Howard is iffy; Gooden ready to return

DALLAS -- Mavericks swingman Josh Howard returned to practice Monday after sitting out Saturday's home loss to Utah with a bruised left thigh. Still, coach Rick Carlisle took a cautionary stance regarding Howard's availability for the Los Angeles Lakers' first visit of the season to American Airlines Center on Wednesday.

"It's only Monday," Carlisle said. "We don't take anything for granted with health, but he did practice today and did well. We'll see what's what tomorrow and then on Wednesday."

Forward Drew Gooden will return for the Mavericks against the Lakers' big frontcourt, which could include Pau Gasol's return to the lineup.

Gooden took a beating Friday night in San Antonio, first dislocating his right ring finger and then requiring stitches after splitting open his chin. He missed the Utah loss, but said Monday that he'll play against the Lakers.

"It's incredible," he said after Monday's practice, showing off his stitches and a nearly straight ring finger.

Forward Tim Thomas, however, could be a question mark for the Mavericks after stepping on Gooden's foot during Monday's practice. Thomas was relegated to a trainer's table with his right foot elevated and his foot and ankle wrapped in ice.

Thomas said he thinks he tweaked his Achilles, causing pain to shoot up his calf. He'll be re-evaluated and at least has another day to recover before the Lakers game.

"Hopefully, he'll be OK," Carlisle said.

The Lakers routed the Mavericks, 131-96, on Jan. 3.

Jeff Caplan covers the Mavericks for ESPN Dallas. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.