December 13, 2018 / 11:07 PM / 7 months ago

Mavs' Nowitzki reportedly expected to make season debut Thursday

Dallas Mavericks icon Dirk Nowitzki is expected to make his season debut Thursday night at Phoenix, ESPN reported.

Sep 21, 2018; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) poses for a photo during the Dallas Mavericks media day at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The seventh-leading scorer in NBA history with 31,187 career points, Nowitzki was listed as questionable on Monday against Atlanta for the first time this season.

Nowitzki, 40, has been out of action since April, when he had surgery on his left ankle.

“Rhythm will be tough,” Nowitzki said recently about his pending return to the lineup. “The last game I played was the end of March. Nobody just takes seven months, eight months off and comes out balling. It’s going to be a process for me playing against NBA players, (especially) the speed of the game these days. It will take me probably a couple of games to get used to it, but we’ll see how it goes.”

Nowitzki will be playing in his 21st season, all with Dallas, and he will set a record for most seasons with one team on his first play. He is tied with Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers at 20 seasons.

Only Atlanta Hawks forward Vince Carter, Kevin Garnett, Robert Parish, Kevin Willis and Moses Malone have played 21 seasons, but all with multiple teams. Malone’s 21 seasons include two in the ABA.

Nowitzki will join a surging Mavericks team that has gone 8-2 in its last 10 games to reach 15-11 on the season. Dallas is in seventh place in the Western Conference but just 2 1/2 games behind conference-leading Denver.

For the first time in his career, Nowitzki is expected to come off the bench this season.

Nowitzki was named Most Valuable Player in the 2006-07 and is a 13-time All-Star and four-time first-team All-NBA selection. He was the NBA Finals MVP in 2011 when he guided the Mavericks to their lone NBA title. He has a career average of 21.2 points per game but averaged just 12.0 points last season.

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