Dirk Nowitzki has knee surgery Friday, out six weeks

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Rather than wait and hope it heals like it did last season, Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks are being proactive.

Nowitzki underwent arthroscopic surgery to his right knee Friday morning and will be out for about six weeks, the team announced Friday. That timeframe has him returning around the start of December. That would have him missing around 16 games.

This is the smart move — better to deal with it now than let everything linger. Nowitzki has been dealing with swelling in his right knee all preseason and had it drained twice. Last season a similar thing happened but Nowtizki took time off, changed his training routine and was able to solve the problem, this time it’s not working.

This is going to hurt the Mavs in the short term, make no mistake. As our own Darius Soriano pointed out, the Mavericks he were 8.8 points per 100 possessions better when Nowitzki was on the floor last season as opposed when he was on the bench. That was not just scoring — Dallas’s defense was 2.8 points per 100 better when Nowitzki was on the floor Stats courtesy the NBA.com stats tool.

No Nowitzki means more of the offensive load in Dallas is going to fall to O.J. Mayo and Darren Collison, who will have to create shots for everyone. Dallas is going to need a lot more out of Brandan Wright.

The challenge for Dallas is not falling so far behind in the playoff chase in a deep Western Conference that they can’t climb back in. Dallas and Minnesota — without Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio to start the season — will be playing catch up likely for one of the last couple of playoff spots in the West. The teams who have to take advantage are the Jazz and the Golden State Warriors (who need to get Andrew Bogut back, he may miss the start of the season).

Friday afternoon fun: Watch James Harden’s 10 best plays from last season

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James Harden had a historic season in Houston.

Since it’s Friday afternoon and your sports viewing options consist of watching guys about to be cut from NFL rosters try to impress, why not check out Harden’s best plays from last season. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time.

Mavericks sign Jeff Withey to one-year contract

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Jeff Withey‘s ex-fiancée accused him of domestic violence, but he was not charged.

That frees him to continue his basketball career, which he’ll do in Dallas.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks could use another center, even if they re-sign Nerlens Noel. Salah Mejri is the only other true center, though Dirk Nowitzki will now play the position.

Withey is a good rim protector. Just don’t ask him to do anything away from the basket.

Dallas annually brings excess players to training camp and has them compete for regular-season roster spots. Whether or not his salary is guaranteed, Withey will likely fall into that competition.

Marc Gasol: If Grizzlies don’t share my goal of continued growth, we might have to revisit things

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The Grizzlies’ Grit & Grind era has ended.

Zach Randolph signed with the Kings, and Tony Allen appears likely to leave Memphis, too. The Grizzlies are prioritizing younger/cheaper players like Ben McLemore and Tyreke Evans.

Marc Gasol via Ala Carta, as translated by HoopsHype:

I’m very ambitious and I’ve wanted Memphis to be a great franchise. We’ve grown a lot the last 6-7 years, but we have to keep growing. If this is not lined up, maybe we may have to revisit things.

Gasol has been loyal to Memphis, and his first wish is probably winning there. But Giannis Antetokounmpo put it well: Teams must also do right by their players. Gasol is 32 and doesn’t have much time in his prime left. I see why rebuilding wouldn’t interest him.

But what will he do about it if the Grizzlies don’t prioritize the present? They made their push last summer with a max contract for Chandler Parsons, but because Parsons can’t stay healthy, that deal only inhibits team growth.

Gasol is locked up for two more years before a player option. He doesn’t have much leverage. This is part of the reason LeBron James keeps signing short-term contracts. Gasol doesn’t have the same ability to steer his team in his desired direction

On the potentially bright side, rebuilding teams often don’t have much use for 32-year-olds guaranteed more than $72 million over the following three years. If the fit devolves, Memphis becomes more likely to trade him.

Celtics to retire Paul Pierce’s number after Cavaliers game in February

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The Celtics already said they’d retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34.

Now, we know when.

Celtics release:

The Boston Celtics announced today that they will retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34 after a mid-season game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, Feb. 11

After? That’s apparently in response to a new rule that penalizes teams not ready to play after a 15-minute halftime. These ceremonies can drag on, and nobody wants to cut Pierce short. I wonder whether this will start a trend of number retirements coming after games.