Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 1/23/12
If there's an NBA story I never expected to read, it's that Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki became so tired of playing basketball that he failed to get in proper shape for the start of this season. But that's exactly what the greatest European player of all-time and one of the league's most celebrated gym rats told us this past week. It's even led normally sane NBA observers to wonder if Nowitzki, at age 33, has suddenly hit the proverbial wall. But no matter where you stand, it had to raise some eyebrows when Mavs coach Rick Carlisle and the team's medical staff decided to remove the 7-footer from the lineup for a four-game stretch to allow him a chance to improve his conditioning, as well as his ailing knee. The fact that Nowitzki didn't put up much of a fight tells you the gravity of the situation. This season was supposed to be about whether the Mavs could somehow compensate for the loss of free agents Tyson Chandler and J.J. Barea. Nowitzki's brilliance has been such a constant over the past decade that it seemed foolish to worry how the lockout might affect his performance. Now, all the excitement over Deron Williams or Dwight Howard potentially coming to Dallas this summer has been tempered by Nowitzki's precipitous and shocking decline. We'd all assumed that Nowitzki could play at an elite level for at least three more seasons, but he hasn't looked anything like himself in the first 17 games. And with a straight face, he made the comment over the weekend that his teammates are better off without him right now. That may be a bit of an overstatement, but it's not far from the truth. Carlisle wanted to make it clear that Nowitzki won't be resting his aching knees this week. He wants to give his star player a chance to work on his conditioning and try to regain his leg strength and overall endurance during what he called an eight-day "training camp." Nowitzki says he's unable to put the ball on the floor and go past anyone right now, which makes him much easier to defend. Opposing players can focus on trying to affect his jump shots. With Nowitzki out for the next three games, this team is a mess. Vince Carter's trying to recover from an ankle injury and Jason Kidd recently missed three games because of an aching back. Kidd's returned to the lineup, but he's still mired in a horrid shooting slump and is turning the ball over at an alarming rate. Fortunately for him, his army of apologists continues to surround him with love and affirmation based on his inflated assist totals. Perhaps the one upside to Nowitzki's absence is that it could thrust Lamar Odom into relevance. The Mavs need him to be a lot more active without Nowitzki, and for once Odom seemed up to the task with 16 points in Saturday's 83-81 win in New Orleans. "It's definitely an opportunity for more minutes at the 4," Carlisle said of Odom's opportunity. "But, he's still going to be playing some 3 and we've got to maximize his size at 3 and his quickness and playmaking ability at 4. He made some good things happen offensively against the Hornets. Defensively, there's still some things we're working on. He's still got to get more aggressive, more active, but all in all he's making progress." Nowitzki indicated over the weekend that some of the accounts of his demise had lit a "fire" in him. You'd think the opportunity to defend his first title might do the trick, but then, it's hard to criticize a man who has worked as hard as anyone in the league throughout his career. If he needs a few more doubters to regain his motivation, so be it.Last season, the Mavs were completely lost without Nowitzki during a nine-game stretch when he was recovering from a sprained knee. And that's why it's remarkable everyone seems to think that sitting him down for a week is a terrific idea. Times have changed. But let's hope it's not a permanent thing.
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Eli did not look thrilled after Peyton locked up Super Bowl

Peyton Manning ‘going to drink a lot of Budweiser’ after win

Panthers' Josh Norman crying after losing Super Bowl

Where Peyton Manning ranks among Super Bowl era QBs

Peyton Manning declines to comment on possible retirement

Mike Carey not heard from again after being wrong earlier


Von Miller forces Cam Newton fumble to secure Super Bowl win

With cryptic tweet, did Marshawn Lynch just hang up his cleats?

NFL shows off every Super Bowl MVP in history

Jordan Norwood breaks off longest punt return in Super Bowl history

Beer company trolls Seth Rogan after Super Bowl commercial

Levi's Stadium's field problems continue in Super Bowl

Five biggest boneheaded plays of Super Bowl 50

WATCH: Cam Newton gives questionable effort to recover fumble

Lions say Calvin Johnson's future still not determined

How Louisville basketball bungled their self-imposed ban

Ted Ginn Jr. whiffs on football twice on one play, results in Panthers turnover

Kony Ealy makes one-handed interception of Peyton Manning

Mike Carey gets another call wrong on incomplete pass in SB

Steph Curry beats Panthers' "Keep Pounding" drum

Did Beyonce almost fall down during Super Bowl halftime show?

WATCH: Panthers' Jonathan Stewart leaps over pile for TD

Aqib Talib commits three awful penatlies in first half of SB

WATCH: Broncos score TD after Von Millers sacks Cam Newton

WATCH: Luke Kuechly sacks Peyton Manning

NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Did Beyonce almost fall down during Super Bowl halftime show?

Curry to serve as drummer for Panthers

Report: Marshawn Lynch plans to retire

The 14 biggest plays in Super Bowl history

Five outrageous predictions for Super Bowl 50

QUIZ: Name the winning starting quarterback from every Super Bowl

The top six matchups that could decide Super Bowl 50

Seven unheralded players set to make major impacts in SB 50

10 underrated performances in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest

X-factors in Super Bowl 50

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Follow Yardbarker