It’s been a long and grueling battle for Dwight Powell ever since the Dallas Mavericks’ center/forward ruptured his right Achilles tendon Jan. 21, 2020, against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Powell underwent surgery a week later, and only recently started playing like his old self again.
“Recovery and rehab from this type of injury takes an amazing amount of determination, wherewithal, mental fortitude, etcetera, along with an incredible amount of physical work,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “The challenging thing for Dwight is he is such a go-getter and such a gung-ho guy when it comes to these types of challenges that he had to wait several months before he could even get into the physical part of it, and so that part of it had to be super challenging.
“But the reality with Achilles injuries is that after they’re repaired there’s a significant length process, and it goes in steps. You hit certain plateaus and you keep going, then you hit another plateau, then you keep going. It appears that he’s very close to reaching the apex of the recovery.”
Before the injury, Powell was one of the Mavs’ more explosive players who also brought a lot of energy to the court. In addition, he was very proficient at successfully negotiating the back end of the lob dunk.
That part of Powell’s game returned in recent weeks.
Carlisle said in his conversations with Casey Smith – the Mavs’ director of player health and performance – recovering from an Achilles injury is a “mixture of Mother Nature with the right amount of work, explosive work, periods of rest. The All-Star break period this year was a period that Dwight felt was very helpful.”
And that’s not all.
“Believe it or not, the period where he had Covid was a period that was helpful to the recovery and rehab of the Achilles,” Carlisle said. “A lot of work, a lot of time, a lot of belief.
“He’s close to being completely on the other side of it, which is just an amazing testament to who he is as a player and what he means to our team.”
In Sunday’s 124-97 victory in Cleveland, Powell scored 12 points, grabbed nine rebounds, handed out four assists and blocked a season-high and a career-high tying four shots.
In the present: With the Mavs closing in on clinching a playoff berth, coach Rick Carlisle expressed a strong desire to just stay in the moment.
“My experience is that players are aware of the standings, players are aware of the situation in terms of seedings and all that kind of stuff,” Carlisle said. “The important thing is to stay in the present.
“You’ve got to be right here and now and you’ve got to be focused on the process. Really, as cliche as it sounds, it’s a thing where you go whistle to whistle.”
And the next game-time whistle the Mavs will hear comes Tuesday when they play at Memphis.
“Right now it feels like every time we wake up there’s another game,” Carlisle said. “Hey look, we’ve got to turn that into a positive thing.
“If you like playing games this is your season, this is your deal. Look at it that way.”
Sunday started a period where the Mavs will end the regular season by playing five games in eight days.
“The job of myself and the coaching staff is to do the best that we can do to have the rotation accurate in terms of keeping guys fresh, keeping guys that are in rhythm in the game and we’re not burning them out, keeping guys that have to be on standby involved as much as possible,” Carlisle said. “It can be highly complex when you think about all the little gyrations of things that are going on.
“The bottom line is where are we, what time is it and where we want to be in 10 minutes. It’s like hearing those Navy Seals talk about when they’re going through their heavy training. They’re just trying to get from breakfast to lunch. That’s the best way for us to approach it.”
Green provides the energy: Despite having his playing time being inconsistent, rookie guard/forward Josh Green has provided a much-needed punch whenever he’s able to get on the court.
“There’s been a lot of periods where he’s gotten no time,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “His work ethic has been exemplary. (Mavs shooting coach) Peter Patton has done a great job working with him on not only his shooting, but just game type simulation of shooting so he can be ready when the opportunities come about.
“This part of this season where everyone has played so many games and everyone is so immersed, often times the thing that can give you a little edge is just that extra bit of energy – a guy that’s going harder than everybody else, who’s getting a couple of loose balls.”
Green contributed four points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals last Tuesday against Miami in 24 minutes, collected four points, two boards and three steals in eight minutes this past Thursday against Brooklyn, and added six points and five rebounds in 26 minutes on Friday against Cleveland. He finished off his week in Sunday’s win in Cleveland with two points and four assists in 20 minutes.
