The 2012 calendar year has been one of the worst for NBA superstars. LeBron James finally separated himself from the pack by winning the 2012 NBA championship and a string of injuries has placed a hold on the careers of a half-dozen global icons.
Derrick Rose, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Blake Griffin, Kevin Love and Jeremy Lin have all been sidelined by severe injuries or arthroscopic surgeries. The latest victim to add to this list is Dallas Mavericks superstar Dirk Nowitzki.
In what can only be described as a shocking turn of events, the Mavericks have announced that Nowitzki has undergone arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. The injury is expected to keep the 2011 NBA Finals MVP sidelined from on-court activities for approximately six weeks.
The announcement came via the Mavs' official Twitter feed.
Dirk Nowitzki underwent arthroscopic surgery to his right knee. He is expected to resume on-court activities within approximately 6 weeks.— Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) October 19, 2012
Nowitzki is 34 years old and entering his 15th season in the NBA. Although he performed at an all-time high during the 2011 postseason, this injury offers insight into an unfortunate truth that the Dallas Mavericks may not want to accept.
Dirk Nowitzki may never be the same player again after this surgery. Just don't think for a second that he won't still be elite.
What Will Change: Offense
Can Dirk Nowitzki return to be the player he once was?
What this knee procedure creates for the Mavericks is a rotation in which Nowitzki is kept out of the paint. Dirk has never been a fearsome offensive rebounder, but he will no longer be able to crash the boards as desired.
Nor will he be able to finish off the pick-and-roll as consistently, with his ability to change directions in traffic limited.
This will limit Dirk to jump shooting and post-ups, which really shouldn't be much of a change. The difference here is that Nowitzki is far less versatile in terms of his ability to drive and finish in traffic.
Nowitzki will be limited. What he remains capable of doing, however, is playing the style that has taken him the furthest.
His shooting ability will not be lost, even if the rise he gains on his jump shots will decrease. For that reason, it is simply a matter of Rick Carlisle condensing the style of plays he runs for Nowitzki to score the rock.
What Will Change: Defense
In all honesty, Nowitzki has never been a phenomenal defender. The fact that he stands at 7'0" certainly changes a team's approach, as a mere raising of his arms can alter a slashing scorer's shot attempts.
From this point forward, the Mavericks must decide if they want to keep him on the outskirts of the paint or risk him banging knees as an interior defender.
This is a dilemma that Coach Carlisle may struggle with, as Nowitzki will no longer have the lateral quickness to defend a stretch 4. That will likely delegate him to the low and high post, thus decreasing his mobility on D.
Dirk running around with his hands up high may appear to be aimless and without benefit in the past. The truth is, he disrupted many passing lanes and eliminated the threat for a cross-court pass to an open shooter.
Nowitzki will be limited on D as he displays a weaker level of lateral quickness.
How to Work With the 'New Dirk'
The Mavericks made one of the quietest but most important moves of the 2012 offseason when they signed center Chris Kaman. Kaman is a physical defender who is familiar with Nowitzki from the time they've spent together on the German national team.
Chemistry that should carry over to the NBA season.
The former Central Michigan Chippewa will take the defensive pressure off Nowitzki, as Kaman is one of the most fundamentally sound interior defenders in the game. He's excellent out of the post and has the footwork necessary to take on a bruising 5 or stretch 4.
With the addition of crafty veteran Elton Brand, the Mavericks can also move Nowitzki to center while Kaman is resting.
Fortunately, Nowitzki has proven more than capable of thriving in said role.
Nowitzki will no longer be the type of player that puts up 25-to-30 points on a nightly basis. Instead, he'll see his averages sit close to what they were a year ago when he was battling the knee injury that forced him into surgery.
Expect an average of 21.6 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.2 assists with a slash line of .457/.368/.896. Expect the shooting percentages to improve, but the averages to remain as they are.
Quality play during the regular season and superstardom in the postseason is in store. Nowitzki may never be the same after this injury, but that doesn't mean he can't maintain greatness.
All this signals is the end of his time as the lead scorer on a championship contender.