- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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DALLAS -- Dirk Nowitzki is expected to miss at least a dozen games after finally getting his sore, swollen right knee scoped.
How do the Mavericks fill in for the face of the franchise?
The simple answer would be to start Elton Brand at power forward, as the Mavs have done the last three preseason games. There are a couple of complicating factors, however.
First, Brand might have to start at center. Chris Kaman isn't making the trip to Atlanta because of a strained calf. Coach Rick Carlisle indicated that Kaman's injury isn't serious, but the big man's durability issues have been well chronicled.
Second, the ex-Clippers teammates might not be compatible as a starting tandem. The Mavs' defense has been messy with Brand and Kaman, who are both more comfortable as paint protectors than playing pick-and-roll defense or guarding face-up power forwards, on the floor together.
"I don’t know who’s going to start," Carlisle said. "We haven’t been doing so well with both of the big guys starting."
Brandan Wright is an option, but Carlisle has made it clear that he sees Wright as a center, not a power forward. Wright doesn't have the shooting range and ability to put the ball on the floor to fit as a power forward in the Mavs' system.
The other options are all undersized. Shawn Marion has played a lot of minutes at power forward, making four All-Star appearances there while with the Suns and serving as Nowitzki's backup during the Mavs' title season. He might be the best bet, which would likely mean Vince Carter at small forward in the starting lineup.
Rookie Jae Crowder and Carter -- both 6-foot-6 -- have played some power forward in the preseason.
"We’re going to be smallish a lot," Carlisle said, "and we’re going to have to make it work for us."