DALLAS — Dirk Nowitzki was at times hopeful, at times humorous and at times a bit defiant as the Dallas Mavericks icon met the media Tuesday in his first post-surgery interview and, among other many points, called speculation about his timetable ‘ridiculous.’ But he also pledged to return to an All-Star level – “back playing where I think I was at the end of last year.”
The UberMan is optimistic about his return, in every way. He’s the one who first talked about the possibility of a return in three weeks from last Friday’s arthroscopic surgery, which he himself termed “nothing major.” But he scoffed at media attempts to lock him into that goal and in fact made note of the fact that twice in recent years he’s rushed back from breaks, possibly prematurely.
“I think two years ago, when I came back from my knee injury in the championship year, we didn’t do too well,” he recalled. “I was out for nine games. I probably came back way too early. I didn’t look good. I didn’t have my wind up. I was struggling there. So I don’t think this year, that’s something that we’re going to do. … It’s not like two years ago when I had one practice and came back. This year, we’re going to make sure I’m ready to go.”
Dirk continued: “I think 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. Then you start going on the court. Then you can start shooting again and running and put another week or two on the court in before you even start thinking about playing again. I need plenty of practices, so it’s going to be a few weeks. But is it going to be three, four, five, six? I have no idea.”
If Dirk will allow me permission to speculate based on his comments and other conversations I’ve had with Mavs minds … Thanksgiving might be a realistic target date. That’s five weeks away … but again, I don’t want to be “ridiculous” in locking into that because, as Nowitzki said, “Any time you have surgery on the knee, there’s going to be swelling afterwards. I think it’s just hard to say right now when the swelling is going to be gone. … “I’m never afraid of working, so I’m gonna do everything I can to get back.”
Nowitzki was on his feet for the presser at the AAC, leaning against a podium while being watched over by team trainer Casey Smith. When Dirk exited the arena, he did so without a noticeable limp. Whatever level of discomfort he’s in wasn’t enough to cause him to lose his sense of humor. He poked fun at his wardrobe, noting that during his wedding-related travels during the summer, he wishes he’d mixed in some shopping for some suits. He also said he’s already gotten bored hanging around his house over the weekend with nothing to do.
“I was walking around and looking around the house early in the weekend,” Nowitzki said. “Obviously I elevated it a lot and iced it a lot and I’m trying to do some exercises already, so I’m actually encouraged.”
He also explained further why he delayed the surgery until this close to the start of the regular season (Dallas plays at the Lakers next Tuesday).
“I think it was the right moment to do it,” Nowitzki 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, having it drained here and there – I think it’s a bad situation for all involved. … There was a question of, ‘Why didn’t you do it in the summer?’ I think there was no indication that it needed to be done. I had no problem all summer. … (Then) I had a little setback, and that’s why it had to be done.”
Note this 34-year-old’s UberMan/IronMan history of wanting to be on the floor and getting on the floor. Believe him when he said, “I’d love to play next Tuesday. … I wanted to play, especially with these new guys.” And trust that he delayed surgery because he wanted it to be a last resort.
That’s good enough for me.
But no matter how quickly he returns and no matter how soon he returns to elite-level, Dirk Nowitzki is right when he said, “It stinks. There’s no other way to put it.”