After suffering a season-ending knee injury in Dallas during last year’s playoffs, Webber faces the Mavericks for the first time when they visit the Sacramento Kings.
Webber tore cartilage in his left knee in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals—a series Dallas eventually won in seven games—and has spent the better part of 2003-04 recovering from off-season surgery.
The five-time All-Star was activated on Feb. 16 but was suspended eight games for violating the league’s anti-drug policy and lying to a federal grand jury.
He finally played against the Los Angeles Clippers last Tuesday and averaged 24 points in his first three games before resting his knee during a 107-90 win over Orlando on Sunday. Webber will look to bounce back after returning to the starting lineup Tuesday and struggling with just five points on 2-for-21 shooting in a 96-92 win over Golden State.
“There was no secret that he was going to have ups and downs,” Kings coach Rick Adelman said. “You’re going to have to live with that. It’s not like he hasn’t been out nine months, and he’s only been back a week.”
The Kings again relied on their depth as Mike Bibby scored 23 points, Doug Christie had 21 and Peja Stojakovic chipped in 20 against the Warriors to help Sacramento improve to 3-1 with Webber in the lineup.
“That’s the deepest team in basketball,” Mavs guard Steve Nash said. “They have enough talent to compensate.”
The presence of the their co-captain should be a boost for the Kings, who dropped their first two meetings with Dallas this season—including a 111-103 home loss on Christmas Day.
“Sacramento hasn’t forgotten what happened the last two games against us,” Mavs forward Antawn Jamison said.
As the season winds down, the Mavs had better figure out a way to win on the road as they continue to battle for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Dallas, an NBA-best 29-4 at home, has struggled to an 11-19 mark on the road. The Mavericks, who play eight of their next 10 games on the road, have lost seven of the last nine away from home.
Dallas returned from a 0-3 road trip, which included key losses to division rivals Minnesota and San Antonio, and bounced back with their ninth straight home win, 103-90 over Phoenix on Monday.
“The 0-3 trip was brutal,” said Dirk Nowitzki, who led Dallas with 26 points. “We can only look forward from here. It can’t get any worse.”
STANDINGS (through March 9): Mavericks - 3rd place, 4 1/2 GB, Midwest Division. Kings - 1st place, Pacific Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Mavericks - Nowitzki, 21.3 ppg; Nowitzki and Walker, 8.6 rpg; Nash, 8.3 apg. Kings - Stojakovic, 25.3 ppg; Miller, 10.7 rpg; Divac, 6 apg.
SEASON SERIES: Mavericks, 2-0.
LAST MEETING: Jan. 25; Mavericks, 108-99. At Dallas, the Mavs spread the offense around as Finley scored 23 points, Nash had 21 points and a season-high 13 assists and Nowitzki added 20 points.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Mavericks - 11-19 on the road; Kings - 28-5 at home.