Obviously, Jason Kidd's lower back injury has taken him out of the lineup all week and perhaps surprisingly, the Dallas Mavericks have put together three consecutive wins without their 38-year-old floor general. Delonte West has filled in nicely -- he might want to find the 7-foot blond guy a bit more often -- switching from starting shooting guard to the point.
Kidd has not had a great start with numbers (including 30.8 percent field-goal shooting) far below his standards across the board. Across with Kidd, it's his intangibles that are so highly counted on by this veteran team than his stat line.
Dirk Nowitzki, meanwhile, added another game-winning bucket to his ledger Wednesday night at Boston with a strong drive and finish for a three-point play with 5.1 seconds to left. He struggled for the better part of the game after going 9-of-10 in Detroit, which followed a 5-of-22 stretch in the previous two games. Such is life in the post-lockout NBA.
It's simply going to take time for players to get in shape and find a consistent rhythm. Dirk included.
Here's a look at how Carlisle is handling his two most important players through the first seven games.
Season averages: 28.1 mpg, 4.9 ppg, 4.7 apg, 3.8 rpg
The breakdown: Since last week's report, Kidd played 11:32 of the first quarter at the San Antonio Spurs and then headed to the locker room holding his lower back. He later described the injury as back spasms, caused when big man DeJuan Blair leaned on Kidd as the two battled for rebound position. Kidd attended Monday's White House ceremony and then returned to Dallas to resume treatments. He will be re-evaluated today. The hope was that he would be ready for Friday's game against Milwaukee, the first of a home back-to-back, but that could be pushing things. His availability will be determined closer to game time.
Season averages: 31.6 mpg, 18.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2.7 apg
The breakdown: Dirk's scoring (including 19.0 percent from 3-point range) and rebounds continue to be well below his career marks, but coach Rick Carlisle said he's not worried, pointing out that his playing time is also well below normal levels. That's due to several reasons that include Carlisle being mindful of his minutes with so games lumped together, Dirk still working his way into shape and the fact that four of the first 11 games have been blowouts, limiting him to just a few minutes or no minutes in those fourth quarters. Finally on Tuesday he was on the right side of a rout at Detroit and it kept his minutes down to 28, helping him to go 38 in Boston, one minute shy of his season-high in that stunning road loss at Oklahoma City. Even with the 38 minutes, Dirk averaged just 30.0 minutes in the four games played in the past seven days.
What's ahead: We'll just have to wait and see if Kidd's back has bounced back enough for the home back-to-back or if it is a better idea for him to take the weekend off and get ready for two big games in Los Angeles -- Monday against the Lakers and Wednesday against the remodeled Clippers. Dirk, coming off a very manageable week minutes-wise, should be in fine shape for this stretch of five games in seven nights that starts Friday and ends next Thursday at a suddenly resurgent Utah team that features former Mavs Devin Harris and Josh Howard.