As much as they may hate to admit it, the Dallas Mavericks made a smart move in Tuesday night’s 98-87 loss at Sacramento by opting to rest Wes Matthews, Dirk Nowitzki and Seth Curry in favor of the franchise’s youngest starting lineup since 1995.
Now, 24-year-old Harrison Barnes and Nerlens Noel (22), two Mavs who will be cemented in the starting lineup for a long time to come, don’t count as “experimental.’’ But thy were flanked by Yogi Ferrell (23), Dwight Powell (25) and Nicolas Brussino (24), with more young guys coming off the pine.
And that — if only for the work of Nico alone — made it a “positive” loss.
“We threw some unusual lineups out there, because there’s some things we needed to take a look at,” coach Rick Carlisle said.
The unusual” included not only Nico starting, but also getting some time as the primary ball-handler and distributor. The Argentinian rookie Brussino had an impressive night, finishing with a team-high 13 points on 4-of-12 shooting in 33 minutes. He also added seven boards, five assists and two steals. His shooting came and went …. but we’ve seen his pure jumper when he’s in a comfort zone playing in the D-League on assignment to the Texas Legends, and it translates. Meanwhile, he proved his versatility, playing and guarding multiple positions on the floor.
“He really knows how to play, and we wanted to get him a stretch of minutes in real NBA games playing the point,” Carlisle said. “We’ve seen his ball skills, and we’ve seen his ability to read defenses. And tonight was a good test, because they were pressuring full-court. I thought he did a lot of good things, and this is a great opportunity for us to take a look at some of this stuff.”
After a long season of fighting and scraping for the eighth playoff spot, it seems that the Mavs decision-makers have finally gotten the message. While it would have been nice to start this process before beating Milwaukee on Sunday afternoon, it seems they are finally prepared will do what it necessary to improve their draft stock (they presently sit in the No. 9 draft hole) in the final stretch of the season.
Or do they “get it’’?
“On a back-to-back, I was going to rest some guys,” Carlisle said. “And (tonight at the Clippers) there’s a chance we’re going to be at full strength. Dirk is feeling better, and he’ll be most likely a game-time decision. But the signs are good at this point.”
Well, in any event, this was fun. Fish calls it ‘Organic Tanking’, but at this point you could also call it “Future Experimentation.’’
One aspect of that is Dirk drawing up plays in the huddle.
But the more important part of that process is seeing what you really have in guys like Brussino, Jarrod Uthoff, and A.J. Hammons in extended-minute scenarios. What we saw there was promising.
A.J. Hammons, who played a season-high 26 minutes, had nine points, seven rebounds and three blocks, and was largely successful throughout the contest. He was tough on the boards, protected the rim well, and showed his ability to stretch the floor and hit an occasional jumper. He even demonstrated his touch from beyond the three-point arc, after hitting a 3 with 5:22 to go in the third quarter.
All of that, again, is stuff he’s shown with the Legends. It translated here.
Powell contributed 11 points and seven rebounds. Barnes was also in double figures, scoring 11 points during his 28 minutes … and maybe he should be the only concession to 32-45 Dallas “playing for something,’’ as he’s got an iron-man streak going.
I don't think there's anything that's going to stop me from playing all 82,’’ HB said, and there is merit there.
Just as there is merit in seeing more Nico, more AJ, more Uthoff and more Powell.