It's true that Nowitzki struggled out of the gate and that an ailing right knee forced him out of the lineup for four games so he could train behind the scenes, a peculiarity to be sure for the typically precision-trained power forward. And yes, it is inarguable that Nowitzki finished the rapid-fire, 66-game regular season -- his 14th in the NBA -- with the lowest statistics (21.6 ppg, 45.5 FG%, 6.7 rpg) since his first two seasons in the league.
For the record, Nowitzki has no issues with Sir Charles, a hero of sorts to Nowitzki as young lad playing the game in his native Germany. Nowitzki borrowed Barkley's Olympic Dream Team jersey No. 14 for his own use and then flipped it to No. 41 in the NBA.
"I love Charles and I also love watching him on TV because whatever is running through his big head he’s going to throw out there," Nowitzki said during his lengthy Tuesday appearance on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM's "Galloway & Co. "That’s what makes it funny, so I’m still a huge, huge fan of his. I don’t see it as an insult or anything. It’s just he’s having his opinions and he’s throwing them out there and that’s what makes great TV and great radio because he’s the man."
But what about this Father Time thing anyway? Nowitzki turns 34 on June 19 and well, he isn't getting any younger. But was this season an aberration following the long championship run, his commitment to play for Germany in the Olympic qualifying tournament and then the uncertainty of the lockout that skewed his offseason training?
Or is Barkley right and the inevitability of Father Time played a quick game of catch-up just months after Nowitzki seemed invincible in leading the Mavs to the franchise's first championship?
"I had a tough time getting going this year. I’m very specific taking care of my body during the season; I eat right, I lift, I train, so it took me a while to get going with the whole lockout. There were too many games, not enough preparation time so I paid for that a little bit, but I think I can still play some really good basketball," Nowitzki said. "If you look at all the guys that really take care of their body like Nashy (Steve Nash) and (Jason) Kidd now is almost 40, and those guys, they can compete at a high level for a long time.
"Even (Tim) Duncan if you look at him he’s having a phenomenal year in his 16th, 17th year or whatever he is (actually 15th), so I still think you can play at a very high level and I still think I can do it. I’m going to prepare again like in the regular season, you have your routine, you come in, report in October and I’m going to spend the offseason getting my body ready again and we’ll see what happens next year and see who’s fighting alongside with me and who the warriors are and we’ll go from there."