Jason Kidd said he wasn’t playing coy on Tuesday after the Mavericks’ first practice to prepare for the first-round playoff series against Utah, even though nobody would blame him if he was.
There was only one topic anybody really cared about – the health of Luka Dončić’s left calf muscle, which was strained in the third quarter of Sunday’s regular-season finale against San Antonio.
Kidd was asked directly, indirectly and in roundabout fashion about Luka’s health. His answer never really wavered. It’s an option play at this point as the Mavericks prepare for all eventualities.
“Green light or red light? Right now, it’s a red light,” Kidd said. “Saturday afternoon, there’s only so many days.
“They (the Jazz) are going to have to play against him or not play against him. It’s not being coy. We’re just giving the report. Hopefully we can give good news on Wednesday or Thursday or Friday. Right now, it is what it is.”
Asked what grade level Dončić’s strain is, Kidd said: “Medically, I don’t know what a grade means.”
Speculation on Luka’s availability for Game 1 at noon on Saturday at American Airlines Center has ranged from unlikely to definitely out. Time off for a calf strain can vary wildly from a week to a month, maybe even longer if it’s a severe strain, experts say.
But Kidd said that Dončić was in great spirits on Tuesday as he went through his rehab requirements.
“Nothing’s changed. He has a strained calf,” Kidd said. “So we’ll see how he feels as the week goes on.
“He’s out here on the court, he’s in good spirits, smiling, laughing. That’s always good when someone has an injury. We’ll prepare with him. And we’ll also prepare without him. We’ll see how his body feels each day. We hope that he’s able to go in Game 1. But if he’s not, then we’ll prepare and move forward.”
The Mavericks have played without Dončić 17 times this season and went 8-9, so playing without him certainly is not a death sentence. If he’s out for the entire best-of-seven series, certainly it doesn’t help the Mavericks’ situation.
“We all know our assignments, whether he’s in or he’s out,” said Spencer Dinwiddie. “We got to go out there and execute.
“You don’t lose a player of that caliber and get better, obviously. But we feel like we have enough on this roster to win games. It’s all about winning game 1 and progressing in the series.”
The Mavericks got dealt a tough hand when they found out that they are the first playoff game of the weekend, tipping off at noon on Saturday.
But the rest of the first-round series has not been announced. The league tends to stretch out the first round, perhaps covering three weekends. If that’s the case, then it would give Dončić some wiggle room to return in the first round.
But Kidd insisted Tuesday that it will be Luka’s call – to a certain degree.
“As a coach, it’s always the player’s call,” he said. “If he’s able to go and put on the shoes, then he’s going to go. If he can’t, we’re not going to jeopardize putting him in a situation to make things worse. There’s been some past history here. I think Dirk (Nowitzki) had a knee injury and they sat him out in the playoffs. So if he can’t play, we’re not going to roll him out there and jeopardize his health.”
Dirk was shelved in 2003 at Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals against San Antonio, despite the belief among many in the franchise that he was medically cleared to play. Then-coach Don Nelson made the decision not to play Nowitzki, which Nowitzki said years later was the correct call.
“We’re not frustrated, that’s just the nature of the sport,” Kidd said. “Injuries happen. Sometimes they happen at the wrong time. But as a positive, things could be a lot worse. It could be where he’s ruled out for not just Game 1, but the series. We’ll see how he feels as the week goes on and hope that he’s able to go. But if he’s not, we’re confident that we can go out there and put us in a position to protect home.”