Dallas Mavericks franchise player Dirk Nowitzki hopes to return soon from the first knee surgery of his career. He’s just not sure when that will be.
“Timetable at this point is pretty ridiculous to talk about,” Nowitzki said Tuesday. “Anytime you have surgery on a knee there’s going to be swelling afterward and I think it’s hard to say right now when the swelling is going to be gone. Maybe it’s there for another two weeks and that would obviously slow everything down.
“I think the first thing we want to try to do is getting the swelling away, so I can do a little more and do some rehab stuff. That’s what you focus on first, but who knows. If the swelling is going to stay in there for two more weeks then it pushes everything back. This first week is very important.”
Nowitzki, 34, had arthroscopic surgery Friday on his right knee. The operation cleaned up “wear and tear” built up over 14 NBA seasons, including most every summer playing internationally for Germany.
Doctors found nothing unexpected during the relatively minor procedure. The Mavericks set the rehabilitation timetable at 3-6 weeks, though reports in the last several days suggest that Nowitzki could be back at the shorter end of that time frame.
Nowitzki said several times that how soon the swelling subsides will determine when he can step up his rehab efforts. He’s already begun to do some work on a bicycle to keep his knee moving and is encouraged from the early returns.
The need to undergo surgery did catch Nowitzki off guard. He spent a good part of the offseason working out and keeping his legs strong.
“There was no indication that it needed to be done,” he said. “I had no problem all summer. I had some trouble last year when the season started, but I made it through the season great.”
Nowitzki began experiencing problems at the start of training camp. He hoped to avoid surgery, but as the preseason went on it became obvious that something needed to be done.
“It’s the right moment to do it,” the 11-time All-Star said. “Obviously, I took some heat for the timing of it, but if I would have fought through it this whole season, swelling off and on, and have it drained here and there, I think it’s a bad situation for everybody involved.”
Considering this is the first serious knee issue of his career, the former MVP is being cautious with predicting a return to the court.
“When I first got into the league I always had ankle problems, so I knew how to deal with it,” Nowitzki said. “I’d roll my ankle bad and shake it off and keep playing, so this whole knee thing I don’t have as much experience with.”
Nowitzki would miss 16 games if he’s out until Dec. 1, which coincides with the six-week window. The Mavericks do have a manageable schedule to start, with eight of the first 12 games against lottery teams from last season.
“The boys need to find a way to win some games,” Nowitzki said.
He missed a career-high nine games during the 2010-11 championship season. Dallas went 2-7 during that stretch, and Nowitzki hurried back because the team was floundering. He essentially had one practice before being cleared to play then and admitted to not being ready physically.
He’s not going to repeat that mistake.
“When you come off your first knee surgery, you want to make sure all the swelling is gone. … You want to make sure all the strength is fully back 100 percent,” Nowitzki said. “Then you start going on the court. Then you can start shooting again and running.
“Then you probably need to put another week or two on the court before you even start to think about playing again. You need plenty of practices. So, yeah, it’s going to be a few weeks, but is it going to be three, four, five, six? I have no idea.”
As disappointed as Nowitzki is with missing the start of the season, he’s more upset with not being out there with his new teammates.
“It stinks,” he said. “There’s no other way to put it. We’re just going to have to do it.”
Nowitzki does expect to come back as strong as ever. He also doesn’t anticipate any problems fitting into a new rotation that includes Chris Kaman and Elton Brand up front, and Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo in the backcourt.
“I’m not really a selfish player,” Nowitzki said. “I don’t see myself as a selfish player. I don’t need 40 touches a game. I can blend in.”