Now that the Dallas Mavericks are down to just three players 6-10 or taller, that makes Maxi Kleber that much more important.

Kleber (6-10) joins Kristaps Porzingis (7-3) and Boban Marjanovic (7-4) as the only players on the Mavs’ roster available to play center when they restart their 2019-20 season July 31 game against the Houston Rockets. Dwight Powell is out for the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery to repair his torn right Achilles tendon, while Willie Cauley-Stein opted not to enter the bubble in Orlando after his daughter was born on July 7.

But coach Rick Carlisle has faith that Kleber can play the center position effectively.

“As you may recall in the game against New Orleans – (five) games before the hiatus – we had him starting and guarding Zion Williamson,” Carlisle said of Kleber. “He’s just very unique.

“He has the quickness and the size to defend guys like (Williamson) and (Milwaukee’s) Giannis (Antetokounmpo) and some other guys that are really unusually difficult matchups.”

In that March 4 game against New Orleans, Kleber played 39 minutes and finished with five points, seven rebounds, four assists and a season-high tying five blocks in the Mavs’ 125-123 overtime victory. That includes a terrific first-half block of a shot by Williamson.

In fact, the Mavs blocked 11 shots in the first half of that game. That’s the most blocks they’ve collected in one half in their 40-year history.

By the way, Kleber is known for being fearless and trying to block every shot when an opponent attacks the basket. Sometimes he gets there and is successful protecting the rim, and sometimes he’s not.

“Obviously a little athleticism helps you out, but if you want to stop your opponent – and that’s the approach that I have coming into the game — even if I have a disadvantage on somebody running at me trying to dunk it, I still go for the block shot,” Kleber said. “I’d rather try it and take two points away than not try.

“I don’t care about being on a poster every once in a while.”

Kleber is averaging 9.2 points and 5.4 rebounds in 25.7 minutes this season. He also is second on the team in blocks with 1.2 per contest, and led the team in games played with 66 of the 67 games the Mavs have in the books.

“We went through a stretch in the season where KP and Maxi were our two (centers),” Carlisle said. “When Dwight got hurt – I think it was before we got Willie – we were playing smaller.

“But both of those guys are stretch-fives that can drive the ball, and it’s a spacing problem for opposing defenses. Maxi’s versatility is one of the really important aspects of our team.”

Kleber is shooting 45.9 percent from the field this season, 37.4 percent from 3-point range and 86.3 percent from the free throw line. He unquestionably is a threat from anywhere on the court.

“Even like the first couple of days in Dallas when we got back to practice (last month) I could work a lot on my shooting, because the game shots and conditioning was not in question yet,” Kleber said. “Every time I have more time to work on my technique and stuff that obviously helps me right now, I can feel it in my shot right now, too.

“Once you play up and down, mistakes happen in your shot and you can’t really get them out during the season. But when you focus on technique stuff like you could lately, it definitely helps me.”

But there is definitely a balancing act, Kleber admits, when he’s focusing on his offense while also trying to play some lockdown defense.

“For sure it gets you tired,” he said. “Sometimes you can feel your legs, especially when you fight against stronger guys.

“I remember, for example, the Pelicans’ game (and battling Williamson) was really intense on my legs. But you get used to it. That’s why I don’t handle the ball on offense.”

The Mavs have gone through six practices while in Orlando, and will be back on the court on Saturday after taking Friday off.

“Overall in the practices, there’s a whole different energy because everybody is just so pumped to finally play five-on-five,” Kleber said. “It definitely feels like a new preseason and like you had some time off to get your mind off basketball, so everybody’s got the new energy, and obviously myself as well.

“The No.1 thing right now is to just get in good shape, stay healthy, and then get back to where we were when we left off. We were a really good offensive team, we’re going to keep working on that, but try to get better on defense. We do a lot of defensive drills just to get better there. The competition is really good right now. Everybody is competing hard, we’ve been playing really good, so is been fun so far.”

Kleber also is having some fun off the court. He brought the autobiography of Albert Einstein with him, along with his gaming laptop and electronic piano, and also has dabbled in some golf and fishing while in Orlando.

“I honestly have never been fishing in Germany, so that was like one of the few times in America,” Kleber said. “I’ve been a couple of times in Dallas before.

“The fish (bite) really quick here, so even I could catch a fish. It was my first big fish that I ever caught, so I’m excited and I’m for sure going again.”

Carlisle is just happy he can turn to Kleber for some solid play inside the middle for the Mavs.

“His conditioning is great,” Carlisle said. “He took great care of himself  during the hiatus. He really committed during the individual workouts, and he’s shooting the ball beautiful.”

Twitter: @DwainPrice

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