DIRK'S BACK! Qs-&-A's About Mavs Star's Work

Will Dirk Nowitzki's return to the Mavs court be a Christmas gift? A New Year's resolution? It is certainly a cause for celebration as of Wednesday afternoon, as the iconic star engaged in his first full-contact practice of the season. He's missed the year so far after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery before the start of the season. But ... Dirk's back!

Dirk Nowitzki's return to the Dallas Mavericks' AAC practice floor is a glorious start to this holiday season ... and figures to be a glorious addition to his team's season as well.

So, Dirk, do you have a target date?

"Not really,'' he said in a Wednesday afternoon press briefing. "We'll just see how it goes. This is the first day stopping, pushing off, moving. We'll see how it reacts. I'm going to do that a couple times, and do some contact for a while.

"Maybe anytime after Christmas, that'll be fun.''

Dirk is wise to avoid publicly issuing a target date, due to, among other reasons, the possibility of setbacks, swelling and the like.

"A couple practices under my belt'' is what Dirk said he'd like before being pinned down further. "But there's no real date set. So we'll have to see how the knee responds to the first couple workouts."

How intense was the workout?

Coach Rick Carlisle downplayed it, claiming, "It wasn't really a full-, full-, full-contact day, but he's working hard.

Dirk himself said it was mostly two-on-two work, noting that it involved him and Roddy B vs. Bernard James and Jae Crowder (low-minute guys who could be spared as the team gears up for Thursday's visit from Miami.

"The quality of the games wasn't high, to be honest,'' Dirk said, smiling.

And then he again noted the team's schedule and the impact on his work.

"Some practice time, some contact, played some two-on-two afterward," Nowitzki said. "This practice obviously wasn't very long. We got a back-to-back coming up and the boys played last night so the practice was more of a prepping for tomorrow's game (against Miami), but we did some contact drills, shot before and played some two-on-two after.''
The work going forward will still be as much about trainer Casey Smith and mentor Holger as it will about available teammates to bang on, we would guess.

"Unfortunately, the next couple days, I don't think there's a lot of practice time,'' Dirk said. "We got a back-to-back and another game on Sunday, so I'm going to be playing probably some one-on-one, some two-on-two, with the low-minute guys and slowly get better and better."

Might Dirk start out off the bench?

Nowitzki is already giving some thought to minutes and roles and fitting back in, saying the club will work to "see what the smartest thing is, maybe come off the bench for the first couple games, play around 20-to-25 minutes," he said. "That's something I guess we need to talk about when it gets to that point. I'm not opposed to obviously coming off the bench at the beginning and slowly finding my rhythm, but I think that's something we need to talk about when it gets closer.

"We haven't addressed that yet, but it's obvious I'm not going to play 35 minutes my first game out. That's something I think we're going to talk about next week."

Nowitzki, 34, stepped up his work late last week when the team was on the road in Minnesota. DallasBasketball.com reported that he worked up a sweat while participating at some limited level on Monday.

"Dirk's been doing a lot of things, so this is no different really than any other day,'' Carlisle said, fibbing only slightly.

This news probably has the networks frothing at the mouth in anticipation of Dirk making high-profile on-court news ... but he's said repeatedly that he'll need a week after this step to take the next in-game step. So somebody might want to alert TNT that Thursday's Miami-at-Dallas game isn't the calendar-circle date here.

The effort to stay afloat

So ... when? A week or so from now, in time to bolster the staying-afloat Mavs at 12-13? That's among the many questions that will get answered in this space over the course of the next few days.

"He'll be back at some point when he's ready,'' Carlisle said. "He's not ready yet, and that's where we are. I know everybody wants to get the first scoop, when's Dirk gonna play? We don't know when he's gonna play. He's working hard, he's making gradual progress, which is how this works when you have a scope. And when it happens it will happen. We hope it's sooner than later, but we don't have a time yet."

We have Mavs games on Dec. 27th, 28th and 30th. So we have some upcoming options over which to salivate.

And we do have progress -- and a chance for either a merrier Christmas or a happier New Year.


Check back in this link for more updates from DB.com, from the Mavs and from Dirk himself.

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