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Dirk Nowitzki to miss rest of season after minor left ankle surgery

Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki will miss the remainder of the regular season after undergoing minor left ankle surgery, the team announced on Thursday morning.

The surgery reportedly won’t affect Nowitzki’s decision to return or not return to the NBA next season, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

The 39-year-old forward, who turns 40 on June 19, averaged 12.0 points (on 40.9 percent shooting from 3-point), 5.7 rebounds and 1.6 assists during 77 games this season — his 20th in the NBA.

Last week, in an interview with Marc Stein of the New York Times, Nowitzki said he expects to return for a 21st NBA season, but won’t make it official until consulting with his wife and longtime adviser this summer.

On Thursday, Stein reported this surgery was planned when Nowitzki talked with him last week.

“As of now, I’m planning to come back,” Nowitzki told Stein last week. “I feel great. I’ve only missed one game all season. I signed a two-year contract because I wanted to play two more years. And here we are.”

The 12-time All-Star sits 232 points behind Wilt Chamberlain for No. 5 on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.

The Mavericks (24-55) will miss the playoffs for a second-straight season. If Nowitzki returns, he would pass Kobe Bryant for the longest continuous run with one team in NBA history.