Dirk's return a possibility at Memphis

SAN ANTONIO -- Dirk Nowitzki put in his most rigorous day of work during his recovery process from a sprained right knee, including his first contact work during the morning shootaround. During the Mavs' ugly 101-89 defeat to the San Antonio Spurs, Nowitzki told ESPN that he is very close to returning.

Afterward, coach Rick Carlisle offered the real first statement that Nowitzki could be ready for Saturday night's game at Memphis, although he did so with a qualifier.

"He worked out hard today and we have to see how he feels [Saturday]," Carlisle said. [Saturday] could be a possibility, but then again maybe not. We can’t mess with that. And so that’s kind of where we are."

The Nowitzki-less Mavs were not match for the Spurs, who led by 20 as early as the second quarter and by 25 after three quarters. Dallas fell to 2-7 without their leading scorer.

The Spurs didn't take much joy in this lopsided victory or the one they got at Dallas on Dec. 30 with Nowitzki also out of the lineup.

"They didn't have Dirk and we took advantage of it, but it doesn't mean anything because they're not the same team without him," Spurs point guard Tony Parker said. "We got lucky the last two games because he didn't play."