When he broke his foot preparing for the FIBA World Championships with the French national team, hopes were not dissolved, only set to lay in wait until the cocoon would burst Feb. 16; when he would return to the court wearing a Mavs uniform and dropping 13 points and six assists in 20 minutes as a not-so-subtle reminder of what had been missed.
For a Dallas Mavericks team dominated by veterans, he brought an infusion of youth, athleticism and highlight-reel abilities to an established stable of guards. Far from the leader or orchestrator that is Jason Kidd, or the closer that is Jason Terry, he presented something entirely different.
Dirk himself uses the word. "Unpredictability,'' Nowitzki says of his "Little Frenchie.''
The play of JJ Barea has been a revelation of improvement since the calendar stepped into 2011, insisting his continued relevance to the rotation. Kidd, Terry and Barea have each done enough to justify their continued presence on the court, including playing integral roles on a team that was already 38-16 without Roddy B, including winning 11 of the previous 12 games before his season debut.
Add the defensive prowess of DeShawn Stevenson, and Beaubois joins an already crowded group of guards who have all played well at times.
Yet, none of them can do the things this talented, and largely unproven, sophomore has shown within his impressive reservoir of skills. None of them house the speed to burn past the quickest the league has to offer in the open court, or stay in front of them at the defensive end. None can fly up to meet an alley-oop for a mid-air dance on the way to an acrobatic slam. No other player on the roster has the mix of talents to combine ball handling, raw athletic ability, shooting and pure speed into a single package.
A league now catering to its guards, particularly those willing and able to penetrate, has set forth parameters no other member of the Mavs is better built to take advantage of.
So ... should the Mavs FREE RODDY B?
There is no denying that he strides to the court with a proclivity for the mistakes embraced by his age. He isn't as polished as any of the other Mavs backcourt members (removing the injured Dominique Jones from the equation). Without doubt, there will be, and have been, mistakes in approach, examples of misappropriated aggression and moments of overlooked or missed minutia within the team's tactical designs, all the things that serve to scrape against the sensibilities of any head coach; traits Rick Carlisle has shown little patience for in the past.
The bad will come tethered to the good for some time. It can't be ignored, but it must also not be run away from if Roddy B is to be relied upon this year.
Tyson Chandler has changed the feel of this Mavericks' team. He stands at the core of what sets them apart from the teams wearing the scars of recent playoff failures. As long as he can bring health into the postseason, Dallas is better prepared than they have been for some time for a deep run, perhaps even for a chance at a title.
Tyson Chandler makes them better. We believe that Roddy Beaubois, more than any other piece acting in support of Dirk, has the makeup to bridge the space between better and great. Nothing about this steals from what others bring to the court, or slights their hefty contributions. It only brings focus upon those traits Roddy B can provide.
Without him, they have a chance and have earned their way as a contender. They've constructed something whispering "special" already. With him, they could be even better. They could scream their place.
On the other hand, there is the very real possibility that he simply isn't ready, and considering his extended time away (he missed the first 54 games), that he hasn't the time to become so this season. No guarantee can be issued to define the arc of his growth curve before it's unfurled. Yet, if a championship is the goal for this Dallas team, and it is, Roddy B must be given every chance to contribute and earn his coach's trust in time to hold it in the postseason.
He must be allowed to make mistakes without losing a half, or even a significant handful of minutes, of experience in response. The leash wrapped around his minutes must be loosened to allow the opportunity for every avenue of growth to be traversed in the present, rather than years down the road.
There stands the very real possibility that Roddy B is ensnared in a slowly growing minutes cap made necessary by the injury he is only nine games returned from, or that his stamina won't yet allow for additional time. Fatigue has been evident fairly quickly since his return, and the battle to get his legs back beneath him is ongoing. Because of this, his lack of minutes may be deceiving in nature and forced due to the above limitations rather than by his mistakes.
Carlisle has done a wonderful job this year of getting the most from his players while overcoming injuries (Nowitzki missed a career-high nine consecutive games, Caron Butler suffered a season-ending knee injury after only 29 games, and now six games missed by Chandler due to illness or minor injury) and integrating new players, despite the fact that no mid-season trades took place.
Given the job he has done this season, this is not meant to condemn the course he has taken with Roddy B in only a nine-game sample. Yet, the inability to place trust in Roddy B stands as a clear shortcoming from last season's playoffs. In order to avoid the possibility of repeating that fate, committing the same mistakes must be avoided if possible.
As long as the prized chemistry this team has attained is not disturbed, Roddy B needs the chance to make his mistakes now, even if it costs a game or two in the standings, though that price may be high with the Lakers sitting only a game behind the Mavs for the second seed in the Western Conference.
Invariably, Carlisle stands in the precarious position of trying to maintain the stretch of play his team is on, while allowing what may be the Mavs best chance to push deeper into the postseason to learn from his blunders on the court.
The Mavs are already good, and have forged their way into any title discussions, but the time will come when a single star may not be enough, when playoff defenses constrict and the want of another player who can create his own shot on find easy baskets becomes a need (note that Beaubois already leads the Dallas guards in attempts at the rim with 3.2 per game, despite only playing an average of 16.7 minutes), and they will be forced to call upon what Roddy B may provide like no other on this roster in assistance to Dirk.
Roddy B is starting. That's a start. He's in the rotation for good (we assume). That's good. Can he do more?
The only way to find out is to play him. … just a little bit more.