Dirk Nowitzki made his long-awaited season debut Thursday night after missing the Dallas Mavericks' first 26 games of the season recovering from surgery on his left ankle. When Nowitzki stepped on the court, he tied the NBA record by playing in his 21st season.
Nowitzki wasn't the only player making a delayed debut on Thursday. Houston Rockets point guard Brandon Knight returned to action after missing more than an entire season following a knee injury in 2017. Knight's last game before Thursday came way back on Feb. 15, 2017, when he was with the Phoenix Suns.
Here's the latest on notable players who've yet to hit the hardwood this season and when we might see them next.
Injury: Ruptured Achilles tendon
Out since: Jan. 26
The latest: The big man who signed with the Golden State Warriors over the summer is still working his way back from the ruptured Achilles he suffered when he was with the New Orleans Pelicans. Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters on Thursday that the team doesn't have a timetable for Cousins' return, because he isn't close to being game-ready yet.
"He needs to feel confident with the Achilles and with his conditioning, the rhythm, the timing and everything else," Kerr said. "We're not going to rush him back -- we're going to help him through that process."
Cousins practiced with the Warriors G League team in Santa Cruz and said afterward, "I mean ... I feel like if my life depended on it at the moment, yeah, I could go out and play a game."
Injury: Back surgery
Out since: March
The latest: Porter was a projected top-five pick heading into his lone season at Missouri, but he slid to No. 14 in the June draft after missing most of the 2017-18 season with a back injury. The Denver Nuggets selected him knowing it was possible that he'd miss this entire NBA season, but according to ESPN's Brian Windhorst, the latest signs for Porter have been encouraging.
In his weekly roundup column, Windhorst wrote: "Those who have seen Michael Porter Jr. work out in Denver as he recovers from back surgery report he's looking impressive. Even the team is surprised how well he has been shooting the 3-pointer as he works with coach Mark Price."
Injury: Torn ACL
Out since: Feb. 6
The latest: Last week marked 10 months since Porzingis tore the ACL against the Milwaukee Bucks, but there's still no indication of when we might see the New York Knicks big man on the court this season. The closest we got to any kind of update came last month, when Knicks coach David Fizdale told reporters that Porzingis was at the stage of light jogging, which led Porzingis to post videos of himself sprinting on Instagram.
"It's just one of those injuries we're going to take our time with, make sure it's right," Fizdale said in November.
Those comments were echoed by former Knick Willy Hernangomez, now with the Charlotte Hornets. A close friend of Porzingis', Hernangomez told reporters earlier this week, "It makes no sense to rush his recovery and try to force playing. I think once he feels safe or he feels strong, he feels like he's back, then he will be back."
Injury: Ruptured patellar tendon
Out since: Jan. 27
The latest: Roberson's return from the knee injury he suffered in January has been fraught with setbacks. First, he needed an additional surgery during the preseason that was expected to keep him out an additional two months.Then, as his projected return date was approaching, the Oklahoma City Thunder announced that he'd suffered a small avulsion fracture in his left knee during a workout, which would keep him out at least six more weeks.
Roberson is scheduled to be re-evaluated in mid-January, by which point he'll have missed almost an entire calendar year.
Injury: Fractured foot/allergic reaction
Out since: Aug. 6
The latest: It's been a rough transition to the NBA for the No. 16 pick in this year's draft. First, the Philadelphia 76ers rookie suffered a Jones fracture in his left foot during the summer, wiping out his preseason and putting his projected debut date sometime around Christmas. Then he had to undergo a thoracoscopy to address an allergic reaction after eating either sesame seeds or sesame oil at training camp, as detailed by Windhorst last week.
Last month, The Ringer reported that Smith has lost upward of 20 pounds and was in danger of missing the entire season, and Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice reported that Smith had resumed running and the team was hoping to use its G League affiliate to get him back up to speed.
Out since: March 22
The latest: Thomas was limited to just 32 games last season between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers, shutting it down for good in late March. He signed with the Nuggets this offseason in hopes of reviving his career and earning the big contract he missed out on this summer, but he has yet to hit the court due to lingering issues with his hip.
Aside from a cryptic tweet last week, there's been no real indication as to when Thomas might make his debut in a Nuggets uniform. In Thomas's extended absence, Denver has gotten strong play from second-year reserve point guard Monte Morris, who is averaging 9.7 points and 4.0 assists in 24.3 minutes of action per night.
Out since: Dec. 22, 2017
The latest: It's been nearly a year since Waiters played in an NBA game. He originally hurt his left ankle last December against the Mavericks, underwent season-ending surgery a month later, and still wasn't ready to return to action when training camp began in September.
"Dion will not be returning to the court until the Heat medical team and training staff deem him healed, rehabbed and physically conditioned for all basketball activities," Miami Heat president Pat Riley told reporters at the time.
Two months later, there's still little clarity as to when the Heat might have Waiters back. When asked by reporters last month in Miami, coach Erik Spoelstra said he had no update on Waiters' return timetable. Waiters is not with the team on its current road trip, which ends Sunday in New Orleans.
Injury: Torn meniscus
Out since: Oct. 6
The latest: Walker, who was drafted 18th overall by the San Antonio Spurs in June, has been playing with the Austin Spurs of the G League as he works his way back from a preseason knee injury. In five games for Austin, Walker is averaging 15.2 points on 46.4 percent shooting, and could provide a much-needed boost for a Spurs team that lost point guard Dejounte Murray for the season back in October with a torn ACL.
"It feels like I am back to Lonnie Walker," he told reporters late last month. "Just continue to find my rhythm and everything. But day by day, it is nothing but improvement. Every day, I can see significant difference on my leg and just how I play overall."