DALLAS — After getting a glimpse into how useful rookie point guard Shane Larkin figures to be in the Dallas Mavericks’ rotation this season Monday night in a 97-94 victory over Philadelphia, coach Rick Carlisle freely admits that he has high expectations for the No. 18 pick in June’s draft.
Seeing Larkin in game action for the first time as the former Miami standout made his NBA debut Monday night, Carlisle got an up-close-and-personal look as the lead guard tallied three points, three assists and three steals in just over eight minutes of work. Now, with Larkin expected to boost a backcourt already featuring starting point guard Jose Calderon, leading scorer Monta Ellis and fellow rookie Gal Mekel, Carlisle will try to place the undersized and cat-quick floor general in positions to best help the team.
“Well, we need speed on this team. We need playmaking ability, we need lane penetration, we need defense and we need scoring, and I think he can help us in all those areas,” Carlisle said of Larkin’s addition to the backcourt. “The fact that he’s not that tall is something that he has to turn into an advantage for him. You know, (Monday night) is the beginning of a long road and a long journey, and there are things that we need him to get better at. He has great quickness, and I need to help him understand more efficient and useful ways to use it. And one of those ways is to find ways to penetrate the lane.”
Sidelined since fracturing his right ankle prior to the Mavericks’ summer league squad’s trip to compete in Las Vegas back in July, Larkin only recently completed his rehabilitation process from offseason surgery before sliding right into game action. Now, after being handed highlight footage of ex-Mav J.J. Barea’s exploitation of opposing defenses while running the pick-and-roll to perfection, the former Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year hopes to continue impressing his head coach while earning more minutes.
“Coach [Carlisle] has made it an emphasis to me that we need another guy that can get in the lane and create for others,” Larkin explained. “Jose is a great point guard. He gets us in our offense and is a great shooter, and he is very smart with the basketball and doesn’t turn it over. But he’s not the quickest guy getting in the lane and creating for others. Monta really is the only guy we have that breaks down his defender and gets in the lane and makes plays at the rim, so I think I can bring that aspect to the team or be another player that can do that.”
During his sophomore season Larkin averaged 14.5 points, 4.6 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 2.0 steals in 36 games, leading his team in points, assists and steals. And it’s Larkin’s 5-foot-11 frame and ability to impact the game in a multitude of ways that has Carlisle drawing comparisons to a former fan favorite.
“I think there’s things about Barea’s game that every sub-six-foot point guard can learn from,” Carlisle said. “And I want to be clear about this. You know, the plan is not to clone J.J. Barea into Larkin, ’cause they are different players and they’re different people with different personalities, but just to show the things that he is capable of and situations where he can be effective the way J.J. was. But I’ve learned in this league you can’t take guys and turn them into other guys. Many times it does more harm than good, but you try to point out the positives, encourage them and train them. And then as you go you figure out what works and what doesn’t work.”
Note: The Mavs continue their three-game homestand Wednesday night against the Houston Rockets. The Rockets lead the season series 1-0 after handing the Mavs a 113-105 road loss on Nov. 1. The game will air locally on Fox Sports Southwest and nationally on ESPN at 8:30 p.m. CT. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS (6287) or by visiting Mavs.com.