On the Mavs:
The Bucks kick off the New Year looking for a rare season sweep of the Mavericks at the Bradley Center. Both teams come in having lost their last two games, and Dallas will again be without their superstar Dirk Nowitzki as well as his backup Shawn Marion.
Dirk's knee. Dirk Nowitzki has missed the Mavs' past two games with a strained knee, and there's nothing coincidental about the Mavs losing both.
Unfortunately for the Bucks, Dirk is in Milwaukee and could be back for tonight's game. The Mavs list him as a probable starter and day-to-day in their game notes , though some random tweeting today says he's been downgraded to doubtful. UPDATE: Dirk as well as backup forward Shawn Marion (quad) have been ruled out of tonight's game. Either way, Dirk didn't sound too worried about his knee after the Mavs' 99-93 loss to the Spurs on Thursday:
"I actually feel pretty good,'' he said. "What happened was I think the knee was giving me a little trouble two weeks before and I just came down wrong. It's just a sprain so that was the great news and now I'm taking it day by day. It's already better than it was two days ago, but it wasn't good enough to play today (Thursday against the Spurs). I would have loved to have been out here in front of this crowd, but unfortunately it didn't work. Maybe this weekend, maybe early next week, that's what I'm looking at."
When Dirk doesn't go, the whole complexion of the Mavs necessarily changes. Case in point: Brian friggin' Cardinal has started the past two games after playing a grand total of three minutes the previous 11 games. That said, Cardinal has acquitted himself about as well as you could hope with 17 points (including 5/7 threes),10 boards, and no turnovers in 50 combined minutes.
Gooden getting close to returning? While the Mavs are seriously shorthanded up front, the Bucks might be getting reinforcements--if not tonight, early next week. Drew Gooden continues to be listed as day-to-day with plantar fasciitis, but word is that he's close to returning after finally getting a cortisone shot for the painful injury. Gooden had initially hoped that rest might be enough to get him back on the court, but has missed four straight games and hasn't played 30 minutes since November 24.
Road Warriors. Dallas is a league-best 11-1 away from home including five in a row; their only loss was a 99-97 decision in New Orleans.
Imig: Watching from sidelines a ‘tough experience’ for Bucks’ Jennings
Over at Fox Sports, Brew Hoop favorite Paul Imig has some moderately encouraging news on Brandon Jennings.
"I’m great," he said. "I’m starting rehab soon, so I’ll be back on the court hopefully in two-to-three weeks."
If Jennings is correct and returns in that time frame, he will have only missed three-to-four weeks of action.
"We're really not missing any more jumpers than any other team," Skiles said. "It's mostly reflected in balls around the rim, converting on the break when we have numbers.
"Those end up taking all the pressure off your jump shots. But when you're missing those kind of easy ones, all of a sudden you get an open 15-footer and it becomes a more difficult shot."