Whenever two or more people from the Mavericks’ 2011 championship team get together, it qualifies as a reunion.

So when Detroit coach Dwane Casey, who was an assistant on Rick Carlisle’s staff in that title season, returned to Dallas Tuesday night, there were plenty of memories to go around for him and Mavericks’ coach Jason Kidd, who was the starting point guard in 2011.

Asked what he remembered most about Casey as an assistant coach, Kidd said: “He was too tough on us.”

All jokes aside, Kidd and Casey forged a strong bond during their time together as assistant coach and point guard. And it lasted well beyond that title season.

“He was the best,” Kidd said of Casey. “You look at that staff, what a great staff. You talk about Rick, (Terry) Stotts and Casey. Three head coaches who go off to run their own programs, Casey’s the best. I still stay in touch with him, see how he’s doing. I spent some time with him in Seattle a couple years ago. He’s as good as they come.”

Likewise, Casey has been impressed with the job Kidd has done in his first season as coach of the Mavericks.

Casey in particular said that Kidd’s knowledge of the game as a player made him a virtual coach on the floor back when he was playing.

He relayed one particular story that summed up Kidd’s next-level thinking.

“I remember going to him asking him about scouting reports before the game and what he thought, because usually he would see it in a different, out-of-the-box scenario,” Casey said. “I’ll never forget playing the Lakers, his idea was to pick up Kobe Bryant full court. It made sense a little bit, but I thought: wait a minute, you’re a little older than Kobe and you’re picking up full court? Are you going to wear out or is he going to wear out?

“Lo and behold, he wore Kobe out. At the end of the game, he just didn’t have the legs for his shots and it was a very smart move on Jason’s part to pick him up and wear him down. He treated it like a 15-round bout.”

Homecoming spoiled: Tuesday’s game was supposed to be a joyful return to his roots for Cade Cunningham, the Arlington native who was the No. 1 pick in last year’s draft after a season at Oklahoma State.

It didn’t turn out so great as Cunningham was unable to play because of a hip issue in the Pistons’ only visit to Dallas this season.

“He’s disappointed,” coach Dwane Casey said. “He’s got a lot of people coming to the game to see him sit on the side in suit clothes.”

The 6-6 Cunningham has learned a lot in his rookie season and certainly will be in the conversation for rookie of the year honors. He’s averaging 15.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game, though he’s only shot 39.7 percent.

Asked about his rising star, Casey said: “He’s got ‘it.’ He’s a talent.”

And then, he invoked the name of one of the greatest point guards in history, Jason Kidd, as a comparison.

“He’s got that J-Kidd gene as far as understanding the game,” Casey said. “I’m not saying he’s J-Kidd – but that type of savant as far as seeing the floor and making plays, especially late.

“It seems like he’ll make a million mistakes early. But at the end of the game, something clicks and he gets it done. Typical young player. Makes mistakes. But he has a talent that is going to be something special in time.”

Briefly: While Maxi Kleber returned after missing two games with a left knee effiusion, the Mavericks remained without Kristaps Porzingis and Sterling Brown. While Kidd said that Brown is getting closer to returning from left foot problems, there has been no indication from the team when Porzingis might return. The Mavericks miss the 7-3 Latvian’s rim protection, rebounding and 3-point shooting, Kidd said. But clearly, there is no intention of rushing him back . . . Kidd joked about the 15 fouls that the Mavericks’ three point guards – Luka Dončić, Jalen Brunson and Trey Burke – used in Sunday’s win over Atlanta. “Our point guards like to foul,” he said with a grin. “They’re a bunch of hacks.” In reality, Kidd said “I thought Trey did an incredible job and that group that was in did an incredible job in the third quarter to keep us ahead, if not just tied. They held it until Luka and JB got back.”

Twitter: @ESefko

Share and comment

More Mavs News