ATLANTA – The Mavericks injury situation went from bad to worse, and it only took 10 seconds.
The Mavericks continued to be prudent with their stars, resting 7-3 Kristaps Porzingis as part of his injury-recovery program, and holding out Luka Doncic with right ankle soreness that owner Mark Cuban said is going to be something that the team has to deal with on an ongoing basis.
Then, on the first play of Saturday’s game against Atlanta, second-year guard Jalen Brunson drove to the basket, was met with a hard shove by Hawks’ center Dewayne Dedmon and hit the ground hard after making the layup.
Brunson quickly ran toward the locker room, but had to return to shoot the free throw, which he missed. He then dashed to the locker room and was diagnosed with a sprained right shoulder. He would not return.
After the game, Brunson said: “It’s not as bad as I thought it might be. I’m OK.”
He said he plans to take it day-by-day going forward.
Said coach Rick Carlisle: “I just know that the shoulder dislocated, appeared to go back in. He was ruled out for the rest of the game pretty much immediately. I saw him afterward, he’s an upbeat guy, he says he’s feeling better, but I’m not sure what that means. We’ll get him home get him to see the doc and go from there.”
Suddenly, the Mavericks were short on point guards after already being shy of big men with Porzingis out and Willie Cauley-Stein not with the team because of a personal matter. And of course Dwight Powell is out for the season.
Meanwhile, it was disappointing not to see Doncic and Atlanta’s Trae Young going at each other, but it was a necessary night off for Doncic.
“He’s got a sore ankle, that’s pretty clear there,” Carlisle said. “I don’t expect it to be (a multi-game problem). But I don’t know for sure. I understand the interest. Everybody wants to know about his latest hangnail. He’s a great young players and a lot of people follow him and all that kind of stuff. My understanding is, it’s just sore. So we’ll hope that one night of sitting and treatment – and he’s going to work out, too.
“(Sunday) is likely an off day coming off the two games and we’ll see where we are on Monday.”
The soreness is residual from the ankle sprain that cost Doncic seven games before he returned in the game before the All-Star break. He also played Friday night in Orlando.
“It’s always going to be sore until we get some time off,” Cuban said of Doncic’s ankle. “He’s not injured, but it’s going to hurt. And it’s going to swell up from time to time which is why you don’t want him going back to back, especially when we have so many games coming up.”
Cuban, who said he was OK with Doncic playing in the All-Star Game, said it will be a matter of the second-year Slovenian learning how to deal with the aches that come and go in his ankle.
“We know it’s going to be sore,” Cuban said. “He’s got to adapt to it. It’s not rest, it’s more recovery. The worst thing that could happen is us getting into the playoffs and them (Doncic and Porzingis) not being available. You obviously don’t want that.
“We’ve been consistent on KP and we’re going to be consistent with Luka, too. We’re playing for the big picture. We’re trying to get back to the playoffs and win some series.”
The Mavericks have held Porzingis out of the second night of back-to-back games on periodic occasions this season. He missed 20 months after knee surgery and has had some soreness in the same knee that cost him 10 games in December and January.
“In the situation of KP, this is a back-to-back that we thought would be the right thing to rest him on the second night,” Carlisle said. “Again, these are going to go case-by-case.
“The next (back-to-back) next week is an afternoon-night situation, so the thought process could be different, but don’t know for sure. We don’t have any set formula for this.”