Blame 'Mailman' for Dirk's shoulder scare

DALLAS -- It’s cause for great concern any time Dirk Nowitzki exits a game due to injury and is escorted into the tunnel by one of the Mavericks’ athletic trainers.

This instance ended up being no big deal.

Nowitzki felt pain in his left shoulder after he threw a lob pass to Samuel Dalembert for a layup on the Mavs’ opening possession of Wednesday night’s win over the New Orleans Pelicans. The Mavs called a timeout seconds later, and Nowitzki left the floor while rubbing his left shoulder.

Mavs fans only had to hold their breath for a few minutes. Nowitzki checked back into the game at the 8:44 mark.

“The shoulder popped a little bit,” said Nowitzki, who scored 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting in 27 minutes against the Pelicans. “I’ve had it ever since Karl Malone hacked me in ’99. The shoulder sometimes just comes in and out a little bit, but it tingles for just a couple of minutes. I walked it off in the tunnel and was able to finish the game.

“But it happened a good 20 times already over my career, so it’s going to keep happening here and there.”

Nowitzki focuses on strengthening the shoulder as much as possible as part of his conditioning routine.

There is no concern, however, about it affecting the 16-year veteran’s basketball career.

“Hopefully I can still play tennis with it when my career’s over,” Nowitzki joked.