Posted Oct 3, 2012 9:57 AM
DALLAS -- And you thought you had a busy summer. Dirk Nowitzki got married four times.
"Same woman?" a wise guy asked.
"Yeah," he replied with a laugh and a nod of his head.
There were separate ceremonies with his bride Jessica Olson in Africa, Germany, the Caribbean and Texas.
Yet it might be an offseason commitment to himself that could bring bliss back to the Mavericks and their star forward.
In between exchanging vows all around the globe, the 34-year-old Nowitzki wedded himself to the notion of improving his fitness after showing up out of shape for the hurry-up start to the lockout-shortened season.
It was a season that began with the Mavs getting thumped on their home court by the Heat on the same day Dallas unveiled its championship banner, produced four losses in their first five games and even took Nowitzki out of the lineup for a mandated four-game break to improve his conditioning.
"For me, actually, it was a great lesson to learn," Nowitzki said. "I can't just shut it down all the way to zero anymore and expect to be in shape in four weeks. You can do that when you're in your 20s, but not after 14 years in the league.
"So even though it was a tough year for me last year, I think it was a good learning experience for me, and this year, in the summer, even though I didn't touch a ball for 3 ½ months, I was basically in the gym in June and July keeping my legs strong, running.
"Even on all my trips, I always tried to lift and run and keep my conditioning up so that when I started basketball four weeks ago, the start was a lot easier than last year. Last year, I couldn't even touch the bottom of the backboard. This year, I could touch it a little bit.
"It was tough to get ready for the season last year. I had only a short break after the championship before I played in the European Championships. And afterward, we did not know when the season would start.
"This year, I had a great summer and I feel ready to go."
Of course, that hardly means the Mavs are ready to pick up the pieces and resume a role as a contender against a Western Conference landscape that includes the returning Thunder and the reloaded Lakers and Clippers, not to mention the Spurs, who finished tied for the best regular season record in the league.
The Mavericks will likely open the season with eight new faces on their roster and likely three new players in the starting lineup. If it was a shock to the system a year ago to be missing Tyson Chandler as the defensive anchor in the middle, it will be a double jolt for Nowitzki to take the court this season without his veteran running mates Jason Terry and Jason Kidd, who left in free agency.
"I was obviously disappointed the way July started," he said. "First, Deron (Williams) didn't come and then J-Kidd and Jet left, obviously, two warriors that have been through a lot of stuff with me and we won the championship together. They were like brothers to me. So it was tough to see those guys go somewhere else. It's going to be weird to see them in different uniforms, for sure."
In their places, Nowitzki will see probably see Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo as the new starting backcourt with veteran Chris Kaman in the middle as the most capable offensive center he's ever played with in his Dallas career.
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle wants his team to play faster at both ends of court, using Collison's raw speed on offense to push the pace and get more easy hoops, and for the overall lineup to apply more full-court pressure on the defensive end.
Shawn Marion remains at Nowitzki's side from the title team and the Mavs have added the amnestied Elton Brand as a low post presence off the bench.
"We've got a lot of potential," Nowitzki said. "We got some shot-makers. We got some penetrators. We got, for the first time, somebody we can just drop the ball to down on the block and everybody else spaces out. I can space out and not always get the ball every time.
"Where we're going to end up, I have no idea. The West is stacked, especially at the top. So it's going to be tough to crack that top two or three up there."
But it helps to have the guy who got married four times in one summer to also recommit to himself.
"I'm looking forward to a good season," Nowitzki said. "I feel good. And that's already a big chunk. If I feel good, we're going to be OK.''
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