Dirk Nowitzki wouldn't count himself out for tonight's game against the Warriors in as many words, but he sure didn't sound confident that he would play as he addressed the media after the Mavericks' morning shootaround.
"I'm never counting myself anything, we'll just have to see, come back tonight, maybe go through a little workout and then see," said Nowitzki, who was wearing a brace on his sprained left ankle. "But, yeah, it's going to be tough tonight."
There were hopes after Tuesday's 45-minute workout that Nowitzki had made remarkably fast progress from a high left ankle sprain that he might be able to play tonight. Those hopes seemed dashed.
Nowtizki said his sprained left knee is just fine, but he deemed the high ankle sprain as "not great," and "sore," and he couldn't be certain he'd be ready to play Friday at Los Angeles against the Lakers or Sunday at Phoenix.
He said the biggest problems are the key elements it takes to play: lateral movement, stopping on a dime, cutting ... areas he needs to feel comfortable doing in order to play and benefit the team.
"The workout [Tuesday] wasn't great," Nowitzki said of the 45-minute workout and 3-on-3 scrimmages he took part in with coach Avery Johnson and several reserves. "It's still sore in a couple of movements. So I really don't know what to tell you. It's not great as far as I'm concerned.
"I can shoot, up-and-down-jump-and-shoot, maybe one dribble. But, it's the movement -- the stop on a dime, go back on [defense] on a turnover. It's the quick impact that's sore. The push-off, the jump-off one leg. ... All those movements are what's giving me problems. That's where we're at right now."
In other injury news, Jerry Stackhouse had an MRI this morning on his sore right groin that's kept him out for two games. He won't play tonight and coach Avery Johnson said Stackhouse could miss at least the next week.
But, without the 7-foot Nowitzki for an extended period -- if he doesn't play tonight it'll be the fifth consecutive -- the Mavs will have to fend off the Warriors and Nuggets for the eighth and final playoff spot with Jason Kidd, Josh Howard and Jason Terry providing the bulk of the scoring. If the Warriors win tonight, all three teams will again be tied for the seventh spot. A Mavs win would greatly increase their odds just as they hit the road for a tough two-game trip.
Nowitzki said at some point he might have to test the ankle in a game if a playoff spot becomes even more precarious than it already is.
"I would love to play tonight, it's a huge game," Nowitzki said. "We're still trying to make the playoffs and get some separation there. I was really shooting for last week, but it didn't happen. I'm not really sure what the timetable is."
Tonight's game is especially critical because a win would give the Mavs the head-to-head tiebreaker advantage in the series. The Mavs have won two of the first three meetings. Last week, Denver's win over the Mavs gave the Nuggets the head-to-head tiebreaker.
"He wants to get out there pretty bad and he knows pretty much where we are and he knows exactly what's going on," Johnson said. "We had success early in the season with Dirk in there against this team. ... We could use him, but at the same time, if we correct some of our errors that we had up in Golden State the last time (last Sunday), we still feel we have a chance to win."
-- Jeff Caplan