Mavs make splash with series of moves to acquire Nerlens Noel at trade deadline

DALLAS — Although a day of wheeling and dealing at Thursday’s NBA trade deadline led to plenty of roster movement, the Dallas Mavericks feel like they set themselves up to compete now and for seasons to come by adding a young and athletic big man.

Thursday, the Mavericks (22-34) announced that they had officially waived The Colony native and three-time All-Star point guard Deron Williams, clearing up a roster spot and more playing time for the team’s young guards. Dallas also acquired 22-year-old Nerlens Noel from the Philadelphia 76ers, sending away veteran center Andrew Bogut, second-year pro Justin Anderson and a protected first-round draft pick in exchange. The Mavs now hope to work Noel into the fold quickly, looking to claw their way into playoff contention in the process. And with another contributor to add to their emerging young core now on the roster, the Mavericks believe they picked up a building block for the future.

“It was great having Deron and his family back home in Dallas for the better part of two seasons,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said in a statement after the team waived Williams. “At this time the decision has been made to focus on playing our young guys, and the organization felt that giving Deron the freedom to choose his next team was the right thing to do. Deron still plays at a high level, and I believe he will be a difference-maker for a contending team down the stretch of this season. We wish him and his family the very best.

“In Justin Anderson, Philadelphia has acquired a high-class person and multiple-position player who has made great strides over his first two years. We thank Justin for his hard work and commitment to the Dallas Mavericks’ culture, and wish him the best. Nerlens Noel gives us something we desperately need — a young big who is a high-level rim protector and lob threat and has a high basketball IQ. We look forward to getting him to Dallas and integrated with our team as soon as possible.”

On the season, the 6-foot-11 Noel is averaging 8.9 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.5 steals and .9 blocks a game, clocking 19.4 minutes an outing in a mostly reserve role during his 29 appearances. The former Kentucky standout and No. 6 overall pick of New Orleans during the 2013 draft is also shooting a career-high 61.1 percent from the field, giving the Mavericks an above-the-rim option in the interior.

Noel has averaged 10.2 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 1.6 blocks for his young career, starting 140 of 171 total games. He’ll now join a Dallas frontline that already features 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki, adding depth to the center position after the migration of Bogut. And although Nowitzki admits that he had mixed emotions when he first learned of the trade after losing two teammates, the 7-footer looks forward to integrating an athletic big man that can help the Mavs win immediately.

“Well, he’s an athletic big,” Nowitzki said while praising the acquisition of Noel. “He’s young, and he’s  got a lot of potential. You know, he’s a rim protector, he’s long and he can finish around the rim. I think that’s what they were looking for. You obviously always hate to see teammates go. I love Bogut, and I love Justin. [Anderson] is a hard-working kid with a bright future. But in a deal, that’s just how it works. You have to give something to get something, so I wish those guys the best of luck. They gave everything they had here, and we’ll move forward.

“You know, we’re obviously trying to compete,” Nowitzki added. “No matter who wears this jersey, we’re going to go out there and try to win these games. We don’t play to lose. I think no competitor plays to lose, so whoever is out there and whoever is healthy is going to go out there and battle it out to see where we end up towards the end.”

Note: The Mavericks will now begin play after the All-Star break on Friday night in Minnesota, taking on the Timberwolves. The season series is tied at 1-1. The game will tip off at 7 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest and 103.3 FM ESPN. The game will also air in Spanish on KFLC AM 1270.

The Mavs return to their home floor on Saturday, hosting the New Orleans Pelicans. The season series is tied at 1-1. The game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest and 103.3 FM ESPN. The game will also air in Spanish on KFLC AM 1270. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by visiting Mavs.com, or by calling (214) 747-MAVS.

Injury updates:

J.J. Barea (left calf strain) — out

Game 46: Mavs at Thunder

Highlights: Harrison Barnes scores 31 points

Watch all 31 of Harrison Barnes' points Thursday against the Thunder.

