When he was describing Maxi Kleber’s return from injury, coach Jason Kidd used the word “glue.”
He could not have been more accurate with that description, and not just for what Kleber provides on the court.
The 6-10 forward who now is serving as the top Mavericks’ big man alongside Kristaps Porzingis, is from Germany. Also, Kleber is a German word.
Translation into English?
“It means glue,” Kleber said of his last name on Sunday after a lively practice session at American Airlines Center.
“That’s very high praise from a coach (to be called the glue of the team). Obviously, there’s a lot of responsibilities and I take pride on the defensive end. But it’s not just one person, it’s everybody that has to talk and take a lot of pride on defense.”
Spoken like true Glue.
Kleber missed nine games earlier this month with a strained left oblique muscle.
He has steadily increased his production in his three games since returning. On Saturday against Washington, he had a season-best 13 points to go with six rebounds and a block. He’s averaging just over a block per game despite playing only 22 minutes, on average, as well as a career best 5.7 rebounds to go with just over 7 points per game.
He’s also providing juice for the team in other ways. On Saturday in the first half, he got loose on the weak side and rose up to hammer in a dunk. Before he’d even let go of the rim, he pointed over to the Mavericks’ bench, which was erupting in celebration.
“I dunked and saw the entire bench jumping up, so I just tried to get everybody hyped,” he said.
That’s part of the definition of being a glue guy – doing whatever it takes to get the team rolling in the right direction.
“He’s got a great personality,” coach Jason Kidd said. “You can see that come out on the floor – loves to compete. Being able to talk to his teammates (during a dunk) is pretty impressive, pointing over to those guys, he’s having fun and that’s what it’s all about.”
Kleber admits he is not in the best of shape yet. Missing three weeks of conditioning and games requires some time to regain stamina. But Kleber said he spent most of the offseason working on his cardio, in part to address occasional Achilles soreness.
“Obviously, I’m not in the best condition yet,” he said. “I’ve been out for a long time. So game condition is always a little different. But I’m going out there and play as hard as I can for as long as I can and sub myself out if I can’t go anymore.”
For the Mavericks, it always seems like a major task trying to win when Porzingis or Luka Dončić are out for whatever reason.
But it’s not easy without the Glue, either.
“He was playing his best basketball before he got hurt,” Kidd said. “You look at the time he was out, we definitely missed him. We always talk about the other two, KP or Luka being out, but when you talk about Maxi, he’s the glue on both ends for this team. So we missed him and we’re happy to have him back.
“I think Maxi’s very underrated for what he does for us as a team. He can play above the rim, change shots and guard one through five. I truly believe he’s the glue that will help us win games.”
Asked what makes the Glue the Glue, Kidd said: “I don’t know if he’s really appreciated. His basketball IQ defensively and offensively, the things he can do for you – play multiple positions. He’s not just a shooter, he creates space, he can put the ball on the floor, he can (make plays). He’s able to be a decision-maker.
“When we look at what we missed when he was out, it was all of those things.”
That’s what Glue does – hold everything together.