It was a little more than an hour before tipoff when Dallas Mavericks swingman Justin Anderson was informed that superstar forward Dirk Nowitzki wouldn’t be able to play Friday night against the Houston Rockets.
Just like his teammates, Anderson and the Mavs lean heavily on Nowitzki for scoring and leadership, in and out of the locker room. Nowitzki sat out the home opener against the Rockets with a stomach illness.
Anderson and the Mavs know the implications of losing a player of Nowitzki’s caliber.
“Obviously you take a Hall of Famer out of the equation and guys have to step up,” Anderson said. “Luckily, it’s a little sickness in the beginning of the season where we can weather the storm or we can still put our heads together and fight and understand what we need to do and focus on what we need to do to try and help win.
“We all are wishing him well and hoping he gets better soon.”
Nowitzki, 38, missed Friday morning’s shootaround and the Mavs were holding out hope that he could play Friday night. But the 19-year veteran missed just his second home opener ever — he sat out the first 27 games of the 2012-13 season after right knee surgery.
The Mavs aren’t sure if Nowitzki will play when they face the Rockets in Houston on Sunday night.
“Yeah, it’s premature,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “Earlier today it seemed likely that he would play, so this must be something that came along very quickly.”
Anderson played 20 minutes Friday, with nine points, three rebounds and two assists. The Mavericks started Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut and three guards: J.J. Barea, Deron Williams and Wesley Matthews.
“You guys know I’m going to always be ready when my name is called and I’m going go out there and compete and play as hard as I can,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of talent on our team and for me to think that my role is going to change just because Dirk is out is foolish of me.
“I’m just going to go out and play the game that I know how to play, play the game that my teammates trust me playing and whatever happens from there happens.”
Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni sympathizes with the Mavs in the case of Nowitzki.
“He’s one of the greatest ever — he’s phenomenal,” D’Antoni said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t play for another 10 years.
“He’s that good and he means a lot to the game. He’s a great competitor.”