01/21/2012 08:02 EST | Updated 03/22/2012 05:12 EDT

Mavs coach: Nowitzki needs at least 8 days of conditioning before he'll play again

NEW ORLEANS - Dirk Nowitzki will sit out for at least the next four games for the Mavericks, starting with Saturday night's contest in New Orleans, so the star forward can get in better game shape while strengthening his sore right knee.

Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said before tipoff against the Hornets that Nowitzki needs "an uninterrupted eight days of work to resolve some physical issues and conditioning issues," adding that the decision "covers the knee and it covers conditioning."

Carlisle says Nowitzki would prefer to continue playing but coaches and training staff decided it would be better for the team if he is restricted from game activity for the next week.

"This is not a rest situation. Quite the opposite," Carlisle said. "He'll go through harder workouts this week than he would if we were having practice days and in some cases he'll go multiple times."

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 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.

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."