Gil LeBreton

Dirk Nowitzki’s knee issues don’t suit Dallas Mavericks’ hopes

Dirk Nowitzki looked fine in his suit Wednesday while the Mavericks played the Timberwolves, but they would rather see him in his uniform playing.
Dirk Nowitzki looked fine in his suit Wednesday while the Mavericks played the Timberwolves, but they would rather see him in his uniform playing. AP

And here you probably thought, back in July, that by this point of the NBA season, the Dallas Mavericks would still be wandering the streets of Houston, wondering what happened to DeAndre Jordan.

Stupid us. It isn’t the first time that we’ve been wrong about the Mavericks. And as long as Dirk Nowitzki can walk and shoot and Rick Carlisle can coach, it probably won’t be the last.

But the team needs its best player suited up, and by “suited” we don’t mean that navy blue Italian outfit with the matching pocket square that Nowitzki wore on the bench Wednesday night.

Their 25-19 record has been a testament to their inconsistency. But this hastily reconstructed bunch, the post-Jordan “new” Mavericks, have clearly been fun to watch.

Another playoff appearance — the franchise’s 15th in 16 seasons — appears readily attainable.

But the team needs its best player suited up, and by “suited” we don’t mean that navy blue Italian outfit with the matching pocket square that Nowitzki wore on the bench Wednesday night.

There was no update on Dirk’s condition Thursday. The team did not practice and reportedly still considers him “day to day.”

But ponder the following post-game exchange with the media after Wednesday’s overtime win over Minnesota:

“The good thing is I really didn’t have any pain with it,” Nowitzki said of his right knee. “Just the swelling that’s there.”

(Insert sound of needle skipping across Dirk’s favorite David Hasselhoff vinyl LP here).

Swelling? The kind that needs to be drained?

“Next question,” Dirk said, changing the subject.

Just because of this game, he has not arrived. This is another step.

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle on Chandler Parsons

It was a little more than three Oktoberfests ago that Nowitzki had arthroscopic surgery performed on the same knee. He missed the first 27 games of the 2012-13 season.

Dirk is 37 now, and who at a similar age is better leading his NBA team? In his 18th season, Nowitzki is averaging a team-high 17.8 points per game.

He has had nagging injuries before, of course. Remember when his ankles appeared to be perpetually sprained?

But knees can get complicated. And this is a Mavericks team that can’t afford complications in a loaded Western Conference.

Carlisle’s nightly shuffle of mix-and-match still seems like a genius ploy. Why expend precious minutes on NBA back-to-back nights when your team is likely going to run out of gas and lose in the end, anyway?

Besides, Carlisle has a bench to evaluate and mature, and post-surgery stars such as Chandler Parsons and Wesley Matthews to ease back into full-time.

The good thing is I really didn’t have any pain with it. Just the swelling that’s there.

Dirk Nowitzki on his troublesome knee

Parsons is going to be fine. He erupted for 30 points and eight rebounds in the overtime victory over the Timberwolves.

Carlisle cautioned the assembled media, however, to tap the brakes.

“Just because of this game, he has not arrived,” the coach said. “This is another step. But let’s not assume that this is the guy whose back we’re going to jump on every time in crunch time. That’s not fair to him.”

Parsons’ recovery from knee surgery has been a process, Carlisle said.

“But let’s keep our eye on the ball here,” he added.

Carlisle recalled the Nowitzki injury from three years ago and how long it took for Dirk to get back to playing like Dirk.

He didn’t say it, but Carlisle has to know what another major injury to Nowitzki, at age 37, would mean.

It was midsummer when owner Mark Cuban thought he had struck a deal with free agent Jordan, only to see the Houston native cowardly go radio silent and resurface to re-sign with the Clippers.

One Zaza Pachulia later, Cuban’s “new” Mavericks look like a surprise playoff team.

Inconsistencies can be corrected.

Losing your 37-year-old future Hall of Famer can’t.

With Dirk out against Minnesota, the Mavericks bench was tested well in an overtime win. Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and the Thunder visit Friday.

Chandler Parsons had 30 points in a break out game and Mavericks win over the Timberwolves. Dirk Nowitski was a late scratch after his knee swelled up following Monday's win over the Celtics

Gil LeBreton: 817-390-7697, glebreton@

star-telegram.com, @gilebreton

Mavericks vs. Thunder

7:30 tonight, FSSW

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