Nobody wants to see a teammate go through a spell like Maxi Kleber had for nearly three weeks.
Since Feb. 27, Kleber had shot just 2-of-20 from 3-point range in the seven games he played before Friday’s visit to Philadelphia (he’d been inactive for two other games).
It was a nasty slump that included going 0-for-10 in one stretch.
All of which meant absolutely nothing to coach Jason Kidd.
It didn’t impact the way he used Kleber, who continues to be the first big man off the bench in virtually any rotational setup.
“I’m not judging any one on how many shots he makes or how many shots he takes,” Kidd said before the Mavericks’ trip-ending visit to Charlotte Saturday night. “It’s more than that. We understand that.”
Proof? Look no further than the game the 6-10 Kleber had at Boston earlier on this trip.
He had 13 rebounds and three blocked shots.
And no points.
Yet, the Mavericks were a plus seven during Kleber’s 29 minutes on the floor. In fact, in the last seven games before Friday, Kleber had a positive plus/minus in every game, despite shooting 8-for-36 overall in those games.
And while his impact can’t be measured in points, Kidd admitted it’s a nice bonus when it happens. Kleber hit two of his four 3-pointers on Friday at Philly. He had six points, which tied for his second-highest scoring game since before the All-Star break.
And, again, Kidd couldn’t care less.
“He means so much to us because he can block shots, he can rebound, he can guard one through five,” Kidd said. “So I thought last night it was nice to see him make some shots. But again, I’m not judging him on makes.”
What happens when Kleber is on the floor is that the Mavericks’ defense tends to be at its best. He not only is a relentless shot-blocker in the paint, but when the Mavericks switch everything against opponents’ pick and rolls, Kleber can keep most smaller players in front of him.
And the numbers for Kleber have been solid this season. He’s averaging a career-best 5.9 rebounds per game and 1.1 blocks, tying his career-best. He’s also averaging 7.3 points per game, a slight uptick from last season although he’s playing two fewer minutes per game.
Kidd reinforced his opinion that Kleber’s shooting is the least of his worries by starting the big man Saturday against Charlotte in place of Spencer Dinwiddie, who sat out the game for injury management on his right knee.
Kleber responded with nine points and seven rebounds in 25 minutes. He also had a steal and a block and made one of his two 3-point tries.
But none of the Mavericks could take any solace in numbers from the blowout loss against the Hornets. They knew the finale of a five-game trip would be a difficult challenge. The Hornets made sure of it.
But at least Kleber showed signs that his shooting doldrums are in the past.
And that should be a great asset as the Mavericks go into a pivotal week of playoff jockeying with two games against Minnesota and one against Utah, all of whom are tightly bunched in the Western Conference.