Dirk Nowitzki's scoped right knee feels "100 percent." The rest of his legs, however, have a long way to go to get back in game shape.
The Dallas Mavericks' star forward anticipated that would be the case before his surprise season debut in Sunday's loss to the Spurs. The conditioning concerns were confirmed during his 20-minute outing, when he had eight points on 3-of-4 shooting and grabbed six rebounds.
"My wind actually felt fine for the first game back after two months," Nowitzki told reporters after Thursday morning's shootaround in Oklahoma City. "But my legs were a little heavy. There was just a little pep missing. I can't really move around or get up out there. So I think we're going to monitor my minutes until I start feeling better and moving better out there. But for the first time in two months, it actually was decent.
"Up and down running, I was fine the last couple weeks, but the showing on defense, the pushback, the jumping, the rebounding, I'm still having a little trouble with. Not kneewise, but just the muscles are not firing that quick as they should."
Nowitzki will continue to come off the bench because that's the easiest way to manage his minutes.
The reality is that the Mavs need Nowitzki to be a heavy-minutes player to have any reasonable chance of making a playoff push. However, they aren't going to put him at risk with a heavy workload before he's ready to handle it.
"I couldn't have done that in San Antonio," Nowitzki said. "For that, I probably would have practiced two more weeks. But we just don't have that time.
"If I really wait until I'm in game shape to play 41 minutes, I probably would have sat out another two weeks. We don't really have that time. And I don't want to sit out more. We're struggling now as it is. The sooner I can work my way back out there and play with the guys, the better. But it's going to take me a few more games to move well and be comfortable out there.
"Here's the thing. I think my knee is 100 percent, and it feels good. But the game shape is not quite there. That's something we're going to keep working on. The knee was great last game. Just my legs were heavy. Like having cement blocks on my feet. And felt a step slow to everything. No lift. It'll come from game to game and get better."