'Training camp' almost over for Dirk Nowitzki

DALLAS – Dirk Nowitzki didn’t score more than 20 points in a game during his first month of action this season, but he believes he’s on the path back to his norm.

“Basically with me not having training camp, training camp’s almost over,” said Nowitzki, whose right knee started swelling at the beginning of camp, leading him to undergo arthroscopic surgery Oct. 19. “Four weeks and hopefully I can get back in a rhythm a little better.”

Recent history suggests Nowitzki is right to think he’ll return to being an All-Star-caliber player soon.

Nowitzki stunk early last season, when he struggled through an abbreviated post-lockout training camp and dealt with swelling in his right knee, prompting him to take four games off for a personal minicamp. He averaged 16.2 points on .430 shooting in his first 19 games.

For the rest of the season, Nowitzki put up pretty typical numbers for him, averaging 24.0 points on .467 shooting.

So, while his numbers in 15 games so far this season (13.9 ppg, .408 FG) are far from pretty, it’s premature to push any panic buttons about Dirk’s ability to be a dominant force.

Nowitzki, who should benefit from the Mavs’ four days of rest this week, has been a complementary piece during the Mavs’ recent run of five wins in six games. However, it’s encouraging that he has started to finish games strong, with 28 of his 49 points in the last three games coming in the fourth quarter.

“If you look at when I first got back [Dec. 27] in OKC, I was looking guys off,” said Nowitzki, who acknowledged needing to find a way to be more effective and aggressive early in games. “Don’t even look my way. I was just a spot-up shooter, basically there just to spread the floor for the other guys.

“Now I’m getting to the point that I definitely want to feel the ball at least [in crunch time] and I’ll make the defense, make the defense collapse or get out, make a move. … Yeah, I think compared to where I was two or three weeks ago, it’s way, way better. It’s miles and miles better, but I still feel I got some ways to go.”