Andrew Bogut will be back on the court tonight at 7:30 when the Dallas Mavericks host the New York Knicks at American Airlines Center.
The 7-foot center missed the Mavs’ past six games with a strained right hamstring and has only played in 22 of the team’s 44 games, mostly due to health issues.
Meanwhile, guard Wesley Matthews (right hip strain) said he will play tonight after getting injured late in the first half of Sunday’s 122-73 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Assistant coach Melvin Hunt said Bogut has been eager to get back on the floor, and joked that “the sky is the limit’’ in regards to whether or not the 12-year veteran will be on any type of restrictions against the Knicks.
“He wants to get back in and we’re going to, like we always do, play it by ear,’’ Hunt said. “(Head athletic trainer) Casey (Smith) and those guys will know what’s best for him in getting back.’’
Bogut averages only three points, but leads the Mavericks in rebounding with 9.1 per game. He also is the team’s best rim protector.
“He’s huge, first of all,’’ Hunt said. “Being able to protect the rim, protect the paint.
“The guys have a comfort with him back there defensively, because they know if they make mistakes, you’ve got a big guy that can clean it up. So we really him there.’’
Bogut innate ability to be a positive factor in the pick-and-roll also is a weapon the Mavericks have missed.
“If he rolls to the basket you’ve got to come over and take notice, which creates shots for Wesley (Matthews) and Devin (Harris) and those guys,’’ Hunt said. “So we miss him on both sides of the ball.’’
Matthews, who has only missed one game this season, noted he’s not worried about having any limitations against the Knicks.
“I’m going to give you everything that I’ve got out there,’’ Matthews said. “If I feel like I’m hurting the team then I’ll pull myself out.’’
Matthews is the Mavericks’ best perimeter defender and the player they rely on to slow down the opponents’ hot scorer. Matthews will likely defend Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks’ high-scoring small forward.
“He’s not hurt right now,’’ Hunt said of Matthews. “He’s just presently not in his best form.
“He’s a tough-minded warrior and he’s going to show up to play every chance he can. So if he can play he’s going to play.’’
Hunt took the Mavericks through Wednesday morning’s shootaround a day after also heading up the team’s practice session. Coach Rick Carlisle will be back for tonight’s game after attending the funeral of Michael H. Goldberg, the former executive director of the National Basketball Coaches Association.
Also, the Mavericks signed point guard Pierre Jackson to a second 10-day contract. Jackson has averaged 3.1 points, 1.7 assists and 6.7 minutes while playing seven games for the Mavericks this season.
The Baylor product enters the game against the Knicks after scoring a career-high 10 points and picking up five assists and two rebounds in only 18 minutes during Sunday’s win over the Lakers.