DALLAS -- Josh Howard had a sensational performance in his return from ankle rehab Tuesday night.
That doesn't mean he'll be back in the starting lineup soon.
Coach Rick Carlisle intends to exercise caution with Howard, who lasted only two and a half games before going back to the shelf in his first return from offseason ankle surgery. Part of Carlisle's plan is to use Howard off the bench for an undetermined period of time, the coach told ESPNDallas.com.
That means the Mavericks won't have Howard's offensive punch to start games. That's a significant sacrifice, considering only LeBron James averaged more points per first quarter last season. But Carlisle believes it's worth it to help him manage Howard's minutes, which he wants to keep in the mid-20s for now.
"When you start, the minutes rack up," Carlisle said, noting there's no TV timeout for the first six minutes of each half. "You're playing balls out for six minutes of each half. That's very fatiguing if you haven't been playing for a while."
Part of the equation is also that the Mavericks have been struggling with their rhythm as a team anyway. It's another challenge to blend in Howard, although it's one that Carlisle welcomes.
After scoring 20 points in 26 minutes in the win over the Suns, Howard said he had significant soreness in his ankle.
"It’s going to be sore the rest of the year," Howard said. "It’s just something that I have to deal with and keep playing."
Carlisle can help Howard by limiting his minutes. Carlisle will consider several factors when deciding when to make Howard a starter again, including Howard's opinion on the matter.
"There will be communication," said Carlisle, who plans to sit Howard for one of the Mavs' back-to-back games this weekend. "But it's not like we're rushing to get him back in the starting lineup."