Mavs still cautious with Dirk Nowitzki

SAN ANTONIO -- No hard evidence emerged from Thursday's practice that Dirk Nowitzki is on the verge of returning for Friday night's game at the San Antonio Spurs, who own the NBA's best record at 33-6 and have opened a six-game bulge over the Dallas Mavericksduring Nowitzki's eight-game absence.

Nowitzki did not participate in team drills Thursday and was limited to working up a hearty sweat by shooting, running laps around the basketball court at Trinity University where the team practiced and one-on-one stretching and agility work with head athletic trainer Casey Smith.

While coach Rick Carlisle offered that there is a chance Nowitzki could play against the Spurs, he also said they are going to continue to be extraordinarily cautious with their leading scorer, MVP candidate and face of the franchise.

"There are different phases of the rehab process. He’s making progress. I mean he’s making real progress, I think you guys see that," Carlisle said. "We’ll let you know when he’s going to play. Hey, it could be very soon or it could be a while."

Nowitzki has been listed as day-to-day since he sprained his right knee on Dec. 27 at Oklahoma City. While he hoped to return during the previous homestand and then at some point on this four-game road trip, it is not certain at all that his return will come in game two Friday night against the rival Spurs.

More to come soon on Nowitzki's situation.