Dirk Nowitzki Will Make First Start of the Season Against New Orleans Hornets

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIIJanuary 5, 2013

DALLAS, TX - DECEMBER 28:  Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks during play against the Denver Nuggets at American Airlines Center on December 28, 2012 in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Dallas Mavericks star forward Dirk Nowitzki will finally return to the starting lineup for the first time in the 2012-13 season against the New Orleans Hornets on Saturday night.

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.