Somebody’s gotta say it: Just do it.
Everybody wants to see Dirk back on the court.
Not me. Well, not yet.
In fact, I don’t want to see him play for at least a month.
I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV, but I am a realist. While Dirk has been one of the most durable players in NBA history, he’s not invulnerable. He’s never missed more than nine games in a season and he might not miss that many this year but right now things are up in the air.
The swelling has returned to Dirk‘s right knee and he’s doing what he can to avoid surgery…for now. But playing the waiting game with possible knee surgery can mean additional damage that will lead to missing more time later in the season.
For now, Dirk is icing the knee and doing low-impact conditioning work before making a decision on surgery which typically entails three to six weeks to recover.
Best care scenario? Obviously, if Dirk could continue to play during the season without doing further damage to the knee and of course, suffering through a painful year playing at less than 100%, that would be ideal. Unfortunately, Dirk has indicated the swelling has come back three or four times already and this isn’t the first round of issues with his right knee.
He had similar problems early last season when his early season play was well below his usual level in what ended up being his worst statistical campaign since his second year in the league. He missed four games to work on his conditioning in January and did not have any more issues with the knee afterward. The latter part of the season he resembled his usual self but now the knee is acting up again.
If Dirk proceeds with arthroscopic surgery now, a couple of weeks before the regular season begins, he would probably be able to return around a month into the season. While the new Mavericks without Dirk aren’t likely to be championship caliber, it would be mathematically impossible for them to dig a hole so deep they couldn’t recover and based on the preseason, there are some very exciting possibilities.
The coming week will provide essential experience for the newly assembled crew, especially the rookies, to get valuable practice learning to work together without relying on Dirk and an extended schedule without the big German could provide real value in the long term. While missing Dirk in the lineup clearly has its disadvantages, this could be a huge opportunity for Rick Carlisle to develop numerous other options.
In looking for a new superstar last summer Rick Carlisle acknowledge that it’s time for the team to get the kind of personnel that will allow Dirk to be the team’s second-best player. Now would be a good time to see how close to that scenario they can get. With strong showings in the preseason from a number of players, Carlisle can design a strategy focused on a host of other scorers and when Dirk returns – BAM!
The next week appears to be make or break time and we’ll also have a chance to continue seeing how the team can perform withoutski. If Kaman, Collison, Carter and Marion look anything like they have so far, things won’t be so bad. If Crowder, Mayo, Wright and James continue stepping up, even better.
I say go for the surgery – better for both Dirk and the Mavs in the long term.
Forget what I said earlier…just trust me. I’m a doctor.