Earl K. Sneed of Mavs.com broke the news on Twitter:
Rick Carlisle says Dirk Nowitzki will make his 1st start of the season tonight vs. New Orleans.— Earl K. Sneed (@EKS_MavsNBA) January 5, 2013
Nowitzki had to undergo knee surgery on October 19 that required him to miss the first 27 games of the regular season. He was relegated to a bench role for six contests as he continued to work his way back into shape.
This move makes sense in the context of a recent report by ESPN Dallas' Tim McMahon, who noted that Nowitzki practiced with the starters on Friday for the first time all season.
Although he struggled initially in his new but temporary role, the 11-time All-Star showed flashes of his typical form in the Mavs' most recent game against the Miami Heat.
It was easily Nowitzki's best performance since returning, as he put up 19 points and hit one of his patented, fadeaway jumpers to force overtime. Unfortunately, the Mavs lost, but it appeared to be enough to convince head coach Rick Carlisle to reinsert Nowitzki into the starting five.
Dallas has only been able to beat the lowly Washington Wizards in the six games that Nowitzki has been active, and it has been a fight to keep the season alive without him.
Sitting at 13-20 and already four-and-a-half games out of the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference, the Mavs have a tough road ahead.
The biggest problem has been defense, where the team ranks 28th in points per game allowed.
That's not the end of the floor Nowitzki is known for, but his return should spark some life into this slumping squad. Playing at home against the Hornets—who are last in the West—should help.