Dallas Mavericks

Dirk Nowitzki eyes December return to Dallas Mavericks

SALT LAKE CITY — Injured Dallas star Dirk Nowitzki expects to play at some point in December, telling ESPN he might “be a Christmas gift” for the Mavericks.

Nowitzki, the sixth-leading scorer in NBA history, has been limited to only five games this season due to persistent soreness in his strained right Achilles tendon. He has not played since a Nov. 25 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, with the Mavs officially saying he is out indefinitely.

“The thing is, I think when I came back it was a little too early and I had a little setback,” said Nowitzki, who sat out eight consecutive games before playing in losses to the LA Clippers and Cavaliers and getting shut down again. “Everybody’s a little worried about starting it back up too early and then starting back where we were, so we’re taking it slow now. But it’s been getting better. I’ve been increasing the workload, and it hasn’t been sore.

“Hopefully, I’ll be back in action anytime soon. Maybe I’m a Christmas gift.”

Nowitzki feels like he’s ready to return to practice after going through a strenuous workout with injured guard J.J. Barea following Friday’s shootaround in Utah. The workout included pick-and-rolls and full-court shooting drills.

Barea, who has been out due to a strained right calf since Nov. 16, was also encouraged by the workout and said he expects to return to the Mavs’ rotation next week.

“It’s feeling better every day,” said Barea, who expects to be on a minutes restriction upon his return.

One challenge for Nowitzki, meanwhile, is that the Mavs have precious little practice time during the season. He will get in a lot of his work during 3-on-3 games with the Mavs’ low-minute players.

Barea said the Mavs will have one such session before Sunday’s home game against the Sacramento Kings.

“Hopefully, I can get out there pretty quick and have fun again,” Nowitzki told ESPN.

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