DALLAS – Fans will get a real look at the Dallas Mavericks tonight at 7:30 at American Airline Center when they host the Oklahoma City Thunder.
During their first three preseason games, the Mavs (1-2) didn’t play their full compliment of starters. But tonight they’ll have their projected opening-day starting lineup on the court for the first time, affording them the opportunity to see just how much cohesiveness they’ve collected since training camp started on Sept. 27.
Tonight also is the preseason debut of superstar forward Dirk Nowitzki. And with Nowitzki on the court, several windows of opportunities usually opens up for his teammates.
"The game changes when Dirk plays,’’ coach Rick Carlisle said after Tuesday morning’s shootaround. "It helps everybody that’s on the floor with him.
"I know he’s anxious to get out there tonight, so we’re anxious to get him out there. It’ll have a positive affect on everybody.’’
Along with Nowitzki, the other starters are guards Wesley Matthews and Deron Williams, center Andrew Bogut and forward Harrison Barnes.
Tonight will also mark the return of guard Devin Harris, who will be making his preseason debut after offseason surgery on his left great toe and left thumb. Carlisle isn’t sure how many minutes he’ll play Nowitzki and Harris tonight.
"They’re both ready to play and they’ve had a lot of work in non-game situations up to now, but it’s time for them to get involved,’’ Carlisle said. "I’m really, so far, very encouraged in how well Devin’s done.
"He’s done an extreme amount of work with his rehab on the foot and the toe. He’s had a really good training camp so far and tonight a real game is what he needs.’’
Forward Quincy Acy (sprained right ankle) and center Salah Mejri (right knee surgery) will not play tonight. Acy is in a walking boot and is out indefinitely, but Carlisle said his injury isn’t anything serious.
Nowitzki’s appearance, the Mavs believe, should have an impact on the shooting of Barnes. If nothing else, with Nowitzki on the floor Barnes, who is shooting just 22.6 percent from the field, probably will get better looks at the basket.
"Nobody is shooting well,’’ Carlisle said. "We’re working to resolve that as a team.
"We’ve got to get better shots, but Barnes is great -- I love him. He’s a great worker, he’s a two-position player and he’s just got to keep working the process.’’