If you like unpredictability, you should love these Mavericks.
And we’re not only talking about the results so far.
The new starting lineup that coach Rick Carlisle rolled out in Monday 113-100 win over Houston may or may not stay intact when the Mavericks resume play Thursday at Denver.
But even if it does, you can be certain that the lineup volatility is far from over.
Carlisle sent a strong message with his insertion of Willie Cauley-Stein and Maxi Kleber into the lineup against the Rockets that his search for defensive grit is not a hollow demand.
If the Mavericks go a few games without bearing their fangs on defense, things will change. And, of course, when Kristaps Porzingis returns, there will be more adjustments.
“Last year, going into the season, I talked to the team about fluidity and that we’re going to need them to handle lineup changes and things like that,” Carlisle said. “And it was the same this year. With KP starting the season rehabbing, there were going to be changes.”
And there will be more. Coaches always stress defense. But this year, it’s been a topic in every conversation that the Mavericks have had among themselves as they have built a 3-4 record through a challenging opening schedule.
And there is some evidence that harping on it has had some positive impact.
The Mavericks are 10th in overall defensive rating through seven games. That’s a considerable upgrade from 18th, which was their rating last season.
“I’ve been saying this a lot,” Carlisle said. “Defensively is where we’re going to make our ground this year. That’s just how it’s going to be. In the three games we’ve won, we’ve put a tremendous collective defensive effort. The other four, we haven’t and we’ve lost. It’s got to be who we are and we got to build on this somehow.”
Silas thankful for Mavs, Carlisle: The Mavericks exchanged a lot of elbow-bumps and well-wishes with Stephen Silas, the Rockets’ first-year coach who served two seasons on Carlisle’s staff as his offensive coordinator.
Silas said that seeing how Porzingis changed the game when he was on the court was a major reason he was so intrigued by the idea of adding center Christian Wood to the Rockets in the offseason.
“Me coming from Dallas and seeing the way that Kristaps Porzingis caused so many problems with his ability to shoot 3s and roll to the rim, is kind of how C-Wood can be,” Silas said before Monday’s game. “Right time, right place. He’s matured and he’s good. He’s really good.”
Wood backed that up with 23 points in Monday’s game, although he missed all five of his 3-point shots.
Silas also paid homage to Carlisle’s tutelage.
“If I didn’t work for him, I wouldn’t be here right now,” Silas said. “He took me under his wing and helped me get to this point. That’s just one little slice of the pie I learned working in Dallas. There’s so many parts of that organization and I cherish those two years with that group. It prepared me.
“(Carlisle) is a mentor of mine and someone who I learned so much from as far as running a team, coaching practices, working with guys individually, bringing guys into his office, but also working with the staff and giving his staff ownership.”
Shooting star: The Mavericks have not shot the ball well as a team in the firs seven games, but an exception to that rule is Maxi Kleber, who has been very good from long range (46.2 percent, 12-of-26).
“I take the shots that I get and a lot of shots I get are 3-pointers just because of the way we play,” Kleber said. “But I’m not against 2-point shots.”
Kleber plays both center and power forward, but with Porzingis out, he’s more often played center. Either way, he gets a lot of perimeter shots.
“A lot of times when you roll as a five guy, I try to drag another person so we have an open look either outside (with a pass) or for the guard who’s handling the ball,” Kleber said. “I want to improve my 3-point shooting and take the shots I get. I know a lot of shots I get will be 3-pointers. So I have to keep working on it.”
So far, so good. Kleber also had nine rebounds in his first start of the season Monday.
Tim Hardaway (40.7 percent) is the only other member of the rotation shooting above 35 percent from 3-point range.