Friday, May 23
May 24, 1:12 AM ET
Nelson unsure if Nowitzki will return for series
DALLAS -- Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki sprained his left knee with
7:45 left in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals Friday night,
landing so hard that he said "I couldn't move my leg any more,''
and might not be able to play again in the series.
Coach-general manager Don Nelson said Nowitzki will undergo an
MRI on Saturday, but he's not optimistic about what it will show.
"The news is not good,'' Nelson said. "His knee is very sore.
I don't expect he'll play and I'm not sure if he'll play in this
series. We should not take a gamble or a chance on Dirk Nowitzki. I
told Dirk he must feel he's totally 100 percent for me to play him
again this series.''
The Mavericks lost the game 96-83 and trail in the series 2-1.
Game 4 is Sunday night in Dallas.
Nowitzki, who left the building on crutches, was more optimistic
about returning. He also could be underestimating what happened. He
added that he's never had a knee injury before, "so really the
pain is new to me.''
"It's a bad break, but we'll just have to see how it feels
tomorrow,'' he said. "This series is a long ways from being
Losing Nowitzki, the Mavericks' leading scorer and rebounder,
would be a huge blow to their bid to make the NBA Finals for the
"I think we have enough soldiers in this locker room to put us
in position to win,'' guard Michael Finley said. "But it'll be
tougher. Everyone has to take their game up if he's unable to
Dallas knows firsthand how much such an injury can hurt. The
Mavericks beat Sacramento after it lost Chris Webber last round.
First-round foe Portland also lost a starter, with Derek Anderson
sustaining a knee injury that required immediate surgery.
Nowitzki was coming down with a loose ball when he and San
Antonio's Manu Ginobili collided with about 8:03 left. Ginobili's
body hit Nowitzki's stiff left leg. Play continued up and down the
court before action stopped and trainers came to Nowitzki's aid.
"I didn't see anything,'' Ginobili said. "I was surprised when
we came back that he was still there. I didn't mean to hurt him.''
Nowitzki stayed down on the court for several minutes, then left
for the locker room with his arms around the shoulders of teammates
Walt Williams and Popeye Jones. They took him to a tunnel under the
stands, where he rode a cart the rest of the way. He was hurt under
the same basket where Webber went down.
"I really don't know what happened,'' Nowitzki said. "It
happened real quick. Somebody, I think it was Ginobili that fell on
my leg. I don't know what I did. Next think I know my knee was
hurting pretty bad. ... I couldn't move my leg any more.''
Nowitzki had 15 points and nine rebounds in 40 minutes, but shot
"The main thing we have to think about now is the health of
Dirk Nowitzki and making sure we don't do something silly for a
game or two,'' Nelson said. "Nothing is more important than Dirk
Nowitzki's health and I will not jeopardize that.''
Nowitzki missed two games this season with a sprained right
ankle, both in December. The first was a loss to San Antonio, then
Dallas beat Memphis.
"I think those guys have done a pretty good job the couple of
times he's been out to take the offense upon themselves,'' San
Antonio's Tim Duncan said. "He will take a lot away from their
game because he's also a very good rebounder.
"They'll fill his spot, but we can't worry about what they'll
Nelson said Dallas' entire frontcourt rotation is banged up.
Shawn Bradley twisted his right knee in the third quarter and
didn't return. Eduardo Najera missed Game 2 with an injury and
Nelson revealed after the game that end-of-the-bench center Evan
Eschmeyer has been hurt and not practicing.
Nelson said Bradley is "a big part'' of the non-Nowitzki
strategy, "and I don't know if he's going to be available the next
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