Perth Wildcats captain Damian Martin is on track for an early return from a broken jaw, boosting the club's chances of locking down a top-two NBL berth.
Martin was initially expected to be sidelined for 6-8 weeks following an errant elbow from Townsville Crocodiles captain Brian Conklin earlier this month.
The 31-year-old is progressing well after surgery, raising hopes he will be back before Christmas.
Coach Trevor Gleeson is optimistic but reluctant to put an exact date on it.
"He's ready to go this weekend," he joked on Friday.
"That's the competitive spirit Damo's got - he'll play if his arm's in a sling or his jaw is broken.
"But we have to make sure medically he's ok. We don't want him to get another knock and be out longer.
"We've got to wait for him to jump through some hurdles. The surgery went well, his teeth are lined up and are pretty good.
"We have to get him on court for a few sessions before he can play."
The Wildcats have coped admirably without Martin, winning two games during a recent three-match road trip to retain second spot with a 7-4 record.
The six-times NBL champions will be aiming to continue their strong form when they host Cairns at Perth Arena on Sunday.
Gleeson hopes giant centre Nate Jawai will get a bit more protection from the referees after copping a few whacks this season.
"A lot of these referees haven't reffed a man of his size before," Gleeson said of the 209cm Jawai, who weighed in at 143kg when he arrived at the club.
"He gets hit a fair bit and they just think he's bigger and stronger than everybody."