Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks
The Dallas Mavericks have their work cut out for them this season. As usual, they'll be facing some of their toughest opponents in the Western Conference, and tonight is no different. Facing the new-look Los Angeles Lakers, the Mavericks will need to prove themselves as they'll be playing without their star forward Dirk Nowitzki.
Nowitzki has been dealing with an injured knee since last season. Though he battled it out and made it through the season, this year is different. He's already had his knee drained twice and after defiantly stating he didn't want surgery to correct his knee issues, he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on October 20. He will miss six weeks and 13 games.
Nowitzki is no doubt the Mavs No. 1 offensive threat. In four games against the Lakers last season, he scored 24 points in addition to grabbing 10.8 boards. With him on the sidelines for tonight's season opener, the Mavs need their other players to step up.
The Mavs were also dealt another blow to their starting lineup by losing center Chris Kaman to a strained right calf, but head coach Rick Carlisle is confident in his team. In regards to piling injuries, he expressed that "this is what it’s about, the teaching and communication and scrambling with health issues."
And he is right. The Mavs have new pieces who can make it work. OJ Mayo wasn't his best with the Grizzlies, but he's shown promise throughout the preseason. When he's on his game, he can definitely give the Mavs easy points. In his past three preseason games, Mayo scored an average of 11.6 points a game.
They also have Darren Collison at the point, and although he'll be matched up against one of the all-time greats, Steve Nash, youth is on Collison's side. Nash is 38 and will not be able to keep up with the speedy youngster all night long.
Most importantly, the Lakers' injuries give the Mavs the best chance to win tonight. Kobe Bryant has a strained and bruised right foot that has kept him out of the lineup for seven straight days. He is a game-time decision for tonight's matchup, but regardless of whether or not he starts, expect his injury to impact his play.
With three key Laker starters injured, the Mavs still have a chance to win without Nowitzki.