Dirk Nowitzki driven to win

DALLAS -- The commercial promoting Dallas Mavericks season tickets ends with Dirk Nowitzki looking into the camera before drilling a jump shot and asking, "Do you really think I'm done?"

That marketing campaign wasn't the future Hall of Fame power forward's idea, but coming off two down years by his standards, Nowitzki acknowledges the desire to prove he can still perform at the level he has throughout most of his career entering its 16th season.

"Yeah, I'd say that," Nowitzki said Tuesday, the day before the Mavs open their season at home against the Atlanta Hawks. "I feel like you can always find something to prove. Us athletes will always find stuff that motivates you. You get here and you're trying to make it, then you're trying to prove yourself. Then you're trying to prove every year you can be an All-Star. Then you're trying to prove you can win a championship.

"So there's always something to get you going and you can motivate yourself. I'd still love to show I can play consistent basketball and help the team night in and night out. It's been a long summer of workouts. Hopefully it's going to pay off for me."

For the first time since the Mavs' 2010-11 championship campaign, Nowitzki is entering the season healthy. Nowitzki, who ranks 17th in NBA history with 25,051 points, had been bothered by knee soreness going into the last two seasons.

Nowitzki overcame a slow start in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season to average 21.6 points and 6.8 rebounds, but those were his worst numbers since his second season in the league. He underwent knee surgery last October, causing him to miss almost two months of the regular season, and put up his worst numbers (17.3 points, 6.8 rebounds) since he was a rookie.

The Mavs' streaks of 11 50-win seasons was snapped in 2011-12, when a Dallas team that allowed several key pieces from the championship roster to leave in free agency got swept in the first round after earning the West's seventh seed with a 36-30 record. The Mavs missed the playoffs for the first time in 12 years last season, when they went 41-41.

The Mavs missed out on Dwight Howard and didn't get a chance to make a recruiting pitch to Chris Paul in free agency, but Nowitzki holds out hope that a remodeled team featuring guards Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis can surprise people by making playoff noise again.

"We'd love to be a winning franchise again," said Nowitzki, whose streak of 11 All-Star appearances was snapped last season. "We were not last year. We were 41-41 and we'd love to smell the playoffs again. That was tough last year watching. … I hadn't had a time like that since my second year in the league.

"So we'd like to get away from that and be a playoff team again. But I don't set personal goals for myself, just team goals and that's help the team win."