It appears that Nowitzki and the Mavericks may have to decide which they covet more. A swollen right knee could require arthroscopic surgery, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas.
A bothersome knee is not going to allow Nowitzki to play at full speed either way, something that he must consider before he attempts to play through the injury. Obviously he doesn't want to miss any time at all, but it might be unavoidable at this point.
MacMahon outlines the possible scenarios surrounding Nowitzki's season, if he did decide to get his knee scoped:
The best-case scenario if Nowitzki gets his knee scoped: He misses less than 10 games and returns to a team that has a winning record.
The worst-case scenario: He misses more than a month and the Mavs have dug themselves a hole by the time their rusty superstar returns.
However, like MacMahon goes on to say, that's not the worst-case scenario that Mavericks fans should be concerned with:
Actually, the worst-case scenario would be that Nowitzki opts to not have the operation and the knee bothers him all season. We saw how bad that can be early last season, when one of the elite power forwards of all-time looked awful.
That's the bottom line. At 34 years old, Nowitzki may not recover as fast as he's used to. Nowitzki states that "I’m usually a pretty fast recovery guy" in MacMahon's report, but this time could be different.
What should Nowitzki do?
Nowitzki has never missed more than nine games in a season in his 14-year NBA career. He needs to be on the court when it matters most for Dallas to make a serious run in the Western Conference. Despite adding O.J. Mayo and Darren Collison in the backcourt, the Mavericks need their All-Star steering the ship.
It's hard to tell a durable player to potentially take six weeks off, but it's better now than later. If he waits, and struggles on the court, Dallas will be out of it anyway. He's better off having surgery now, letting his team fight for a few weeks without him and then come back full strength.
If Nowitzki can't move or get up and down the court, he's not going to be effective. If his knee gets worse, he could have to take six weeks off in the middle of a playoff race, and no one wants to see that.
He's not getting any younger, but Nowitzki is still a 20-plus-point scorer. His presence is vital to Dallas' postseason hopes. If surgery is a distinct possibility, and a possible solution to this issue, it's better to do it now rather than wait.