The Mavericks have fallen, but they’re young enough and good enough to pick themselves up. Plus, they have players who not only want to do more to help prop up this season, but who are sacrificing to do so.
Tim Hardaway Jr. and Kristaps Porzingis are as competitive as athletes come. But they have had to accept some realities that aren’t easy.
For Hardaway, he was told that the team needed him to come off the bench to provide a sixth-man spark and allow Maxi Kleber or another big man to get into the starting lineup.
Hardaway has been a starter virtually all of his time with the Mavericks. And he’s still in his prime. So it’s not an easy adjustment mentally.
“It’s a great message, sets a great tone,” coach Rick Carlisle said of Hardaway’s (perhaps temporary) move to the bench. “This is just one of the sacrifices that he has to make.
“Here’s a guy who is a starting player in the NBA. There’s no question about that. He’s more than willing to accept coming off the bench because that’s the best thing for the team.”
In Porzingis’ case, he’s coming off of knee surgery and the Mavericks have tried to play him in short bursts, although that has begun to change. On Thursday in the blowout loss to Golden State, Porzingis played in back-to-back games after sitting the second half of the past two sets of consecutive games.
He also played the first nine-plus minutes of the game. He had voiced concerns that he wasn’t able to find a rhythm when playing four or five minutes at the jump ball, then taking a breather.
“That first quarter is when I’d like to stay on the floor a little longer, and I’m communicating that to the coach,” Porzingis said. “I thought the best we were in the bubble, I was playing the whole first quarter, then coming out. It was just better getting into a rhythm. I wouldn’t be telling you guys (media) this if I wasn’t communicating it with the coach.
“And I know everybody around me is trying to do the things that are best for me, to keep me healthy. But I’m a player and I want to be out there 48 minutes if I can.”
Carlisle understands player frustrations when it comes to a playing rotation that has undergone massive changes because of injuries and illnesses in the first 20 games of the season.
“We talk about it,” Carlisle said. “He (Porzingis) understands we’re in a process here of ramping up. I love where he’s at.
“One of the realities we have is that, for us to be as good as we think we should be, we should have one of those guys (Porzingis or Luka Dončić) on the court all the time. I would love to play him in longer stretches, I understand where he’s coming from.”
The good news is that Hardaway and Porzingis are doing things the right way, even if it’s made more difficult when you are in the throes of losing eight of nine games.
Making sacrifices is a key to any team coming together – and pulling out of a tailspin.
“We have to be careful as we look at all these different situations,” Carlisle said. “Sacrifices, some bigger than others, are so important for a team developing chemistry and giving us a chance to win at a higher level.”