Yes, Dallas' 88-84 victory was fueled in large part by Dirk Nowitzki's 42 points. The UberMan's engine runs high; he doesn't seem to need to be yelled at or hugged or encouraged or coached.
Not everyone is like that.
In Carlisle postgame speech to his team, the coach mentioned to his players that at the start of the fourth quarter, he'd taken Butler aside and ordered, "Make them stop you. Get to the basket.''
If I've got the story right, it's a smooth move by Slick Rick on two counts:
One, it's a nice psychological button push on "Tuff Juice.''
Two, it's a nice psychological button push on the other fellas, who are no doubt encouraged to know that the boss has the back of a guy who is struggling.
Best of all … it worked.
Butler's immediate reponse: He scored the first seven points of the quarter. He got involved in the rebounding effort – "stuck his nose in there,'' as Carlisle would later say.
"Make them stop you. Get to the basket.''
Butler got to the line four times in the game … all of them in a two-minute span to start that fourth quarter. His full-game linescore (4-of-11 for 11 points, with eight rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block) isn't as important as those first few fourth-quarter minutes.
Nowitzki was on the bench during that stint. In one sense, Butler had no choice but to be the go-to guy. If the Mavs have a tendency to "play spectator'' when The UberMan is in a groove (and they certainly did that for the middle two quarters here), setting things up on a tee when Caron is a top option on the floor might fix that.
"Set it up on a tee.'' I tried that phrase on an assortment of Mavs people last night when discussing Caron (but not Butler himself, as he declined to visit with the media).
You want the company line on Caron Butler and "setting it up on a tee''?
I went to Jason Terry, who says it's all about "flow'' and "unselfishness'':
"I don't think it's a concern,'' Jet told me. "It's still early. Guys are learning their roles. On a night when Dirk is the hot hand like that, the guy who needs to be set up is Dirk. But everybody else will get their turns.''
You want the raw truth on Caron and the "tee''?
I went to Jason Kidd, one of the best tee-setters in NBA history.
"Early on, you can look to get a guy going,'' Kidd answered. "But really, with a guy with that much talent, he's got to get himself involved, in a way. He's got to do what he did in the fourth, where instead of us getting him going, he's getting us going.''
You want a coaching perspective – which means it's "management'' talking but because it's Darrell Armstrong's words, there's not too much varnish?
I spent some one-on-one time with D.A.
"Yeah, J-Kidd is going to set you up,'' Armstrong told me. "But at some point, you gotta make a play. I do think that's coming for him. It's still a transition (after being traded here last February). It's coming. The effort is there, but I bet sometime in December he's going to start seeing things on the floor that he's not seeing now. It won't be a ‘new system' anymore. He won't be feeling his way. He'll know he has times when he can take over.''
Butler's ineffectiveness as a star and even as a facilitator this year is well-documented around here. But maybe D.A. is right. Maybe it's coming.
I mentioned this in Wednesday Morning Mavs Donuts, that one of those take-over times against Detroit was designed to be whenever he was guarded by the aging former star Tracy McGrady. In those situations, Dallas was going to feed Caron. … and ultimately, Caron took it upon himself to get himself involved.
And Rick Carlisle took it upon himself to order Caron to do so.