|Dirk Nowitzki is saying all the right things before Mavericks training camp opens. (Getty Images)|
The post-title honeymoon was a bumpy ride for Dirk Nowitzki, whose 2011-12 season was marred by a lockout, conditioning issues, a bum right knee and a first-round playoff exit. The Dallas Mavericks All-Star forward says those days are now behind him.
The Dallas Morning News reports that Nowitzki says he is fit and fully healthy for the 2012-13 season.
"I tried to keep in shape all summer long so that it would not be hard to pick up my usual training routine," Nowitzki said in an email interview. "I feel great. My knees feel fine, and that's important. I am ready to go."
"I think we have a good team again," Nowitzki said. "I like all the new additions. I think we got younger on the perimeter, more atheltic and that was always our goal. We can be a really good team, but we have to see how we all fit together, how the chemistry works. The month of October is important to get everyone adjusted, but I think we got a lot of potential."
The Mavericks will indeed be a younger team in 2012-13, with Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo replacing Jason Kidd and Jason Terry in the backcourt. Veterans Chris Kaman and Elton Brand are the key additions up front.
As noted last week in the CBSSports.com Elite 100 player rankings, the Mavericks' hopes still rest squarely on Nowitzki's shoulders. They underachieved last season for three reasons: Tyson Chandler departed and wasn't replaced, Lamar Odom was a total bust, and Nowitzki struggled early and simply didn't have enough magic and support to overcome the high-rising Oklahoma City Thunder in the postseason.
If Nowitzki turns up re-dedicated this season, there's nothing stopping the Mavericks from pushing the San Antonio Spurs a bit in the Southwest Division. But the lesson learned in 2012 will hold true in 2013; a less-than-100 percent Nowitzki might be good enough to get the Mavericks to qualify for the postseason, but vintage Dirk will be needed once it's playoff time.
It's really, really, really early, with a week remaining until training camp opens. But, so far so good.