There was one possession in Wednesday's game against the New York Knicks where Dirk Nowitzki was racing down the court in an attempt to block Tony Douglas' layup. He was not able to get the block but the bigger thing to take away was the fact he made the attempt. It is hard to imagine that Nowitzki could have the ability to make that attempt two weeks ago. Two weeks after returning from a sprained right knee, Nowitzki appears to be regaining the shooting touch that had him primed to overpass his career-best field-goal percentage (50.2 percent). He achieved that shooting percentage during his MVP season of 2006-07.
In the first seven games back from the injury, Nowitzki went 43-110 from the field (39%) and the forward looked like he returned too soon from his injury. Over the last three games, Nowitzki has looked like the sharpshooter the Mavs had prior to the injury as he went 25-38 (66%) from the field. "I feel better, especially in the second halves," Nowitzki said. "I feel like I can make stronger moves again. My legs are there. My wind is better. We’re still going with the two breaks at half, which we usually have before I got hurt, but it definitely hurts me get out a minute or two, even in the fourth quarter I get another rest. So, we’ll see how long we’ll keep that up."Coach Rick Carlisle admitted that he has altered Nowitzki's substitution pattern, playing him in shorter bursts to try to preserve his wind. "We’ve really kept a close eye in him with his conditioning and try not to play him more than six or seven minute stretches," Carlisle said. It appears that the adjustment has worked as Nowitzki has logged 33 minutes in each of his last three games.
The process of getting Nowitzki back into form has been a frustrating at times, but both Nowitzki and Carlisle have put work into the cause to make sure he can stay on the right path to full recovery. Carlisle has managed the minutes and Nowitzki continues to put extra rehab work after practicing with the team to continue building strength and confidence in his knee and building his stamina. "I sense that he’s building each game on the last and that we’re headed the right direction with this thing," Carlisle said after the Mavs beat the Knicks on Wednesday Night.
Carlisle has mentioned that over the first third of the season that Nowitzki was Superman for the team. The coach wants to make sure people understand how much Nowitzki means to the Mavericks. "Talk about MVP candidates, if you look at what happened to us when he was out, if you look at his plus-minus, I think he’s the number one plus-minus guy in the the entire league," Carlisle said. "Based on that, he should be the MVP. That means he’s the most valuable to our team than any other star is to theirs. And so his presence on the floor and his healthy presence is huge for us."
The Mavericks will need Nowitzki to be at his best if they are to have any chance at making a championship run. All signs seem to indicate that the Mavs have their mojo back and have their stud back. "I feel good again," Nowitzki said. "It’s time to go for it."
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