- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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MIAMI -- Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki's injured finger on his non-shooting hand isn't as sore as he anticipated, giving him hope that he won't have to wear a splint for the remainder of the NBA Finals.
Nowitzki tore the tendon in his left middle finger when he was called for a foul after stripping the ball from Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh with 3:44 remaining in the Mavericks' Game 1 loss Tuesday night.
The finger above the top knuckle was bent at an awkward angle immediately after the injury, which typically takes six weeks to heal. Nowitzki played the remainder of the game after Mavs athletic trainer Casey Smith straightened the finger and did a quick tape job during a break in play.
"I have this splint on for now," said Nowitzki, whose tendon is detached in his top knuckle. "I think we're going to play around with some other stuff. Try tape, or try a splint from the back so I can feel the ball and not lose grip of the ball.
"We're going to play around with it today in practice, maybe tomorrow in shootaround. By then, I'll have an idea how it feels and how it is to play with the thing. I'll be OK. I'm really not worried. It's not that sore, so it should be OK."
Nowitzki has already experimented with different bandages. Smith said, "We're going to make it as small as we can," and indeed Nowitzki's wrap at the start of practice was smaller than what he had at a news conference a few minutes before. He was down to a hard splint under the knuckle at the tip of his left middle finger, held on by strips of white tape. The bandage looped around the knuckle and tip, leaving the nail and top exposed.
Nowitzki did acknowledged that he has some concern about how the injury could affect aspects of his game other than jump-shooting, such as ballhandling, finishing in the lane, catching and passing.
"Everybody knows, watching me for 13 years, that I like to go left and finish with my left," said Nowitzki, who is averaging 28.3 points per game in the playoffs. "So I'm going to experiment around with how my ballhandling is going to be. But I'm not really that worried about it."
Nowitzki and shooting coach Holger Geschwindner were planning their own workout later Wednesday to see which moves Nowitzki can and can't make and to come up with ways to compensate, starting with Game 2 on Thursday night.
"Hey, (Rajon) Rondo played with one arm, so (Nowitzki) might be able to play with nine fingers," Geschwindner said, smiling.
The Mavericks aren't concerned about Nowitzki's ability to deal with any pain. He has played through several injuries in his career and has a long track record of remarkably quick returns from sprained ankles.
He once missed only 33 seconds of a playoff game after getting a tooth knocked out by an elbow, returning to close out a win over the San Antonio Spurs.
"He's not going to complain," coach Rick Carlisle said. "At this point, anything short of a compound fracture, you play."
Because Miami knows where he's hurting, and everyone knows how much Nowitzki means to Dallas, it only makes sense that guys are going to swipe at his hands more than ever, knowing that even if they don't snatch the ball, they might rattle the splint.
"Somebody's going to swat down on it, whether they want to or not," Miami's Chris Bosh said. "It's painful. As ballplayers, we all go through it."
Mavs teammate Jason Terry said some shooters actually benefit from hand injuries because "it helps you lock in even more." He echoed the words of all his teammates when he emphasized how certain he was Nowitzki would still carry Dallas' offense.
"I think Dirk can shoot the ball with his eyes closed, with no hands, if he had to, especially in a game of this magnitude," Terry said.
Tim MacMahon covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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