Through Dec. 27, the Dallas Mavericks had lost just five of their first 29 games. Since then they’ve lost perennial All-Star Dirk Nowitzki as well as Caron Butler and they’ve lost five of their last seven.
The question now is whether the Mavericks can find their way back to being a Western Conference contender given those losses. Nowitzki ranked seventh in the league in scoring before he went down with a sprained right knee. Butler averaged 15 before his season was ended with a ruptured patellar tendon in his knee.
Dallas had scored at least 100 points 17 times before Nowitzki was injured, but just twice since then. Three times the Mavericks scored fewer than 90. It would certainly be foolish to rush the big man back, but just about every day he’s out, the Mavs are losing valuable position in the West.
Rick Carlisle joined ESPN Radio Dallas with Galloway and Company to discuss being patient with Nowitzki’s injury, DeShawn Stevenson stepping up in his absence, the possibility of adding to the team via trade in the near future, what he would add if he could and what he’s learned about the Mavericks since they lost Dirk.
On being patient in waiting for Dirk Nowitzki to come back healthy:
“We’re going to be very patient with him. … You can’t mess with that stuff. Guys gotta get healthy. The season is such a long thing and you get into tough stretches like this when you’re playing good teams and it gets tougher, but you’ve got to keep your eye on the ball. We’ve got to win games with the guys we’ve got available.”
On whether he’s finding positives with Nowitzki out, such as DeShawn Stevenson:
“He’s worked extremely hard to put himself in this position. None of this happens without the hard work and the commitment and the patience and discipline on his part. … When he got the opportunity, he got the opportunity initially because we felt that he could bring some toughness and defense to our team. The shot making and the ability to stretch the floor with the 3 has been a big boost for us.”
On being cautious not to mess with the chemistry of the team when thinking about trades — which came up when Caron Butler went down:
“I think we’re going to always be talking to people and probing things and seeing what’s available, even when you’re completely healthy, just to see, hey, is there a way we can get better? … I like the group that we have. We’re a little smaller, obviously, without Dirk out there. … When you don’t have guys that you can just throw to and say, ‘OK, just create a great shot on your own or get double-teamed and a great shot will be a byproduct,’ without that, your game does change.”
On what he would add if he could:
“Healthy guys that we already have, that’s the biggest thing. We love our team in its healthy state. … I haven’t been spending a lot of energy on a wish list of players. My job is to get the guys that we have tuned into this opportunity and the challenge we have here.”
On what he has learned about his team with Nowitzki out:
“That our style of play changes to a degree. Again, we’re not going to make this about the offensive adjustments that we have to make to score enough points to win. It’s gotta be about a group of persistent guys that scrambles. We’re going to be a little bit smaller, but we’re going to have to find ways to get the stops and get the ball off the boards and get in transition and flow because that’s going to be our best opportunity to score points. … That’s where it’s at.”