The Beginning of the End?

Just got the official word from the Mavericks: “Dirk Nowitzki has a moderate high left ankle sprain and a mild left knee sprain. He is currently walking in a protective boot without crutches. No timetable is set for his return.”

OK, words like “moderate” and “mild” are a relief -- I mean, as opposed to “torn” and “shredded beyond recognition” -- but with Dirk likely out at least two weeks with only 12 games and three weeks left in the regular season, the playoffs are in serious jeopardy. Don’t believe me? The Mavs are in seventh place in the West, but only two games ahead of the ninth-place Denver Nuggets. And just guess who Dallas plays on Thursday? In Denver. Without Dirk. Gulp.

I know, Avery and the Mavs will talk about circling the wagons and overcoming adversity and yadda and yadda and more yadda. Didja see the Mavs get humiliated by the Rockets by 15 points without Dirk a couple weeks back? Um, yeah. Brace yourself. This is full-on crisis.

Tough to blame this injury on Jason Kidd, though he is culpable for last week’s oh-and-three debacle. (How’s a combined 10 points on 4-of-21 shooting, including one of 10 on threes against three of the NBA’s elite, hit ya?) I guess we could blame San Antonio’s Ime Udoka. Whatever, the point is that our standings gaze -- like our mood -- has severely shifted downward.

I think owner Mark Cuban’s third-quarter pose said it all: Head. In. Hands.

On the bright side, this year’s No. 1 draft pick (tenuously belonging to the New Jersey Nets) is lottery-protected. So, we got that going for us. Which is nice. --Richie Whitt

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