Dirk Nowitzki ready to play Friday

NEW ORLEANS -- Dirk Nowitzki declared himself healthy and ready to play against the New Orleans Hornets, a couple of days after the Dallas Mavericks star's lower back locked up in a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.

Nowitzki, who did not return to Wednesday night's game after leaving early in the second quarter, participated in the shootaround at New Orleans Arena and doesn't anticipate any physical limitations Friday night.

"I felt good this morning," Nowitzki said. "I got up this morning, got some hot tub, got some treatment done already. I think once in a while, your back just locks up when you get older. Even when I was younger, actually, that happened once in a while. All you need is a couple treatments, get your back popped and you're ready to roll."

The Mavs need Nowitzki, their lone All-Star, even more than usual because of the absence of backup power forward Lamar Odom.

Odom has missed the past three games for personal reasons and isn't with the team on the trip. Odom has been assigned to the D-League Texas Legends, where he'll play at least one game before returning to the Mavericks.

Nowitzki's minutes have increased, with Yi Jianlian and Brian Cardinal getting the playing time at power forward when he isn't on the floor.

In the meantime, the Mavs are going through the most grueling stretch of the schedule -- nine games in 12 nights. They're 0-2 so far and have lost three consecutive dating to their loss before the All-Star break to the Los Angeles Lakers, when Odom's leave began.

The Mavs already were dealing with depth issues because of guard Delonte West's absence due to a broken right ring finger.

"I think we as players, we've got to focus on who's here," Nowitzki said. "We consider this a must-win. We're struggling ... so it's a big game and we're going to war with whoever's here."

Tim MacMahon covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com. Follow Tim MacMahon on Twitter: @espn_macmahon