Dirk Nowitzki woke up wondering how much his left hand would be throbbing because of a torn tendon in his middle finger. Turns out, it wasn't bad at all.
That meant the Dallas Mavericks could turn their attention to all the other problems the Miami Heat caused them in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
The Mavs hit the practice court yesterday worried about everything from shooting to rebounding. While they defended pretty well in the opener, they know they must be as good or better in Game 2 tonight to return home with a split.
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade believe the Heat can be a lot better, too, and are just as intent on protecting their home court to take a 2-0 lead to Dallas this weekend.
Nowitzki took the practice court wearing a splint to keep the finger straight and figures it'll be mostly a nuisance for the next month or 2. He and shooting coach Holger Geschwindner were planning their own workout later yesterday to see which moves Nowitzki can and can't make and to come up with ways to compensate, starting with Game 2 of the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat tonight.
Nowitzki already is experimenting with different bandages. Trainer Casey Smith said, "We're going to make it as small as we can," and indeed Nowitzki's wrap at the start of practice was smaller than what he had at a news conference a few minutes before. He was down to a hard splint under the knuckle at the tip of his left middle finger, held on by strips of white tape. The bandage looped around the knuckle and tip, leaving the nail and top exposed.
Nowitzki was hurt trying to strip the ball from Chris Bosh with a little under 4 minutes left in the opener. He knew something serious was wrong because he couldn't straighten the tip. The injury is known as a "mallet finger" and generally takes 6-to-8 weeks to heal.
Because the problem is on Nowitzki's non-shooting hand, most of what he does will not be affected. But some of his game will be. He likes to drive to his left, dribbling hard to get to his favorite shooting spots or taking it all the way to the rim. It also could affect him on defense.
"I think once the game starts, the adrenaline starts flowing, I don't think it will really slow me down much," Nowitzki said. "I'm not really worried about it."
Maybe he should be.
Because Miami knows where he's hurting, and everyone knows how much Nowitzki means to Dallas, it only makes sense that guys are going to swipe at his hands more than ever, knowing that even if they don't snatch the ball, they might rattle the splint.
"Somebody's going to swat down on it, whether they want to or not," Bosh said. "It's painful. As ballplayers, we all go through it."
After Game 1, the Mavs' biggest concern was getting outrebounded by 10. The Heat were especially good at chasing their own missed shots. They got 16 of them, leading to 13 more shots than Dallas.
Miami got comfortable behind the arc, hitting 11 three-pointers, three more than any Mavs foe this postseason. Some of their attempts were so uncontested "they had time to set their feet, check the temperature in the gym and then let it fly," center Brendan Haywood said.
Dallas, meanwhile, made a playoff-low 37.3 percent of its shots and got a measly 17 points from the bench.
* Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio has agreed to join the Minnesota Timberwolves, ending a 2-year negotiation with the team. A person with knowledge of the agreement confirmed to the Associated Press last night that Rubio will play in the NBA next season. The person requested anonymity because neither Rubio nor the Timberwolves planned to make an official announcement while he continues to play for Regal Barcelona in the Euroleague playoffs.
* Representatives of the league's owners and players met for about 4 hours yesterday and will get together twice next week in Dallas as they try to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement to replace the one that expires June 30.
* Jay Triano will not return as Toronto Raptors coach next season. He will be retained as a consultant and a special assistant to president and general manager Bryan Colangelo.