Josh Howard makes his season debut for the Dallas Mavericks in their home opener when they meet the Sacramento Kings on Saturday night.
Howard was ejected from a 101-99 exhibition win against the Kings on Oct. 16 after delivering a forearm to the back of Brad Miller's neck. He also pushed Miller, who had shoved Dallas guard Devin Harris to the ground.
The incident drew Howard a two-game ban to start the season. NBA Executive Vice President Stu Jackson ruled that Howard escalated the confrontation by running across the court toward Miller and engaging with other Kings players.
Howard was cleared to practice Monday for the first time since he sprained his left wrist in a 96-88 win over Chicago in the Mavericks' preseason finale on Oct. 23. He accompanied Dallas (1-1) on its season-opening two-game road trip, which concluded with a 101-94 loss at Atlanta on Friday.
The 6-foot-7 Howard has increased his scoring in each of his first four seasons in the NBA. Last season, he averaged 18.9 points and earned a spot on the Western Conference All-Star team. He also led Dallas in scoring in the playoffs, averaging 21.3 points.
Howard scored 23.5 points per game in helping Dallas sweep four meetings from Sacramento (0-2) last season. The Mavericks have also won seven straight home games against the Kings.
Dallas could use its second-leading scorer from a season ago back after struggling from the perimeter in Friday's loss. The Mavericks wasted 28 points from Dirk Nowitzki as they made just 4-of-24 (16.7 percent) 3-pointers.
Howard could replace struggling shooting guard Eddie Jones in the lineup. Jones has started the first two games, but has made only 3-of-12 shots and scored a total of seven points. He missed all five of his 3-point attempts in Friday's loss.
Dallas was outrebounded 52-38 and got a rough game from Jerry Stackhouse, who made 2-of-10 shots while managing only five points.
"They made basically all the hustle plays all night," Dallas coach Avery Johnson said about the Hawks. "They got all of the loose balls. They really wanted this game."
Johnson will likely give Jason Terry his first start of the season in place of Harris, who bruised his left thigh on Friday and did not play in the second half. Harris said he hopes to play Monday against Houston.
Sacramento is going through injury woes of its own as it tries to salvage the finale of a season-opening three-game road trip. The Kings are playing without two starters - Mike Bibby (thumb) and Ron Artest (suspension) - while first-round pick Spencer Hawes is out with a knee injury.
In a 96-80 loss at San Antonio on Friday night, the Kings couldn't recover from a dismal first half in which they shot 19 percent (7-of-36) and went to the locker room trailing by 27 points.
"Sure, they're frustrated, they don't like to play like that," said Sacramento coach Reggie Theus. "But there's nothing we can do about it except just keep fighting hard. That's it."
Kevin Martin led Sacramento in scoring for the second straight game with 22 points. Miller added 13.
"You just got to try to build on the things," Miller said. "You know, look at the second half, why did we do better."
Dallas went an NBA-best 36-5 at home last season, and has won six of its last seven home openers.
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