Mavs Spotlight: the challenge of reintegrating Dirk during tough stretch
Earl K. Sneed shines the Mavs Spotlight on the Dallas Mavericks' challenge of working 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki back into the fold during a daunting stretch of games.
The challenge of reintegrating Dirk during tough stretch
Likewise, the evolution of the Dallas Mavericks figures to be just as puzzling now that 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki has returned to game action for the first time since the preseason opener in Berlin on Oct. 6.
Playing in just 20 minutes during his season debut Sunday in San Antonio, Nowitzki accepted a bench role while scoring eight points on 3-of-4 shooting to go along with six rebounds. But as he continues to round back into form following arthroscopic knee surgery on Oct. 19, eventually the 7-footer will re-assume his customary spot as the starting power forward for the Mavericks. Then, however, will it be the team’s job to conform around him or the other way around?
“I mean, I wasn’t going to like get 20 shots up [Sunday]. I know that for a fact,” Nowitzki said when posed that question following his return. “Just tried to ease into it. I didn’t try to get in the way too much of the guys that’s been playing for two months together. I was getting my legs under me with some trips up and down, but sometimes we shot it so fast I didn’t even cross halfcourt. But, you know, that’s our style of play this year. We’re a fast team and we’re a little more athletic on the perimeter. If the boys push it and get a layup before I even make it up there, it’s great.”
For his career, Nowitzki averages 22.9 points on 47.5 percent shooting to go along with 8.3 rebounds. But with the perennial scoring threat on the mend for the first 27 games, the Mavericks (12-16) had to learn to adjust to life without No. 41 as 2-guard O.J. Mayo assumed the primary scoring duties with 19.3 points per outing on 47 percent from the field and 48.6 percent from 3-point range.
Now, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle is handed the responsibility of working Nowitzki back into the fold while also trying to get Mayo back on track, after opposing defenses limited the sharpshooter to just a combined 25 points on 9-of-33 shooting in the last three games.
The challenge of getting both stars to play together is also made even more difficult as the Mavs still have three matchups remaining on a seven-game stretch to close 2012 against playoff teams from a season ago.
“Having [Nowitzki] back on the court is a challenge I’ve looked forward to,” Carlisle said. “You know, I don’t see that as being a big adjustment. … The caliber of competition has raised, which has made it more difficult for all of us. I don’t think that this is a day to make this about one guy’s struggles. We win and lose as a team, and that’s where our collective mindset has got to be at.”
“Well, you know, it’s a tough stretch right now. It’s probably as tough a stretch as you see in this league,” Nowitzki added. “I think we had an easy schedule the first month of the season, but here lately it’s been one great team after the next, so it’s been a tough stretch. I felt like for me getting out there as soon as I can now and hoping to get my rhythm sooner, it’s probably going to take me a week or two getting my legs and my wind. And hopefully I can help a little more, but we need some work.”
Note: The Mavericks will return to action Thursday night in Oklahoma City, looking to avenge last season’s first-round playoff series sweep at the hands of the Thunder. The game will air nationally at 7 p.m. CT on TNT.