It’s hard to imagine anybody working harder than Dirk Nowitzki to get ready for this NBA season. He did more than he’s ever done in a summer with the possible exception of when he was playing internationally in the Olympics or World Championships. And it still hasn’t given him any sort of comfort level. Nowitzki said he can’t get around the fact that the older he gets — he’s 35 now 25 minutes shy of 40000 for his career excluding the nearly two seasons’ worth of minutes he’s amassed in the playoffs — the tougher it is to get ready for the 82-game grind. “I wasn’t quite happy with the year I had last year after the [knee] surgery” Nowitzki said. “So I put a lot of work in. I did a lot of lifting. “The first week of camp is still tough though. I don’t care how much work you put in. I was a little stiff and the first game was tough.” This is not an alarm blaring. This is just Nowitzki adjusting to the facts as he approaches middle age in real life and the AARP years of his NBA life. He feels a heck of a lot better than last season when he was headed for knee surgery by this point in the preseason and would be out until late December. He wants that clear. “I feel good” he said. “I think I move OK compared to last year. I feel like I got a little more pop in my step. I like what I’m doing but I’ve got to keep working to get my legs under me. “We have about two more weeks [before the regular season] and the last two preseason games will probably be pretty serious for us. Until then it’s about finding a rhythm and getting my legs under me.” Nowitzki needed 25 games after his knee surgery last year to get in prime condition. He averaged 15.2 points in 23 games before the All-Star break shooting 42.3 percent. After the break with rust gone he averaged 18.9 points and shot 50.2 percent. That still wasn’t good enough for him. But it was an improvement and a sign that working his way into shape would never be as easy as it was in his earlier years.