No Dirk will keep Mavs from finding true form for at least another week… which is just fine.
Last Saturday, the Mavericks found out they were going to be without Dirk Nowitzki for their next four games. Despite legitimate reasoning that includes finding Dirk some rest for a bothersome knee and getting him into proper game shape for the rest of the season, this will prolong the Mavs’ journey to find some kind of consistent offensive groove.
The defense has come together rather quickly, allowing 88.5 points per game, but almost nothing else has come with such ease to start the season. Despite sitting at a decent 11-7 record, which includes a 6-0 record in games where Nowitzki or Jason Kidd sat out, the Mavericks truly have accomplished nothing so far this season.
And in all honesty, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
What is there to even be accomplished for this team at the quarter mark of the season? If Nowitzki and Kidd had been fully healthy all year, not to mention Vince Carter, the Mavericks may be operating at a high, efficient level. That, obviously, would be a good thing. It would potentially mean they were racking up wins and gaining ground for a high seeding as the regular season hits the home stretch later in the year -- but that’s not what the Mavs are built for anymore.
With their still fresh championship pedigree (and that feels good to say every time), this version of the Mavericks knows exactly what they need to be at the right time in order to be in the necessary shape to compete for a title when the playoffs roll around.
It’s not just the players who know how to do that either. Rick Carlisle, the reigning king of timely button pushing and string pulling no doubt has a set of blueprints in his head for how he wants the season to play out.
In this chaotic mess of a shortened season, nearly everyone in the Mavs organization all the way up to Mark Cuban have made it clear that their priority is to get to the playoffs and take a “Let’s see what happens” stance. In order to take full advantage of that strategy, Carlisle needs to make sure his roster is clicking at the right time. That time isn’t anywhere near January, February -- or March for that matter. April, May, and June are when chemistry needs to found and championships are won.
For that reason alone, the Mavericks are making the correct decision in getting their players ready and tightening the screws on this ship to make sure they’re firing on all cylinders when the time calls for it. The Mavericks’ brain trust has come to the conclusion that it’s best to perhaps sacrifice regular season games and playoff positioning in favor of the overall health of their team when games matter.
If the faded memories of the 2006-07 flameout against Golden State aren’t a sufficiently brutal reminder of what peaking at the wrong time can do to a team, take note of what happened to last year’s San Antonio Spurs. Despite great health all year, injuries hit at the wrong time as the Spurs ran into a bad match up, and their season was over in six games against the eighth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies.
It may be a shortened season, but the marathon mentality still applies. If having the Mavs in the best possible position in May means sitting Dirk Nowitzki for a few games against the Hornets, Suns, and Timberwolves in January, then sign me up.