|All they want for Christmas is Dirk - The Dallas Mavericks fans got their wish as Nowitzki made a surprise return to action on Sunday night|
Dirk Nowitzki surprised everyone in the NBA, including several of his Dallas Mavericks team-mates, on Sunday night.
The German forward, who had not yet debuted this season, suited up and warmed up normally ahead of his team's clash with the San Antonio Spurs on the road.
He didn't start the game but came off the bench with 6:27 left in the first quarter and sat down again in the middle of the third, having spent a total of 20 minutes on the court.
"I practiced really hard the past couple of days, but this morning I didn't really know [if I would play]," Nowitzki said.
"I felt actually good out there, my wind was OK.
"My legs were a little heavy after a couple of trips up and down, but I thought I fought through it OK.
Nowitzki took only four shots all night and made three of them, finishing with eight points and six rebounds.
The Mavericks however were no match for the Spurs and were thrashed 129-91 in the Texan derby.
"It went better than I would have thought, that's encouraging for me, but as a team we've got a long way to go," Nowitzki admitted.
"In the middle of the third we were down by 80, so I didn't really have to go back in," he exaggerated to stress his dissapointment.
"We're not very good defensively, that's obvious. Offensively our decision making is horrible."
Nowitzki underwent right knee surgery before the start of the NBA season, on 19 October, and missed the first 27 games.
He was not expected to return to the Dallas line-up before the first week of the new year, and definitely not before Christmas.
The decision to play in San Antonio was taken less than an hour before tip-off, he revealed.
Point guards Tony Parker was once again excellent for the Spurs and finished with 18 points and six assists in 28 minutes.