DALLAS – Dirk Nowitzki is a new dad with a couple of new guards joining him in the starting lineup for the Dallas Mavericks.
The 7-foot German star hopes his knee acts like new as well.
Nowitzki, whose daughter was born during the summer, thinks the Mavericks can make Plan B work after saying during the offseason that the franchise had to have one in case Dwight Howard chose to play elsewhere.
When the former Orlando and Los Angeles Lakers center picked Houston, Dallas made long-term commitments for the first time since Nowitzki re-signed before the franchise's first championship season in 2010-11, adding guards Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon to a roster with nine newcomers.
The idea was to make life a little easier for the 35-year-old Nowitzki after knee surgery kept him out the first 27 games last season and the Mavericks missed the playoffs for the first time since his second year in 2000.
"I think as much pressure as we'll take off Dirk, I think he'll take more pressure off us," said Ellis, who figures to shoulder some of the scoring load. "How defenses play him, it will really open up a lot to drive, kick, find players. My ability to create for myself and others I think is going to be great."
Center Samuel Dalembert is Nowitzki's new partner in the starting frontcourt, and three veterans were added to the bench in guards Devin Harris and Wayne Ellington, and forward DeJuan Blair.
Harris started his career in Dallas as the No. 5 overall pick nine years ago, and Blair was with the rival San Antonio Spurs his first four seasons.
Defensive stalwart Shawn Marion and Vince Carter, whose career was rejuvenated at the 3-point line, are the other two key veterans coming back alongside Nowitzki.
"We've got some drivers, we've got some shooters, we've got some playmakers, we've got some defenders," Nowitzki said during media day Monday, the eve of training camp. "Hopefully we can all make it work and mesh."
Nowitzki is getting used to a pair of new guard for the second straight year. He didn't get much of a chance to work with Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo in camp last year because his right knee acted up and eventually required arthroscopic surgery.
The 11-time All-Star and 2006 MVP hesitates to declare himself healthy because the knee problem arose suddenly after camp started. But he does say he feels better than he has in a year.
"He's had a phenomenally conscientious summer with his workouts," coach Rick Carlisle said. "There are never any guarantees with health, but he's done everything that you can do to put yourself in position to have a good year that way."
If he stays healthy, Nowitzki figures finding a comfort level with Calderon, his point guard, and Ellis will be easy.
"I'd say it's pretty easy to get used to me," Nowitzki said. "You know what I'm going to do. I'm going to pick and pop. I'm going to face up on the post, shoot. And that's really it. And I need some help defensively. Everybody knows that."
All those pieces were in Plan B for Dallas.
Notes: The Mavericks signed F Renaldo Balkman, putting their training camp roster at 20 players. Balkman was the 20th pick in 2006 by New York. He last played in the NBA in 2012 with the Knicks after a stint in Denver.
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