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Dirk Nowitzki will return to Mavericks starting lineup Saturday

Jan 5, 2013, 2:00 PM EDT

Dirk Nowitzki, Elton Brand AP

UPDATE: 2:49 p.m. ET: Nowitzki will indeed return to the starting lineup Saturday night at home versus the Hornets, according to a report from ESPN.com.

Since returning to action six games ago for the first time this season, Dirk Nowitzki has been playing in the neighborhood of 22 minutes per game while working his way back from injury, and has done so as part of the second unit coming off the bench.

After a season-high 29 minutes in the Mavericks’ overtime loss to the Heat on Thursday, he may be approaching the point where head coach Rick Carlisle feels confident about reinserting Nowitzki into the starting lineup.

He went through practice as a member of the starting unit for the first time all year.

From Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas:

Dirk Nowitzki practiced with the Dallas Mavericks’ starters Friday for the first time this season, a significant step toward resuming his regular role.

Nowitzki and coach Rick Carlisle left open the possibility of the Mavs’ star power forward making his first start of the season Saturday night against the New Orleans Hornets. Nowitzki, who missed 27 games while recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Oct. 19, came off the bench in his first six appearances this season.

“Whether I’m starting or not really doesn’t matter,” Nowitzki said after Friday’s practice. “I guess we’ll make that decision tomorrow. We didn’t talk about it today.”

Dallas had done a remarkable job early of maintaining a respectable record while Nowitzki was out, but has now lost seven of its last eight games.

With O.J. Mayo slumping and the Mavericks readjusting to life with Nowitzki, it hasn’t been easy as of late. But that could begin to change as soon as Saturday night, when Dirk may get back into the starting lineup, and Dallas can begin solidifying roles and rotations for the rest of the season.

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