"We talked about it and handled it like grown men," Nowitzki told Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News. "We're just really going to play it by ear, see how it's going, see how each game's going… There might be some nights when I play more; there might be some nights when I play less."
Nowitzki has appeared in 12 games this season, averaging 3.6 points in 10.3 minutes a game while shooting 29.4 percent from the field and 22.6 percent from beyond the arc.
To make matters worse, the German big man is currently shooting 31.6 percent on wide-open shot attempts - when the closest defender is at least 6-feet away. He also holds the Mavericks’ worst defensive rating at 117.5.
"He's got the same goal that all of us have," Carlisle said. "He wants to help the team. He also wants to win.
"But we've got situations in the league now where the matchups, some nights, are really, really difficult… There may be some games he doesn't play because of matchups that just don't look good. There may be instances where he plays in the first half but not in the second half if things aren't looking favorable for the second half."
Nowitzki is currently in his 21st season in the NBA, which is tied for the most all-time alongside Robert Parish. The 7-footer, who led the Mavericks to the 2011 NBA Championship as their Finals MVP, holds the record for most seasons played under one franchise.
Nowitzki missed the Mavericks’ first 26 games of the 2018-19 season while recovering from left ankle surgery. Upon his return, he has consistently appeared off the bench for the first time since his rookie year in 1998-99.
"The realities are this: You've got a top 10 or 12 player in the history of the game who now, coming off a surgery and a seven-month rehab, is coming off the bench for the first time in two decades," Carlisle said. "I don't know if there's been a bigger challenge for an all-time great player in the history of our game."
The 40-year-old is still undecided if this season will be his last. He’s averaged 21.1 points per game over his career while helping mold the NBA’s current big man position as a 3-point marksman.
"The last 41 games we're looking to continue to cycle him up,” Carlisle said. “But if there's situations that aren't good for him, that aren't good for the team, we're going to bypass it. That's the right thing for everybody."