DALLAS — With a strength-in-numbers approach, the Dallas Mavericks found themselves in a rare situation this season when it comes to the center rotation.
Led by starting center Samuel Dalembert, the Mavericks featured a three-man rotation inside as backup big man Brandan Wright and newcomer DeJuan Blair lent assistance off the bench. However, with none of the three averaging more than 21 minutes a game, getting production out of the position became a shared responsibility.
“I mean, for the time being, considering that you’ve got to split and sure the time with each other, I think we really managed it well,” Dalembert said after the Mavs fell in seven games at the hands of the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs.
He added: “You know, me, B-Wright and D.B., we really managed the situation and we made the best of the time out there. We were able to contribute and be a positive thing for the team. … You know, it was a tough thing, but it was for the best for the team. We really put our [egos] to the side and we went out there and made the best with what we had. And I was very happy and very proud to see how the guys responded to it. You know, I was happy.”
Anointed the starter during training camp, Dalembert pulled down a team-best 6.8 rebounds an outing and registered 1.2 blocked shots while averaging 6.6 points during the regular season, starting 68 of his 80 outings. He also stepped up his presence on the glass during the postseason, averaging just 4.6 points but pulling down 8.4 boards a game.
But it was Dalembert’s close to the regular season that showcased his value to the Mavs the most, recording seven double-digit rebounding performances over the final 16 games to help boost the team into the playoffs.
“You just have to wait for your time to be out there,” the 12-year veteran explained, “and go out there and make the best of it. You know, I want to be out there consistently, but it was a three-big rotation. The times you get something going and you’re really in the zone, you have to wait another 14 minutes to get back in it and it was tough. You know, it was tough, but overall I’m kind of happy to see the outcome. We really stepped up and we really made the best of the situation. I want to play like that all the time, but you know, you’ve got to play.”
Meanwhile, Wright had to battle back from a preseason shoulder injury that forced him out of the lineup until his season debut on Dec. 14, when the former North Carolina standout posted 19 points on 9-of-10 shooting in 19 minutes of reserve work as the Mavs sprinted to a 106-93 home win over Milwaukee.
All told, Wright would go on to be the Mavericks’ best offensive contributor at the 5 spot, averaging 9.1 points on 67.7 percent shooting while suiting up in 58 games. But his injury would create an opening for Blair to step into the rotation, providing the Mavs with interior toughness in the process.
Blair started 13 of his 78 outings, posting season averages of 6.4 points and 4.7 rebounds in 15.6 minutes of work a game. He came on even stronger in the playoffs, emerging as the team’s X-factor while averaging 6.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.0 steals during six games against his former team. However, he now enters the offseason as a free agent, hitting the open market on July 1 and possibly creating a hole in the middle of the Mavs’ lineup after the three-headed center position proved to be an area of strength for the team.
“I think I did a good job this season and this series, playing hard and playing how I know how,” Blair said after the Mavericks were eliminated from the playoffs. “Hopefully I can come back to Dallas and we can get another shot at it.”