Carlisle was impressed with the way rookie Nate Hinton and Green finished off Friday’s game against Cleveland.
“That wasn’t necessarily the plan going into the game, but it was an opportunity for those guys to get minutes,” Carlisle said. “They were doing a good job, they were earning the minutes as they were coming, and they both did things that showed tremendous growth with shot-making, finishing defense and unselfish play.
“I’m happy for those guys. They’ve got to stay ready because there are no real certainties right now with anything with the rotation. We’ve got a lot of different ways we can go. We can play big, we can play small and everyone just has to be on high alert and the guys have done a really good job of it.”
Happy Mother’s Day: Mavs coach Rick Carlisle and Cleveland Cavaliers coach JB Bickerstaff each sent out Happy Mother’s Day greetings prior to Sunday’s game.
“I’ve got well wishes for every mother out there,” Carlisle said. “We did a virtual face time gift for Abby Carlisle’s mom this morning, which was very nice.
“I talked to my mother today on the bus ride over and wished her a Happy Mother’s Day.”
Even though his dad, Bernie Bickerstaff, spent approximately five decades as either an NBA head coach or assistant coach, the Cavs coach said his mom was actually the coach of the family.
“In our house we call our mom the coach,” Bickerstaff said. “I can remember I was probably in the fifth or sixth grade where she was at the game and she was yelling at me to get the ball across half court. We were winning the game and I call myself stalling, so I told her that I’m stalling. She said, ‘Well, stall in the front court before you get a 10-second violation.’ But that’s my mom.
“She was there at every game. She never missed one. She was very supportive. She was real. She would always tell us the truth, but she always had our back at the same time. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her. Hopefully I’m a positive influence, and that has a lot to do with her as well. She was a school teacher for close to 20 years, so watching her sacrifice for kids helped teach and inspired me to be a coach and want to teach people and work with young people.”
Meanwhile, Carlisle rhetorically asked: “Where would we be without our mothers? The answer is we wouldn’t be here.
“I think that’s pretty strong and I think it reflects the importance of this day and what it means.”
The big turning point: Coach Rick Carlisle said a huge turning point in this season occurred when owner Mark Cuban talked to his team prior to the Feb. 6 home game against the Golden State Warriors.
Two days before that meeting with Cuban, the Mavs suffered a 147-116 loss at home to the Warriors, and their record dropped to 9-14. And since that meeting, the Mavs are a remarkable 31-14.
“A big important moment in our season was when Mark talked to them between the two Golden State games at home after we had been blown out in the first one when we came back from Atlanta on a very difficult back-to-back,” Carlisle said. “Mark addressed the team and expressed his belief in what the team could do.
“Hey look, we knew that it was all in front of us in terms of a more favorable schedule. But this was a major test to be in a hole and really be up against it really from the first third of the season going forward. It’s a real test of your wherewithal as a group.”
Carlisle gave a nod to his coaching staff, but noted that the credit goes to the players for staying tied together and not losing focus when things were going south a little over three months ago.
“They know that we believe in them,” Carlisle said. “Everybody is super positive, everybody does a great job of communicating and we all work constantly on being better communicators.
“The players have worked. They’ve worked and they’ve showed a belief in themselves.”
Briefly: Sunday’s 27-point win over Cleveland is the eighth time this season that the Mavs have won a game by 20 or more points. And seven of those have come since March 21. . .Kristaps Porzingis has missed six consecutive game with right knee soreness, and Maxi Kleber has sat out the past four games with right Achilles soreness. Kleber was listed as questionable for Sunday’s game, but ultimately did not play. “He’s making progress,” coach Rick Carlisle said of Kleber. “As things continue to go well, Tuesday or Wednesday are potentially in the equation.” The Mavs play in Memphis on Tuesday and are back home to host the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday.