Dirk Nowitzki was hoping to be back on the court sooner, even when the Dallas Mavericks were saying after his surgery that it could be at least six weeks before any basketball activity.
The perennial All-Star forward instead is finding out just how difficult and frustrating it can be recovering from surgery.
Nowitzki said Tuesday that he's still about two weeks away from getting back on the court to start running and shooting. That would put him at just more than six weeks since arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Oct. 19 — and he still isn't sure when he will start playing again after that.
"Unfortunately, I tried, but I couldn't cut the time down," Nowitzki said. "I was obviously hoping to cut that time a lot shorter. It's been a frustrating time for me, especially watching and nothing I can really do. So there have been some hard days, some frustrating days. ... But I think now it's gotten better this last week or so and now I guess I'm seeing the end of the tunnel."
Nowitzki, who never had surgery in his first 14 NBA seasons, said the goal has always been for the swelling to be gone and he has to be 100 percent strength-wise before he will play again. There are still good days and bad days with the swelling.
"Once that goal is reached, then I can obviously think about playing again," he said. "But I think we're still far away from that."
He was able this week to increase his off-court workload, including leg presses and getting back on an elliptical machine.
The 34-year-old, 7-foot German decided to have surgery after problems with swelling early in training camp. Nowitzki had issues with the same knee two seasons ago when he missed time before the Mavs won their only NBA title, then skipped a week last January to strengthen and condition that knee.
The Mavericks (6-6) are trying to get by with eight new players. They could go 20 games or more before getting a chance to play with Nowitzki.
"Dirk will get there. And we know he'll be back at some point. But nobody knows exactly when that's going to be," coach Rick Carlisle said. "For right now, we've got to press forward with the guys we have and we've got to take up the slack in some of these areas where we're having some slippage and where we're losing ground."
Nowitzki said it's been tough to sit and watch knowing there are ways he could help if he was playing.
But he has no plans to rush himself back, like he had to do after the NBA lockout following the championship season.
"I need to make sure everything's right before I come back. I can't rush. I'm hoping maybe after these two years to play a couple more years," he said. "So it would be the wrong thing now to push it and come back too early and maybe make something worse for the long term. So it's been learning to be patient the last couple weeks. It's not my favorite thing to do."
When asked if there had been any setbacks in his rehabilitation, Nowitzki said it's just been a slow process that he didn't expect since he had never had surgery before.
Nowitzki said doctors didn't find anything "that was crazy or anything unexpected" during the surgery. He figures 14 NBA seasons, and playing on the German national team during the summers, just took its toll on his knee.
"I'm always a fast healer, so when I heard I'm doing this rehab, in my head I'm thinking I'm playing in 2, 3 weeks. But it just didn't work out that way," he said. "It's a piece of work, but it's getting better from here."