Merry Christmas Eve, Dallas Mavericks fans. I got you a 7-foot German. I hope it fits:
After being sidelined for the Mavericks' first 27 games following mid-October arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, legendary power forward Dirk Nowitzki made his 2012-13 season debut for Dallas on Sunday, checking in at the 6:28 mark of the first quarter of the Mavs' contest against their longtime nemeses and in-state rivals, the San Antonio Spurs. Dirk took a few minutes to work himself into the flow of the game, grabbing a pair of defensive rebounds and testing out the knee as he loped up and down the court before beating the Spurs' defense in transition, slipping to the rim and finishing a Darren Collison dish with a dunk for his first points of the season.
Nowitzki had tested his right knee in Dallas' practices last week, but he wasn't expected to return to the floor until after Christmas. Instead, the 2007 NBA MVP and 2011 NBA Finals MVP decided to give it a go "less than an hour before tipoff," according to Raul Dominguez of The Associated Press:
"Before the game I felt decent, so I said I'm going to give it a go," Nowitzki said. "I felt actually good out there. I thought the wind was OK, but my legs were a little heavy there after a couple of trips up and down but I thought I fought through it OK."
Nowitzki's return didn't affect Sunday's outcome too significantly — not many things could have, really, with San Antonio unleashing a franchise-record 20 3-pointers to turn the Sunday affair into a 129-91 laugher — but he acquitted himself well enough, scoring eight points on 3 for 4 shooting and grabbing six rebounds in the loss. Most importantly for Mavs fans, of course, is the fact that after some worry-inducing stall-outs in his rehabilitation and Dirk's own impatience about the progress of his comeback, he made it through his maiden voyage safely and without incident.
Dirk didn't get quite as much burn as he would've liked on Sunday — he'd planned to play about 25 minutes, but only saw 20, as he explained to reporters, including the Dallas Morning News' Brad Townsend, after the game:
“At the end of the third [quarter] we were down 80, so I didn’t really have to go back in,” Nowitzki said.
Glad to see Dirk's sense of humor is in midseason form. Welcome back, big guy. With Dallas at 12-16 and sitting 2 1/2 games outside the Western Conference playoff bracket, we know Mavericks fans are glad to see you; until you start draining daggers against the rest of our favorite teams, so are the rest of us.