DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Thursday is the day that basketball fans across the nation have been anxiously waiting to see for months. The Dallas Mavericks can get started defending their championship title on Thursday, as NBA facilities across the country will be unlocked for players to practice.

For the first time since the NBA lockout began in July, Mavs players will be welcomed into the American Airlines Center in Dallas. Starting on Thursday, NBA teams are allowed to host voluntary practices and physicals, but players cannot have contact with coaches.

NBA training camps will officially begin on December 9 with the regular season expected to start on Christmas Day. That is when the Mavs are set to face the Miami Heat in a highly anticipated rematch of last season’s NBA Finals. The Heat may have to watch as Dallas raises the championship banner and hands out rings to Mavericks players.

But before any NBA games can be played, a new collective bargaining agreement has to be signed and the players association must reform as a union.

There is also concern about what kind of physical condition the returning players will be in, as many found ways to play in other parts of the world. Dirk Nowitzki, for example, was playing basketball in Germany this summer, helping his native country qualify for the 2012 Olympics. He was looking into the possibility of remaining in Germany to train if the lockout continued.

You can watch the Mavs in action on the court before Christmas Day, as the team is set to play two preseason games against the Oklahoma City Thunder on December 18 and 20. Both of those games will be shown on TXA 21.