How much time might Dirk Nowitzki miss?

DALLAS – It seems inevitable that Dirk Nowitzki will need to get his troublesome right knee scoped at some point. He just hopes it can wait until after the season.

The problem with the waiting game: It becomes more and more likely that Nowitzki will miss significant time this season as they continue pushing back the decision on whether he needs to get the surgery this month.

Nowitzki, who has never missed more than nine games in a season, has been told that the recovery time “on a normal guy” is typically three to six weeks.

“I’m usually a pretty fast recovery guy, but you never know,” Nowitzki said after sitting out Monday’s preseason game because the swelling in his knee has returned despite being drained twice during training camp. “Once they look in there, it might be a lot worse, might be a lot better. I guess that nobody really knows [the recovery time]. No doctor in the world can tell you.

“I guess if we do decide next week to do that, it’s not looking good for the beginning of the season.”

If they decide to get the scope next week, forget about the Oct. 30 season opener against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Let’s assume for the sake of argument that Nowitzki gets the operation done Monday. If it’s a three-week recovery process, he might miss only seven games. The Mavs ought to be able to survive that stretch with a respectable record, considering it includes a home date against the Toronto Raptors and home and road games against the Charlotte Bobcats.

The Mavs play four times the following week, starting with home games two lottery teams missing their franchise cornerstone point guards, the Minnesota Timberwolves and Washington Wizards.

In Week 5 of what would be Nowitzki’s recovery process, the Mavs have a three-game homestand against quality foes: the up-and-coming Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks and Lakers.

Week 6 features a road back-to-back against the Philadelphia 76ers and Chicago Bulls and a home game a few nights later against the dreadful Detroit Pistons.

The best-case scenario if Nowitzki gets his knee scoped: He misses less than 10 games and returns to a team that has a winning record.

The worst-case scenario: He misses more than a month and the Mavs have dug themselves a hole by the time their rusty superstar returns.

Actually, the worst-case scenario would be that Nowitzki opts to not have the operation and the knee bothers him all season. We saw how bad that can be early last season, when one of the elite power forwards of all-time looked awful.

“If it’s going to keep swelling up on me,” Nowitzki said, “that’s obviously not a way to go throughout an 82-game season and hopefully long playoff run.”

No, it’d be a way to get a lottery pick.