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German Engineering

Dirk Nowitzki, like the rest of us, can't believe basketball season's already here. He just wishes he were in Germany, not Denton.
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Let's hope Dirk Nowitzki's first official act as a member of the 2006-'07 Dallas Mavericks isn't an omen. During Monday's media day at the American Airlines Center, the giant German attempted to adjust a microphone, but instead wound up breaking it. Said Dirk while turning a unique shade of embarrassed red, "Oops."

Weird, huh? Not that Dirk would commit a turnover. But in a week in which we're transfixed on Albert Haynesworth's punishment, T.O.'s return to Philly, Buck Showalter's possible last supper as Texas Rangers manager and the annual Texas-OU circus, our Mavericks quietly sneaked into training camp. Actually, they crept all the way to Denton. Seems like just yesterday the Mavs' victory parade was interrupted by, "Dwyane Wade, shooting two."

From the tone of Monday's media day I'm not sure they are fully over the heartbreak to the Heat. But there's nothing like a busy off-season, the return of their top seven players and a week of two-a-days at the University of North Texas to vanquish nightmares. While you were finding a place to store bags of unused confetti, Dirk told owner Mark Cuban to cool his hot temper, Cuban signed Dirk to a three-year contract extension and the two delicately disagreed on where to hold training camp.

"I don't understand why NBA teams [Philadelphia 76ers and Phoenix Suns] are playing in Germany next week and we're not there," Dirk said. "Instead, we get to go to beautiful Pittsburgh." Cuban, a native of beautiful Pittsburgh, said the NBA has offered him the chance to train overseas, but it ain't happening.

No chance, it's ridiculous," said Cuban. "It's hard enough to prepare a team for the season as it is. I see absolutely no value in going over there. Plus, I'd rather see the NBA get fans in Louisville than Moscow."

For guys who haven't exactly seen eye-to-eye the last couple months, how is it that Dirk coaxed a $60 million out of Cuban? Winked the owner, "He gets me drunk with that German beer, and I'll sign anything."

Despite a long NBA season into late June and his participation for Germany in last month's World Championships, Dirk said he enters camp as healthy as possible. Still, there will be little concessions. "I mean I'm 28. I'm not 20 anymore. So I can't stay up all night like I used to." Is it just me, or did Dirk just become a pitch man for Viagra? --Richie Whitt

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