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Nowitzki will miss 4 games to improve conditioning

Dirk Nowitzki sat out Dallas' victory in New Orleans on Saturday night and will miss at least three more games so the star forward can get in better game shape while strengthening his sore right knee.

"We just thought it was a good decision for everybody. I'm not happy right now anyways, so the guys are better off when I'm not out there," Nowitzki said. "This gives me time to really do some of the stuff that I couldn't do when my knee was bothering me the last couple weeks. I couldn't lift and run and do the things I needed to do."

Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said he and the Mavericks' training staff decided Nowitzki needed "an uninterrupted eight days of work to resolve some physical issues and conditioning issues," adding that Nowitzki had "no choice" in the matter.

"There was no negotiating," Carlisle said. "The important thing to realize is this is not a rest week. This is a work week and we're going to get some of these minor issues resolved.

"He's going to be busting his (behind) this week. We're going to be on him hard," Carlisle added. "He's got a lot of work to do and if things go like we think they'll go, by the end of the week he'll be back and ready to play."

Nowitzki has been playing with a protective sleeve on his right knee and at times has complained of stiffness and irritation. His 17.5 points per game this season is a little more than four points below his career average.

He said his knee has been feeling better recently, but added that by "continuously playing on it, it wasn't getting better quick enough."

Nowitzki played as recently as Wednesday night's 94-91 victory at Utah, but was held to what is for him a relatively low 12 points to go with five rebounds.

"I couldn't go by anybody off the dribble and that's part of my game. Right now I'm basically a pop-up shooter every time I caught it, and if I didn't have (the shot), I had to swing it because I just couldn't make a move, couldn't go by anybody," Nowitzki said. "I didn't feel comfortable. So that's something that I've got to work on this week is putting the ball on the floor and get comfortable and really getting confidence in my leg strength ... and I'll be back to my old self."

Lamar Odom started for Nowitzki and scored 16 points in an 83-81 win over the Hornets.

"I liked the way Lamar played. We're a running team, so with him starting and getting more minutes, this is an opportunity for him to get in the habit of running and to raise his level of conditioning," Carlisle said. "This week is a big week for him."

Reserve forward Brian Cardinal expressed confidence in the Mavericks' ability to compensate for Nowitzki's absence.

"The beauty of our team is our depth," Cardinal said. "It's just not one person that's going to have to replace him. We're going to have to collectively."

Cardinal said the compressed game schedule caused by the recent NBA lockout was making it tougher for Nowitzki to work his way back into shape.

"Without having a lot of practice time it's hard. All we do is play games," Cardinal said. "So it's hard to work on your game, work on your craft. This gives him that opportunity and at the same time it gives other people an opportunity (to play), so I think it's a win-win for us."