Nowitzki to start tonight for Dallas Mavericks

DALLAS – Dirk Nowitzki will get his first start of the season tonight at 7:30 when the Dallas Mavericks host the New Orleans Hornets at American Airlines Center.

Coach Rick Carlisle made the announcement after Saturday morning’s shoot-around.

“We’re going to start Dirk tonight,’’ Carlisle said matter-of-factly. “We just feel it’s time for him to do that.

“We have to watch his minutes and all that.’’

Nowitzki has played six games since undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on Oct. 19. The Mavs are 1-5 in those games, with the 11-time All-Star averaging 10 points in 22.2 minutes per game.

Carlisle was certainly encouraged when -- on the second night of a back-to-back this past Wednesday in Miami -- Nowitzki played a season-high 29 minutes and poured in a season-high 19 points. And since the Mavs are just 13-20 and are scrambling to extend their playoff streak to 13 years in a row, they knew it was high time to get their superstar in the starting lineup.

“He just continues to do better physically and rhythm-wise,’’ Carlisle said. “Things are going in the right direction.’’

After Friday’s practice, Nowitzki said whether he starts against the Hornets was not the question.

“I finished the other game (against Miami), felt decent for the 30 minutes I was out there,’’ he said. “That’s really the major thing.

“Whether I’m starting or not really doesn’t matter.’’

Even with Nowitzki starting, the Mavs are not going to run up his minutes. And they know it doesn’t automatically mean they’re getting ready to go on a long winning streak

“Again, it’s a 48-minute proposition,’’ Carlisle said. “Starting him doesn’t guarantee anything.

“It’s just part of the process of re-integration, and we just feel like we’re at the point where it’s time to do that, and he feels the same way. “It’s a decision that’s a team decision based on where we’re at.’’

With Nowitzki starting, this will be the Mavs’ NBA-high 15th different starting lineup tonight.

-- Dwain Price