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Mavericks' Nowitzki (knee) returns to practice

Dirk Nowitzki has returned to practice two months after knee surgery. (Josep Lago/AFP/Getty Images)

By Ben Golliver

The Mavericks announced Wednesday that forward Dirk Nowitzki has participated in a full practice for the first time since undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee two months ago. ESPNDallas.com reports that Nowitzki still has no timetable for a return to game action and Mavs.com reports that he is open to easing back into the lineup by coming off the bench.

The progress is welcome news in Dallas, as the All-Star forward has been a little bit behind early expectations for his recovery timeline. The Mavericks announced in October that they expected him to be able to resume basketball activity within six weeks and that timeline was pushed back earlier this month.

Nowitzki, 34, played in just one of Dallas' preseason games and has been sidelined for all 25 of the team's regular season games. In his absence, the Mavericks are 12-13 and in fourth place in the Southwest Division, trailing the Rockets by half a game.

After winning the 2011 title, Nowitzki and the Mavericks took a notable step back last season, getting swept by the Thunder in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. Nowitzki took some time away during the middle of last season to work on his conditioning and improve his knee, but went on to average 21.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game.

The Mavericks have fallen off pretty hard since 2010-11. That season, they ranked  No. 8 in offensive efficiency and No. 7 in defensive efficiency. Last season, those rankings dropped to No. 20 and No. 8, respectively. This season, the Mavericks rank No. 15 on offense and No. 19 on defense. An out-of-this world start from O.J. Mayo, who has emerged as an early favorite for the the "Most Improved Player" award, has kept the offense afloat. Still, life without Nowitzki has been as difficult as the Point Forward's Rob Mahoney thought it would be in October.

Nowitzki is on the books for $20.9 million this season. He is set to make $22.7 million in 2013-14, the final season of his contract.

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