DALLAS -- Dirk Nowitzki practiced with the first team Friday, giving a strong indication that the 11-time All-Star will make his first start of the season at 7:30 tonight when the Dallas Mavericks play the New Orleans Hornets at American Airlines Center.
Nowitzki has averaged 10 points and 4.3 rebounds in 22.2 minutes while coming off the bench during the six games since he returned from undergoing arthroscopic right knee surgery on Oct. 19.
On Wednesday in Miami, Nowitzki played a season-high 29 minutes and scored a season-high 19 points. In short, he looked like his old self, which is what the Mavs need as they head toward the midway point of the season.
Inquiring minds want to know what's left for Nowitzki to prove before he takes his customary spot in the starting lineup. But he didn't even have that conversation with coach Rick Carlisle on Friday.
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"I finished the [Miami] game, felt decent for the 30 minutes I was out there," Nowitzki said. "That's really the major thing."
Carlisle noted that Nowitzki has improved every game as he slowly gets acclimated to playing with three starters -- O.J. Mayo, Darren Collison and Chris Kaman -- who were playing elsewhere last season.
"It'll happen at some point," Carlisle said of Nowitzki being in the starting lineup. "I don't know if it's going to happen [tonight] or not, but he's doing better and that's very encouraging."
Friday marked the 13-year anniversary of Mark Cuban's agreement buying the Mavs from Ross Perot Jr. for $285 million. It likely was the best transaction for the franchise since Don Carter brought the NBA to Dallas in 1980.
Under Cuban, the Mavs have earned a spot in the playoffs 12 years in a row. They also captured their only NBA title in 2011.
Asked if he'd ever heard of Cuban before he purchased the Mavs, coach Rick Carlisle said: "I had heard the name because of how he swindled Yahoo! on the [broadcast.com] deal. But I did not know him personally.
"At that time I wouldn't have guessed he would have become an international brand and an international TV star and some kind of an icon, but he has. He's done it because he's been very visible, and one of the reasons he's been visible is because he's poured his heart and soul into this franchise."
Owning the Mavs has paid big dividends for Cuban and given him worldwide recognition while opening doors he never had opened before.
"My life changed for the better," Cuban said. "It's been an amazing ride.
"It's been incredible to be part of the Mavs nation and all of our amazing fans."
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760