SALT LAKE CITY -- Dirk Nowitzki, who missed the first 27 games of the season after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, shoulders much of the blame for the continued slide that has seen the Dallas Mavericks lose 11 of their last 13 games.
"I'm frustrated that I missed two months," Nowitzki said after Monday's shootaround. "I'm not quite there yet where I can close those games out which I should -- especially the New Orleans game. I'm just not quite there yet. The whole situation is frustrating."
In seven games this season, Nowitzki is averaging just 11.4 points and 4.6 rebounds in 23.9 minutes per game. Both are well below his career averages of 22.8 points and 8.3 rebounds. He is also shooting just 41.7 percent from the field.
For coach Rick Carlisle, winning will require a team-wide focus on doing all of the things that don't show up on the stat sheet.
"We want to win games," Carlisle said Monday. "Everybody wants to win games. But in order to get there, we got to deal with the process. Keeping turnovers down is something we got to do, not only a couple games in a row, but we got to do that on a consistent basis. And the rebounding tonight is paramount."
Carlisle knows it will be much easier to do these things -- starting with the Utah Jazz on Monday night -- with Nowitzki getting back to his old self again.
The key is making sure that success or failure does not ride exclusively on what Nowitzki, who made his first start of the season on Saturday, can do every night.
"It helps us from a personnel standpoint for sure," Carlisle said. "But we still got to go out there and do the things we got to do (to win). We got to guard the post. We got to rebound. We got to get back on defense."