Dirk Nowitzki: 'I'm actually really close'

Dirk Nowitzki still doesn't know the exact date that he will return from a sprained right knee. He just knows it will be soon.

Nowitzki went through his most strenuous workout Friday since suffering the injury Dec. 27 and remains optimistic that he will play at some point during this four-game road trip.

“I’m actually really close,” Nowitzki told ESPN’s Ric Bucher in an interview during the Mavericks-Spurs broadcast. “For the first time this morning, I actually did some contact stuff. This whole time before, we did mostly noncontact stuff, mostly cardio and, so I’m getting closer. I don’t know which game exactly. We’ve got a game tomorrow and we’ve got a game Monday, so hopefully on this trip.

“It’s already a lot better. A couple of movements here and there, a couple of jumps give me a little trouble still. You know, it’s been tough watching.”

The Mavericks, who were 24-5 with Nowitzki in the lineup, have lost six of eight games without him and are well on their way to another loss in San Antonio.

Nowitzki never missed this many games in any of his previous 12 seasons. He acknowledged that it’s been difficult to watch, especially after the Mavs lost Caron Butler to a season-ending knee injury.

“I think I should be fine here in the next couple of days,” Nowitzki said. “It took a little longer than I hoped and we all expected, but at least hopefully I’ll be back soon.”