Deron Williams has thrived since returns of Dirk, Bogut

Deron Williams has been the best pick-and-roll point guard in the NBA this season.

That’s a bold claim to make, of course, especially if you’ve watched any of what James Harden has done this season in Houston, or what Steph Curry does every night, and the list goes on. There are a lot of terrific point guards in the league right now, and offenses rely more than ever on the spread pick-and-roll to generate points, and they are doing it efficiently — so efficiently, in fact, that the league has taken notice.

But yep, Deron Williams is the most efficient of them all to this point.

The Mavs point guard is creating 1.177 points per possession this season in possessions deriving from the pick-and-roll, per Synergy Sports. (In other words, when a possession begins with a pick-and-roll involving him as the point guard, and ends when either he or someone else shoots as a direct outcome of the play.) Of the 122 players in the NBA with at least 100 such possessions, Williams’ 1.177 PPP mark ranks at the very top of the list, and the gap between Williams and second-place Tony Parker, 0.079 PPP, is larger than the gap between second and 17th place.

Williams has long had a reputation for being one of the best pick-and-roll point guards in the NBA. But what about this season is so different? How has his efficiency taken such a huge leap, up to 1.177 points per possession this season after just 0.932 last season?

Part of it has to do with his increased comfort level in general. This is the first season he’s played for the same head coach in two straight seasons since 2010, during his days with the Utah Jazz. Health could very well have something to do with it, as well. But any time you’re taking a point guard’s numbers into consideration, you must also consider the personnel around him. Are there shooters? Quality big men? Good spacing? All of those factors can make a significant impact on that player’s effectiveness. In the Mavs’ case, particularly since the returns of Dirk Nowitzki and Andrew Bogut, Williams’ club has been able to check off every box for him. All he’s had to do is make the right decision.

Dirk Nowitzki’s nearly full-time switch to the center position has further opened up the offense. For nearly 20 years, he’s been a floor-spacing menace to opposing defenses, able to dictate the coverage simply by standing still on the wing or atop the arc. Until this season, though, he was doing it as a power forward almost 100 percent of the time. This season, however, nearly half his minutes have come at the 5, per Basketball-Reference.

What does that do for the offense?

Pulling a center 25 feet from the rim is like sticking a point guard down on the block: It makes him uncomfortable. No disrespect to the defense, of course, but it puts the offense at an overwhelming advantage to space the floor with good 3-point shooting at every position and then isolate the center in space. This is Tyson Chandler, still one of the top interior defenders in the league. But on the perimeter, he’s helpless against the Williams/Nowitzki 1-5 pick-and-roll.

That’s Mav-on-former-Mav crime right there. Chandler knows better than just about anyone how dangerous Nowitzki can be on the outside if left unguarded. Devin Booker slid over to contest the shot as best he could, but at 7 feet tall, the German wasn’t bothered.

Naturally, after seeing something like this on film, a center will think it’d be best to simply hug Nowitzki — as another former Dirk ally, Zaza Pachulia, does below — and hope someone else can stop Williams’ drive. The only problem, though, is typically when a guard penetrates, it’s the center’s job to contest. By pulling him from the lane, there’s no one to stop dribble penetration from reaching the rim.

This is playing in huge amounts of space, but Dallas can condense the floor to present even more difficult decisions for a center. In the play below, Nowitzki is the power forward but is guarded again by Chandler. Watch what happens as he sets a ball-screen for Williams and then back-pedals to the free throw line.

Chandler’s instincts, as well as basic defensive philosophy, tell him to abandon Nowitzki to stay in front of Williams. To hug Nowitzki here is to surrender a layup, guaranteed. There is simply not enough time for any other player to help against Williams’ drive. But Nowitzki escapes unguarded and disregarded to the mid-range, where he’s hit thousands and thousands of jumpers in his career. There’s no solution for the defense, either. If P.J. Tucker rotates too quickly to Dirk, Harrison Barnes will be all alone on the wing for an open 3.

