Brendan Haywood sprains right knee

DALLAS -- For the second time in two weeks, Dallas Mavericks starting center Brendan Haywood is dealing with an injury.

Haywood sprained his right knee during the third quarter of the Mavs' 101-96 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats and did not return to Thursday night's game. The Mavericks are describing the sprain as mild.

"I don't think it's serious, but we're going to have to see where he's at tomorrow," coach Rick Carlisle said.

Haywood returned from a four-game absence because of a left ankle sprain on Tuesday. He injured the ankle on the first possession of the Mavs' March 5 loss in Oklahoma City. The Mavericks lost four of five games without Haywood, including the loss to the Thunder, and got progressively worse defensively during that stretch.

The 7-foot Haywood, who stepped into the starting role for the defending champions after Tyson Chandler signed with the New York Knicks in December, is averaging 5.6 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks this season. He has served as the defensive backbone for a team that ranks sixth in points allowed.

If Haywood cannot play Saturday against the San Antonio Spurs, the Mavericks will have to rely on young big men Ian Mahinmi and Brandan Wright to be the primary defenders against Tim Duncan.