With no immediate signs of his recovery in sight, the Dallas Mavericks reluctantly announced Saturday that forward Dirk Nowitzki will be shut down and sidelined indefinitely.
Nowitzki, 38, has a strained right Achilles that has been dogging him since training camp. So instead of issuing bi-weekly updates on the 19-year veteran’s progress, the Mavs decided to cut to the chase and reveal the inevitable.
“We keep on saying a week or two and it’s never right,” owner Mark Cuban said. “Indefinitely means we’re just not giving you a timetable.
“It could be a day, it could be a month, it could be his 66th birthday. I don’t know.”
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Nowitzki has played in only five of the Mavs’ 19 games and is averaging 12.2 points and 6.4 rebounds in 26.2 minutes. Coach Rick Carlisle, meanwhile, isn’t sure when he’ll have his most dominant player back on the court.
“I think ‘indefinitely’ is an accurate word until we tell you something,” Carlisle said. “Progress has been made – he’s just not there yet.”
Nowitzki was able to play 38 minutes in the season opener at Indiana, but missed the next two games, and then played 29 and 16 minutes against Utah and Portland, respectively. The 13-time All-Star then missed the following eight games before playing 20 minutes against the Los Angeles Clippers and 27 minutes against Cleveland before sitting out the last four games.
Nowitzki was riding a stationary bicycle before Saturday’s win over the Chicago Bulls. But he’s not close to getting back in a live game.
“We’re not trying to hide anything here,” Carlisle said. “But taking daily questions about it gets exhausting for him, and if it’s not going to happen real soon, then what’s the point?
As direct as he often is, Mavs center Andrew Bogut couldn’t get any more blunt Saturday when sizing up the team’s predicament.
“We probably honestly genuinely got about a month left to try and salvage this season,” Bogut said after Saturday morning’s shootaround. “After that it’s going to be pretty tough in the Western Conference to even get a sniff (of the playoffs).”
After Saturday night’s win over Chicago, the Mavs have the second-worst record in the NBA at 4-15. Climbing out of such a deep hole is difficult at best, but it’s especially tough in the always rugged Western Conference.
“I’m glad to hear our key players talking about making this thing work,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I think it’s extremely important.”
Carlisle said he had a long discussion with owner Mark Cuban on Friday about the team’s current state of affairs. He also said he appreciated Cuban hopping on his personal plane and flying to Charlotte for Thursday’s game against the Hornets.
“He just got on his plane and just flew to Charlotte to be there to support the team and root the team on,” Carlisle said. “And I told him I thought that it was really important that he did that.”