By Ben Golliver
The comeback season will have to wait a bit.
The Dallas Mavericks announced Friday that Dirk Nowitzki underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. The Mavericks said the All-Star power forward would be able to resume basketball activities "within six weeks."
Nowitzki, 34, has played in just one of Dallas' four preseason games, sitting out with what the Mavericks called a "right knee effusion."
A six-week absence would sideline Nowitzki for the rest of the preseason and the first 16 games of the regular season. Nowitzki has missed just 15 games combined over the last four seasons.
After winning the 2011 title, Nowitzki and the Mavericks took a notable step back last season, getting swept by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. Nowitzki dealt with conditioning issues but still managed to average 21.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. The hope was that a newly fit Nowitzki plus a roster that added a few younger, more athletic players -- including guards Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo -- could make another postseason push.
Given that Nowitzki remains Dallas' clear franchise player, the loss won't be easy to manage, and it will have to be a by-committee approach. Coach Rick Carlisle can turn to veteran power forward Elton Brand, who was acquired after the Philadelphia 76ers waived him using the amnesty clause, or the skinny but effective Brandan Wright, who emerged as a pleasant surprise last season. Versatile forward Shawn Marion can also help fill the minutes void, shifting positions so the Mavericks can go a bit smaller if necessary.
Nowitzki becomes the second All-Star power forward in the West to go down with an injury during the preseason. Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves is expected to miss six weeks with a broken hand, an injury he suffered while doing "knuckle pushups." Nowitzki is on the books for $20.9 million this season. He is set to make $22.7 million in 2013-14, the final season of his contract.