Monday was the first day of February and also the first day of Black History Month. And the moment certainly wasn’t lost on Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle.
Before taking questions during his pregame news conference before Monday’s 109-108 loss to the Phoenix Suns at American Airlines Center, Carlisle said: “In honor of Black History Month, which is February, there’s a reading for every day of the month. So on those particular days I’m going to do the reading somewhat similar to what we did in Orlando.”
During the bubble in Orlando last summer following the restart to the NBA season, Carlisle read a passage before every Mavs’ game and after every practice about something poignant that happened to African-Americans throughout history. This all came in the wake of the May 25 murder of George Floyd, which touched off a global firestorm.
The president of the National Basketball Coaches Association, Carlisle helped spearhead a movement among the coaches and players to protest police brutality towards African-Americans and improve equality in racial justice situations.
In Monday’s reading, Carlisle said: “Reading No. 1, in 1926 Carter Goodwin Woodson established Negro History Week, which later became Black History Month. The month of February was chosen in honor of Frederick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln, who were both born in that month.
“So that’s why Black History Month is February.”
Among other things, Woodson earned a PhD in history from Harvard University, where he became the second African-American to receive a doctorate. He also was the dean of the College of Arts and Science at Howard University.
Meanwhile, Douglas was an abolitionist, suffragist and author of several books, including his Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas, an American Slave, which was a best-seller.
In addition, Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States and helped engineer the end to slavery with the Emancipation Proclamation.
Back-to-backs in KP’s future: Kristaps Porzingis missed this past Saturday’s game against the Phoenix Suns, which was the second leg of a back-to-back. But if he had his druthers, Porzingis would have played in that game.
However, since Porzingis underwent surgery on Oct. 9 to address a lateral meniscus injury of his right knee, the Mavs weren’t about to force the talented forward/center into playing games on back-to-back nights.
“I should be very clear — he wants to play in all these games,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “It really bothers him that he can’t be out there to help the team.
“But these are decisions that’s coming from Casey (Smith, the Mavs’ director of player health and performance) and myself and looking at the schedule. And also managing his situation on a day-to-day basis.”
The first time Porzingis sat out the last leg of a back-to-back was the Jan. 23 home game against Houston, one night after the Mavs played at San Antonio. That also was the seventh game in 11 days for the Mavs, so the decision to sideline Porzingis that night was a no-brainer.
“Some of it you just look at the schedule and you see games that wouldn’t make sense to play him just coming back from a layoff,” Carlisle said. “But that said, it’s important that everybody understand that we’re working toward a point where he can play back-to-backs, and we feel like we’re getting closer there.
“His legs, his body, everything feels good. It’s a process of building that stuff back up.”
Ironically, Porzingis played both ends of a back-to-back this season during his first chance involved in that scenario. The six-year veteran collected 20 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in 33 minutes in the Jan. 17 game against Chicago, and added 23 points, nine rebounds and two blocks in 32 minutes in the Jan. 18 contest against Toronto.
“His attitude is great, but he wants to be out there and as we move on I think there’s a good chance that eventually he will be playing back-to-backs,’ Carlisle said. “I’m just not exactly sure when.”
Home sweet home: The Mavs just completed a period where they played nine games – five of them on the road — in 13 days and in three different time zones while also dealing with players either in the NBA’s health and safety protocols, or just returning from it. So how difficult was that?
“Nobody gives a (expletive delete) about how hard it was,” coach Rick Carlisle sad. “There’s no point in talking about it. We’re at a point now where we just got to focus minute to minute, hour to hour, whistle to whistle, do our very best to work on our chemistry, our togetherness, our collective will, and we’ve got to grind.”
Part of that grind for the Mavs involves trying to take advantage of the month of February when 10 of the 14 games they play this month will be at American Airlines Center.
“I never look too far ahead in the schedule,” Carlisle said. “I just don’t believe in that. I think it’s important to stay in the present and look slightly ahead.
“If it’s 10 in the morning, then maybe you’re looking towards lunch. Other than that, we’ve got to just keep our eye on the ball and stick together and fight our (butt) off.”