The start of Dirk Nowitzki’s 21st season with the Dallas Mavericks delayed by a left foot injury.
Nowtizki had offseason surgery on his left ankle, which has recovered. Now, tendons in the foot are causing pain.
“Those tendons didn’t even get used for five or six years because of the bone spurs,” Nowitzki told the Dallas Morning News in China, where the Mavericks are playing two exhibition games this week. “Now they’re moving around and that’s causing the soreness. The actual surgery area is fine.”
Nowitzki took part in a scrimmage with teammates last month, but his foot and ankle swelled. He hasn’t been on the court since Sept. 21.
The 40-year-old forward said he’ll be out the rest of the preseason, but coach Rick Carlisle wasn’t as optimistic.
“He won’t do anything on this trip,” Carlisle said. “I can’t give you any kind of a soft timeline. It’s weeks, not days, as far as getting on the court for live action.
“He is making gradual progress. We’re just not at a point where we can talk about a hard timeline.”
Once the inflammation goes away, Nowitzki won’t need a lot of prep time before he can play, Carlisle said.
“I have to think that once we got him feeling significantly better, there wouldn’t have to be a lot of full live workouts to get him in a game.”
The unquestioned leader of the Mavericks for years, Nowitzki is expected to come off the bench this season. Newly acquired DeAndre Jordan has been penciled in as the starting center, with rookie first-round draft pick Luka Doncic at power forward.
Nowitzki has played in 1,471 career games, starting all but 31. Last season, he appeared in 77 games for the Mavericks and averaged 12.0 points — the lowest in his career since his rookie season in 1998-99.
A four-time, first-team All-NBA selection, Nowitzki is a 13-time All-Star and the won the 2006-07 Most Valuable Player award. His 31,187 career points are the most among active NBA players — LeBron James is just behind him with 31,038 — and sixth all-time.