LOS ANGELES • Following surgery and a post-operation setback, a frustrated Dirk Nowitzki is hoping to finally make his National Basketball Association (NBA) season debut next month.
The Dallas Mavericks icon has been recovering from a procedure in April to remove bone spurs from his left ankle.
The forward had been expected to be ready for the start of the season but experienced a tendon soreness prior to training camp.
But now the German feels he is getting closer to being ready to go.
"It's hard when I haven't done much for eight weeks and there's a 40-year-old basically starting from scratch to try to get back in shape to play NBA minutes," he said.
"Hopefully, somewhere in December, I'll be ready and the body will respond the right way."
He is in his 21st season with the club and will likely come off the bench once he returns.
He is set to officially become the first player to spend such a long time with the same team.
Until he makes his debut, he will share the record of 20 seasons with former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who retired in 2016.
The Mavericks are proceeding cautiously with Nowitzki, who began running on a treadmill two weeks ago but has not progressed enough to participate in practice sessions with his teammates.
"The reason why we're taking it so slow now is once I get out there, I want to finish the rest of the season healthy," said the German.
"I don't want to come back too soon and then have setbacks again like I did a few years ago."
Despite the cautious approach to his recovery, he added that he cannot wait to get back on court.
"I've been antsy," he said.
"Had the surgery and it's been nothing but rehab and treadmills. Love to step out there soon and get the kick of competing, the crowd involved. Once my career is over, that's for sure something I'll miss, the kick, the rush, the adrenaline."
Nowitzki ranks seventh on the all-time NBA scoring list with 31,187 points after being passed by LeBron James earlier this season. He was the 2006-07 season Most Valuable Player (MVP). He was the NBA Finals MVP in 2011 when he guided the Mavericks to their lone NBA title. He averaged just 12.0 points last season.