For me, earlier today (and most of yesterday) was spent dealing with a conundrum: Why has Dirk Nowitzki looked so bad this season, and more importantly, how can the Mavs fix it? They seemed to have come up with a good solution tonight: Sit Dirk for the next four games.
Dirk's increasing lethargy and noninvolvement was at its most apparent Thursday night during the game against the Jazz. In the fourh quarter, when even Dirk at his coldest is usually the spark to ignite the Mavs' late game offensive flame, he was a mere decoy.
I watched possession after possession of Dirk just sitting in a corner, drawing a defender, but not running around a screen or drifting behind the three-point line, but just standing there.
It was only the latest example of the season that Dirk is simply not himself.
According to ESPNDallas, Dirk will sit out for four games to "improve conditioning." While Dirk himself has freely admitted he came into the season out of shape, he's also dealing with the same bum left knee that caused him to miss some time last season.
While the thought of no Dirk sounds scary, especially in a 66-game season, where every W and L could be bring a team up or down three spots in the standings, it's the right move.
Who will step up the most for the Mavs in Dirk's absence?
The Mavs (and older teams like the Spurs, Lakers and Celtics) can't afford to fight too hard for homecourt advantage this postseason. They just need to get in, or even head into the lottery for a year and hope to get a good pick in what seems to be a deep draft.
The last shortened season, the Knicks came in as an 8-seed, but with everyone healthy and playing their best basketball, they made it to the Finals. That should be the Mavs' goal.
The Mavericks can also use this time to really solidify their pecking order when it comes to backup forwards. Ian Mahinmi and Brendan Haywood give the Mavericks as solid as a post-Tyson Chandler frontcourt as the Mavs could have hoped for.
Jason Terry, Vince Carter and Rodrigue Beaubois are waging their own war for minutes at the shooting guard spot. With Carter out, Beaubois can get some burn and we can find out if he's ready to play heavy minutes.
When it comes to power forward, Brandan Wright, Lamar Odom, Yi Jianlian and Sean Williams are all trying to find their places, and each brings their own gifts to the table.
Wright is an athletic defender and decent shooter inside of 15 feet, Yi is trying to prove he's worth his lottery pedigree and Williams is trying to keep his foothold in the league, and has proven willing to make some hustle plays and fight for every minute.
Odom brings the most complete skill set to the group, but he has been inconsistent so far. While he has gradually looked more comfortable over the last few games, maybe some increased minutes would help him find a home in the offense.
Despite their struggles, the Mavs are playing good defense, only allowing 88.8 points per game, good for 3rd best in the league.
But they're ranked only 21st in the league in offense, which is the area Dirk makes the most contributions.
Dirk needs to be healthy soon, and as rough as the Mavs' season has gone, there have been some flashes of greatness, and a Dirk who is firing on all cylinders can really put them back in the ranks of the elite.