CHARLOTTE – Rick Carlisle knows what a lot of people like to conveniently forget.
The Mavericks are going to play games this season that are a lot more important than garden-variety visits to Charlotte during the NBA’s dog days.
That’s why Kristaps Porzingis was sidelined for Saturday’s meeting with the Hornets.
That, plus the sometimes-foreign notion of human nature. The Mavericks won their only game this season without both Porzingis and Luka Doncic, beating Atlanta by 23 points on Feb 1.
In that game, Jalen Brunson, Dorian Finney-Smith, Maxi Kleber, Seth Curry and others stepped up big time.
Occasionally, pure hustle and heart from players who are getting bigger opportunities than usual can make up for great players who are missing for a night or two.
Long term, it’s a different story. And that’s what Carlisle knows, which is why Porzingis sat for injury recovery of his left knee.
“He understands,” Carlisle said of Porzingis before Saturday’s game. “He does want to play, though. He would love to play tonight. But right now, it’s just not in the cards. This is how we’re proceeding at this point. There will be two games after this, obviously, before the break. And after the break, we’ll see where we are.
“Not to say this (sitting one game on back-to-backs) is going to be a definite every time. But right now, this is what we’re doing.”
That cautious approach will only be put to the test four more times. That’s how many back-to-backs are left after the All-Star break.
Porzingis, by the way, spent pregame getting up shots at Spectrum Center, just as he normally would before a game if he were playing.
Pending move? The Mavericks stayed quiet at the trade deadline, but they may be angling to make a move on the buyout market, according to several reports.
Charlotte waived two players on Saturday – Marvin Williams and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Williams is widely believed to be going to Milwaukee.
Kidd-Gilchrist has been linked to the Mavericks, who would like to fortify their defense on the wings and see Kidd-Gilchrist as a potential option, reports have said.
So what kind of player would they be getting if it happened?
“No. 1, a competitor,” Hornets’ coach James Borrego said. “Absolute competitive kid. Defensive minded, team guy. Whatever the team needs, he’s willing to do. Class act, works hard, competes, an incredible teammate. And offensively, he’ll give you what he has. He’s a guy that can fit into a system. And I think he’ll fit nicely wherever he goes.”
Borrego added that a change of scenery might not hurt.
“We all expand and grow in new environments,” he said. “One of the greatest things that happened to me is I left San Antonio after seven years. I go to New Orleans. And you grow tremendously. I left probably the most comfortable, most stable organization in the NBA. I went to probably the most unstable, uncomfortable – but I learned and grew from that. It was fantastic for me.
“And all these guys will do the same. A new environment, new challenges, new voices, new systems – it’ll force both those guys to grow. And they’ll do great.”
Carlisle said he’s aware of the scuttlebutt nationwide about Kidd-Gilchrist, and said: “He’s a tenacious, winning player, in my recollection of him. I know where you’re going with this. And there’s nothing to talk about.”