When Dirk Nowitzki went down at the tail end of the second quarter in last night’s game against the Grizzlies, things didn’t look good. Nowitzki cringed. He pulled his jersey over his face. He rolled. He grabbed his ankle. Yet once the initial fear had passed, he walked with Mavericks trainer Casey Smith to the locker room, used up some athletic tape, and then returned to the floor at the start of the third quarter.
Dallas dodged a bullet. Nowitzki is fine, and according to Jeff Caplan of ESPN Dallas, Dirk will likely play against the Sixers on Friday, even though he’s listed as day-to-day with an ankle sprain.
Had Nowitzki’s injury been even remotely serious, Dallas would have been poised for a downfall. During last night’s three-minute stretch sans Dirk, Jason Terry did a terrific job of keeping the Mavs afloat with his scoring. Dallas even has a capable positional replacement, as Shawn Marion could comfortably slide in as the starting power forward. However, as is usually the case with injuries to prominent players, the problem isn’t Marion’s ability to compensate for the loss of Nowitzki’s production (though make no mistake, Dallas would struggle without their offensive pillar), but which deep reserve would receive serious playing time as a result. If Marion were to slide up the depth chart, Brian Cardinal would be a candidate for consistent minutes off the bench as a result. Spoiler alert: that doesn’t end well.
Luckily, Dallas doesn’t have to start running damage control on their forward rotation. Nowitzki wasn’t entirely himself after he returned from the locker room, but he moved about as well as one could possibly expect given the injury. After a day’s rest and some fresh tape, Dirk should be ready for 25-point-a-night business as usual.