Dirk Nowitzki returns to practice

DALLAS -- Mavericks star forward Dirk Nowitzki participated in a full practice Wednesday for the first time since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery, but he won't be ready to make his season debut until some point after Christmas.

"We'll just see how it goes," said Nowitzki, who underwent the operation Oct. 19. "This is the first day stopping, pushing off, moving. We'll see how it reacts. I'm going to do that a couple times, and do some contact for a while. Maybe any time after Christmas, that'll be fun."

Nowitzki said he felt "pretty good" after the relatively light practice, which he followed by playing two-on-two with some of the Mavs' low-minutes players. However, he acknowledged that it would take "a while" to get in "halfway game shape" after a two-month layoff.

The Mavs (12-13) begin a stretch featuring six consecutive foes who have winning records, starting with Thursday's home game against the Miami Heat. Nowitzki, an 11-time All-Star who has averaged 22.9 points and 8.3 rebounds per game in 14 NBA seasons, will miss at least half of those games.

Point guard Derek Fisher, who is undergoing an MRI on Wednesday to determine the severity of a strained patellar tendon in his right knee, also is expected to miss the Miami game. Forward/centers Elton Brand (groin) and Brandan Wright (ankle) probably will be game-time decisions.

Once Nowitzki begins playing, he anticipates easing back into the lineup, possibly even coming off the bench.

"That's something I guess we need to talk about when it gets to that point," Nowitzki said. "I'm not opposed to obviously coming off the bench at the beginning and slowly finding my rhythm, but I think that's something we need to talk about when it gets closer. We haven't addressed that yet, but it's obvious I'm not going to play 35 minutes my first game out."

The Mavs originally believed Nowitzki would be able to resume basketball activities within six weeks of the surgery, but the 34-year-old's recovery from his first knee operation has been slower than anticipated.

Nowitzki, who never had missed more than nine games in a season, had hoped to return to practice within three weeks of the operation.

"It's as slow as you can get unfortunately," Nowitzki said of his recovery. "The swelling at the beginning was just so bad, and we don't really know why. Maybe I was trying too early to do something, nobody really knows.

"People react to surgery I guess different, and mine was just really swollen and that really set me back two or three weeks, couldn't really do much. By that point we started doing a little more, the strength was gone, my wind was gone, so the last two weeks I had to work extremely hard to get some of that back, get my strength back, get some of my wind back."