Mark Cuban not worried about Dirk
DALLAS -- Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has no concerns about the long-term health of Dirk Nowitzki's right knee and suggested the 7-footer could miss more than four games if necessary -- and that other players could be held out of games as this season's compacted 66-game schedule unfolds.
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle on Saturday announced the unusual step of holding the reigning NBA Finals MVP out of four games. The move is less about resting Nowitzki's sore right knee and more about putting him through a training-camp like week of workouts designed to strengthen his knee and his overall conditioning.
"It's not about his knee. His knee wasn't feeling well, but that's a symptom of everything else," Cuban said prior to Monday's game with the Phoenix Suns, the second of four games Nowitzki is expected to miss. "So, it's not like there's some problem. Even if it was his head, we would still do the exact same thing.
"There's nothing specifically wrong. Dirk has a process to get ready. You mess with the process; he just didn't feel right," Cuban said. "It's not just Dirk, it's other guys, too. It's a first for us in dealing with a lockout."
Depending upon the progress he makes during the week, Nowitzki could be held out longer. He missed nine games last season after spraining the same knee and the Mavs went 2-7 in his absence.
They won their first game without him this season on Saturday, holding off a late charge by the New Orleans Hornets.
Carlisle said Nowitzki went through two workouts Monday and will be doing multiple workouts most days with "strategic recovery periods" in between.
"We'll see what's what after four games," Carlisle said. "If he's not ready after four games, then we may extend this thing."
Nowitzki said a combination of the championship run, followed by his playing for Germany in the Olympic qualifying tournament, burned him out on basketball and threw off his normally regimented training program. He's averaging a team-high 17.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, marks well below his career averages.
Nowitzki said he didn't leave enough time to resume his workouts properly once the NBA and its players agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement over Thanksgiving weekend, scheduled the start of training camps on Dec. 9 and the start of a rapid-fire regular season three weeks later on Christmas Day.
Dallas played its first 14 games in 23 days, including a stretch of six games in eight nights, quicker than any team other than the Los Angeles Lakers.
If Nowitzki returns after four games, he will come back Sunday for the last of a four-game homestand against the San Antonio Spurs.
Already, point guard Jason Kidd has been sidelined four games with back spasms. Carlisle said Kidd probably could have returned after three games, but the team was being cautious this early in the season.
Cuban has repeatedly said that the goal for his team is simply to make the playoffs with relative health. That, Cuban said, could lead to other players on the league's oldest team taking time off.
"He's probably not going to be the last player we sit for days," Cuban said. "We'll see how everybody feels. I told you guys this is going to be more like a baseball season. We're going to rest guys."
Jeff Caplan covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.