Forward/center Kristaps Porzingis will make his 2020-21 debut tonight at 6 when the Dallas Mavericks play the Charlotte Hornets on the road.

Porzingis underwent surgery on Oct. 9 to address a lateral meniscus injury of his right knee that occurred last summer when the Mavs played the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the playoffs. Coach Rick Carlisle said Porzingis will start tonight’s game and isn’t really under a minutes restriction.

“There’s a range of minutes,” Carlisle said. “There’s not a hard minutes limit.

“A lot of it will depend on how he’s doing, on how he’s feeling, and we’ll be communicating on that during the game.”

So what will a successful night for Porzingis be in the eyes of the Mavs?

“I think the big thing is to get him back out there on the floor,” Carlisle said. “Obviously we won’t play him in long stretches. That doesn’t really make sense.

“But we’ll try to space it and get him in a situation where he can get some rhythm, he can begin to get his NBA game legs under him, and he’s done extremely well in the rehab with no setbacks and really no hiccups at all. That’s one reason we’re looking at a range of minutes instead of a hard shutdown number. It’s going to be great to have him back on the floor for a lot of reason and we’re looking forward to it.”

Porzingis’ return comes at a time when the Mavs (5-4) will have five players unavailable for tonight’s game due to health and safety protocols. Those players include Dorian Finney-Smith, Josh Richardson, Jalen Brunson, Maxi Kleber and Dwight Powell.

“This is a top player in the game,” Carlisle said, referring to Porzingis. “We happen to be very depleted with our forwards and centers, so it’s huge getting him back at this time. Again, the key is going to be to work him in the right way.

“You can’t get everything done in one game as far as getting a player re-integrated in terms of rhythm, conditioning, total chemistry with teammates and stuff like that. But you’ve got to get it going and you’ve got to get it started. We’re happy that it’s going to be tonight.”

Twitter: @DwainPrice

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