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Mavericks star forward Dirk Nowitzki (ankle) still hasn't practiced

SHANGHAI -- Dirk Nowitzki's availability for the Dallas Mavericks' season opener is in significant doubt as he continues to slowly recover from April surgery on his left ankle.

The 40-year-old face of the franchise has yet to practice with the Mavericks this preseason and will not do so during the team's weeklong China trip.

"This is weeks, not days, as far as getting on the court for live action," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "He is making gradual progress, but we're not just at a point where we can talk about a hard timeline or anything like that."

The Mavs anticipated after the surgery that Nowitzki would be fully cleared for training camp, but he suffered a setback the week before camp opened, feeling soreness in his Achilles tendon after playing pickup games at the Mavs' practice facility. Nowitzki's on-court work has been limited to light shooting since then.

Nowitzki, who will break an NBA record he shares with Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant by playing his 21st season with one franchise, raised his eyebrows and let out an exasperated sigh Wednesday morning when asked if he thinks it's possible he could be ready to play in Dallas' Oct. 17 opener against the Phoenix Suns.

"It's a matter of going full bore and then feeling good afterwards," Carlisle said. "I would have to think that once we got him feeling significantly better, there wouldn't have to be a lot of full, live workouts to get him into games. But we're down the road a little more age-wise, so things aren't necessarily what they were last year, the year before or whatever.

"He's making gradual progress. We need to have him make some real significant progress, get him on the court, and then we can talk about it."

Nowitzki, the sixth-leading scorer in NBA history, has been remarkably durable for most of his career, but he has missed extended stretches in two of the past five seasons due to injuries. He missed the first 27 games of the 2012-13 campaign after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery during the preseason, and he was out for 24 of the Mavs' first 29 contests in 2016-17 due to Achilles soreness.

Nowitzki averaged 12.0 points and 5.7 rebounds in 77 games last season, when the forward also averaged 24.7 minutes per game, the fewest since his rookie season. His minutes will likely decrease more this season, as the Mavs plan to bring Nowitzki off the bench.