but I don’t have a lot of experience with knee injuries, that’s a good thing. Hopefully, these next couple of days it will respond good and I’ll be ready to go."  Whenever Nowitzki does come back, he understands that the work he's doing with cardio will not be enough to allow him to hit the ground running.  "Games are obviously a different beast," he said.  "It’s going to take me a couple of games to get back into it (game shape)." 

For now, the Mavericks will continue to take a patient approach with Nowitzki’s rehabilitation as they are focused on the big picture.  They know that championships aren't necessarily won or lost at this point in the season.  The team is looking to continue learning along the way and get as healthy as possible for the playoff run.  "I'm not worried," Nowitzki said. "I don't think it's anything that could get worse now or will be an issue for the rest of the year. We're trying to make sure it is all gone and I can play injury-free for the rest of the year."  If it takes a two week stretch to get Nowitzki healthy, then so be it.  The Mavericks understand that the NBA will not stop on their behalf and they'll continue battling.