UPDATE: 2:49 p.m. ET: Nowitzki will indeed return to the starting lineup Saturday night at home versus the Hornets, according to a report from ESPN.com.
Since returning to action six games ago for the first time this season, Dirk Nowitzki has been playing in the neighborhood of 22 minutes per game while working his way back from injury, and has done so as part of the second unit coming off the bench.
After a season-high 29 minutes in the Mavericks’ overtime loss to the Heat on Thursday, he may be approaching the point where head coach Rick Carlisle feels confident about reinserting Nowitzki into the starting lineup.
He went through practice as a member of the starting unit for the first time all year.
From Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas:
Dirk Nowitzki practiced with the Dallas Mavericks’ starters Friday for the first time this season, a significant step toward resuming his regular role.
Nowitzki and coach Rick Carlisle left open the possibility of the Mavs’ star power forward making his first start of the season Saturday night against the New Orleans Hornets. Nowitzki, who missed 27 games while recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Oct. 19, came off the bench in his first six appearances this season.
“Whether I’m starting or not really doesn’t matter,” Nowitzki said after Friday’s practice. “I guess we’ll make that decision tomorrow. We didn’t talk about it today.”
Dallas had done a remarkable job early of maintaining a respectable record while Nowitzki was out, but has now lost seven of its last eight games.
With O.J. Mayo slumping and the Mavericks readjusting to life with Nowitzki, it hasn’t been easy as of late. But that could begin to change as soon as Saturday night, when Dirk may get back into the starting lineup, and Dallas can begin solidifying roles and rotations for the rest of the season.
The time off during the All-Star break did Dwyane Wade some good.
The Bulls guard turned back the clock on Friday night, leading the Bulls with 23 points and topping it off with this dunk that proved to be the dagger, sealing a Chicago win. The Suns were convinced Wade was going to run the shot clock way down before making his move and they lollygagged into position — so he just blew past everyone for the poster slam.
The Bulls won 128-121. Devin Booker led the Suns with 27.
Atlanta’s DeMarre Carroll picked up a deserved flagrant for this foul.
With a couple of minutes left to go in the second quarter, Isaiah Thomas made the steal when DeMar DeRozan lost the ball on a drive, and Thomas was off to the races. Trying to prevent a lay-up, Carroll decided to foul Thomas far from the basket, but did so with a forearm shove that sent Thomas sprawling on the ground.
Thomas got up and had words, as did Jae Crowder.
Carroll got a flagrant and a technical, Thomas and Crowder each picked up technicals for jumping in.
When Stephen Curry wore a headband through the All-Star Game last weekend, West coach Steve Kerr jokingly called him “Seth” all night.
Dallas’ Seth Curry came out of the week-long break playing like an All-Star. He dropped 31 on the Minnesota Timberwolves Friday night, a career high for him. He hit 13-of-17 from the field, including three from beyond the arc, but did a lot of his damage in the midrange.
It wasn’t enough, the Timberwolves got a comfortable 97-84 win behind 27 points from Andrew Wiggins and 26 from Karl-Anthony Towns. Nerlens Noel was not yet with his new team in time to play for the Mavs in this game.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kawhi Leonard scored 21 points despite foul trouble and the San Antonio Spurs shook off the rust from a nine-day layoff to beat the Los Angeles Clippers 105-97 on Friday night for their third straight win.
Pau Gasol added 17 points and 11 rebounds off the bench in his return from a 15-game absence because of a fractured finger. LaMarcus Aldridge had 15 points and 11 rebounds, and Dewayne Dedmon grabbed 12 rebounds.
Blake Griffin scored 29 points for the Clippers, who have dropped consecutive games to the league’s two winningest teams since the All-Star break ended. They lost by 10 points at Golden State a night earlier. The Spurs have the league’s second-best record at 44-13.
Chris Paul added 17 points in his return after missing five weeks with a torn ligament in his left thumb.