J-Ho practices; Thomas hurt; Najera coming

DALLAS -- Mavericks swingman Josh Howard returned to practice Monday after sitting out Saturday's home loss to Utah with a bruised left thigh. Still, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle took a cautionary stance regarding Howard's availability for the Los Angeles Lakers' first visit of the season to the American Airlines Center on Wednesday.

"It's only Monday," Carlisle said. "We don't take anything for granted with health, but he did practice today and did well. We'll see what's what tomorrow and then on Wednesday."

The Mavs are coming off the 131-96 beat down at L.A. eight days ago and are 2-2 since that game. Improving Oklahoma City and Kevin Durant are in town Friday before the Mavs take off on a five-game Eastern Conference road trip.

The Mavs will get hard-working forward Drew Gooden back to go against the Lakers' big front court, which could include Pau Gasol returning to the lineup. Gooden took a beating Friday night in San Antonio, first dislocating his right ring finger and then he required stitches after splitting open his chin. He missed the Utah loss, but on Monday said he's fine and will play against L.A.

"It's incredible," he said after Monday's practice, showing off his stitches and a nearly straight ring finger.

However, forward Tim Thomas could now be a question mark. He said he stepped on Gooden's foot during Monday's practice. He was relegated to a trainer's table with his right foot elevated and his foot and ankle wrapped in ice. Thomas said he thinks he tweaked his Achilles, causing pain to shoot up his calf. He'll be re-evaluated and at least has another day to recover before the Lakers game.

"Hopefully, he'll be OK," Carlisle said.

And finally, Eduardo Najera is officially a Maverick again (on the condition he passes a physical. He is expected in Dallas later today. Najera, known as a scrappy hustler throughout his career and a fan favorite during his days in Dallas, has been dinged this season and has played in just 13 games. The Mavs traded forward Kris Humphries and exiled forward Shawne Williams to New Jersey for Najera in what was primarily a money move.

"We obviously think he can help our team," Carlisle said. "His health situation is he's had some injury things go on this year. But, my understanding is that he's been doing better, so we'll see. He's going to be who he is. I've never coached him, but my perception is he plays one way and that's full-speed ahead. Guys like that, you always want to have as many as you can on your team."