Sacramento Kings players huddle before action continues against New York Knicks. (Photo: Steven Chea)

Following two days of practice after a blowout loss at home to the Memphis Grizzlies, the Sacramento Kings return to action tonight at Sleep Train.  Their opponent:  the visiting Dallas Mavericks, who arrive in Sacramento after falling 96-93 to the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center yesterday evening.

Dirk Nowitzki is back in the fold for the Mavs after missing the first 27 games of the season following arthroscopic surgery on his right knee.  Though Nowitzki is still far from being 100 percent, preparation for the future hall-of-famer doesn’t really change according to Kings head coach Keith Smart.

You don’t change too much of what you’re doing when he’s back in the lineup.  You kind of move away when he’s not there… Because a lot of the plays are going to run through him, and he’s a willing passer as well and he’s going to space the floor.  He’s a shooter now that’s going to be out on the floor, which opens up driving lanes for other players.  So you have to game plan a little bit different when you have that type of guy on the floor.  No different when you have those hybrid fours in our league that can shoot the ball from three-point range.  It changes your coverages, it changes your rotations and all those things.  He presents a problem if he’s playing well.

Jason Thompson will likely find himself matched-up defensively against the 11-time All-Star.  He’s aware that Nowitzki is still a main focal point of the Mavs’ attack and the Kings starting power forward knows it will take a team effort to slow him down.

It’s not just a one-on-one match-up with me and him.  It’s gonna be how my team helps me out too.  And it’s also important…for another guy (on offense) to go at him to maybe get him in foul trouble and get him off his heels.

Tip-off between the Kings and Mavs is scheduled for 7 pm at Sleep Train Arena.  Follow Cowbell Kingdom for continued pre and postgame coverage throughout the day.