DALLAS _ No word yet on whether Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki will play in tonight's NBA headliner against the San Antonio Spurs.
But here's my word. Don't play him.
Nobody ever won an NBA championship in December, and the winner of tonight's game won't either. It's more important for the Mavs' long-range plans of winning this season's NBA title to have a healthy Nowitzki in April, May and June than to beat the Spurs in December.
Nowitzki obviously hasn't fully recovered from the right knee sprain he suffered Monday night in Oklahoma City, and there is absolutely no reason to rush the franchise's centerpiece player back onto the court when he's not completely healthy 31 games into the season. Even if it is a game against the hated Spurs.
Yes, a loss to the Spurs would damage the Mavs' chances of winning the Southwest Division and having homecourt advantage just in case they meet the Spurs in a Game 7 in the playoffs.
But look at the glass half-full for a moment. The Mavs have already beaten the Spurs with Nowitzki earlier this year in San Antonio, so they know they can do that.
The Mavs have the NBA's best road record at 11-1, so they know they can win a game on the moon, if need be.
On the flip side, the Mavs are a shaky 13-5 at home this season,including losses to NBA low-rent teams Memphis, Milwaukee and Toronto. So looking ahead, the Mavs may be better off playing a Game 7 against the Spurs in San Antonio.
Crazier things have happened.
For those of you with excellent memories, the Mavs beat the Spurs in a Game 7 in San Antonio in the 2006 playoffs, 119-111 in overtime. So they've been there, done that.
Thus, in four words, don't play Nowitzki tonight. It could be the best move the Mavs make -- or don't make -- this season.
And if could be the move that propel the Mavs past the Spurs later on down the road. When games against the Spurs really count.
-- Dwain Price