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Shocker: Dirk Nowitzki makes his return against Spurs

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Dallas Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitzki warms up prior to a basketball friendly match between Alba Berlin vs Dallas Mavericks in Berlin on October 6, 2012. The game is part of the NBA Europe Live tour. AFP PHOTO / ODD ANDERSEN (Photo credit should read ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/GettyImages)

AFP/Getty Images

Wow. It was hard to see this one coming. Dirk Nowitzki has been sidelined all year after undergoing knee surgery roughly two months ago, but he’s active tonight against the San Antonio Spurs.

Nowitzki put in his first full practice on Wednesday, and apparently the knee is feeling well enough to test it in his first game action of the season. Here’s Earl K. Sneed with the report:

Being told don’t expect a large role. In fact, a very small role, but it looks like Dirk will play tonight.

— Earl K. Sneed (@EKS_MavsNBA) December 23, 2012

Although it sounds like Nowitzki’s minutes and role will be heavily limited, it’s a huge boon to a Mavericks team that has been holding on for dear life without their star forward. The Mavericks enter the matchup with the Spurs only three games below .500 -- a pretty big accomplishment considering the lack of scorers beyond O.J. Mayo on the roster.

If he’s right, Nowitzki is absolutely talented enough to change the landscape in the Western Conference and have the Mavs really compete for a playoff spot. Although he’s getting up there in age and his knees are a concern, Nowitzki’s game has never been reliant on speed or jumping ability whatsoever. It’s very well possible Nowitzki eventually returns to his All-Star level of play, but the Mavericks will wisely take it slow with their franchise player.

Merry Christmas, Mavericks fans. Dirk is back.