The Mavericks have shown they can open the floor up even more than this, however. The higher the screen, the more space there is underneath for Williams to roam, and the greater the strain on the defense to scramble.

In the play above, Nowitzki sets his screen near midcourt. Williams then sprints toward Dragan Bender, Nowitzki’s defender, and puts him on his heels. Brandon Knight thinks he’s out of the play for a split-second, then briefly plays the passing lane, then finally catches up to Williams. By then, Nowitzki is comfortably standing 18 feet from the rim waiting for the pass.

That play above is the future of the NBA, in my opinion. James Harden already utilizes extremely high screens to get up to full speed by the time he’s reached the 3-point arc. As more and more athletic players reach the NBA, they’ll be able to cover more ground in fewer strides, so why not pull the pick-and-roll out to 40 feet instead of 30? (I don’t envy defenses.)

Andrew Bogut has shown, though, that you don’t need to set a screen 40 feet from the basket just to create an easy jump shot. Rather, all you need to do is set a monster screen and remove one defender from the play.

It doesn’t get much easier than that in the NBA.

Nowitzki and Bogut aren’t the only options in the pick-and-roll. Dwight Powell has scored 1.152 points per possession as a roll man this season, with that number trending upward. Harrison Barnes, meanwhile, has scored a ridiculous 1.246 PPP in 61 possessions as a roll man. He’s 33 of 55 from the field — yes, 60 percent — in those situations, with nearly all of them coming on jump shots, not dunks. The fade to the corner has become a favorite of his. He’s 20 of 34 on no-dribble jumpers in the pick-and-pop, per Synergy.

And things become unfair when the Mavs use both Barnes and Nowitzki in combination to set a double-screen, otherwise known as a drag screen, at the top of the arc.

Williams dribbles horizontally, parallel to the baseline, leaving it up to the Suns defenders to commit to one thing or another before making his move. Marquese Chriss initially switches off Barnes to slow Williams’ attack, but he’s under the impression that Eric Bledsoe will eventually get back over to help him. Bledsoe can’t leave Barnes open, though, and we already know there’s no way Chandler is leaving Dirk, which means once Chriss leaves Williams alone, he’s got a wide-open 3-pointer.

Williams was 4 of 5 from deep last night and is shooting 43.1 percent from beyond the arc in his last 12 games. During that time he’s scored at least 20 points six times and has dished out at least eight assists five times, including 12 last night.

There’s never been a question about Williams’ ability to read the defense and distribute the ball. Similarly, there’s never been a question about Nowitzki’s ability to shoot open jumpers. Bogut has been one of the biggest screeners in the league for a decade. Barnes has answered every question about his game and then some this season. So, naturally, when those players pair up, good things will tend to happen.

In Williams’ case, he’s been better at what he’s doing than anyone else in the NBA this season.

Mavs’ lineup shakeup at center sparked starters, second unit Tuesday against Washington

DALLAS — Although it might not prove to be a long-term solution for the Dallas Mavericks going forward this season, the team did find success during Tuesday’s 113-105 win over Washington after shaking up the starting lineup at center.

Opting to bring veteran big man Andrew Bogut off the bench and sliding 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki to the center position in the first unit, the Mavericks (11-24) thrived while spacing the floor in the starting lineup. The move also opened up the floor for Mavs leading scorer Harrison Barnes as both a scorer and a facilitator, allowing the do-it-all forward to produce one of his best all-around performances of the season with 26 points on 8-of-18 shooting, seven rebounds and a career high-tying five assists. And although the move may not prove to be permanent, Nowitzki admits that there were plenty of positives to take from the alteration to the lineup.

“We’ve got to find ways to win right now whatever the rotation may be,” Nowitzki explained after scoring 11 points and grabbing nine rebounds while playing mostly at the center position. “You know, whosever’s number is called has got to be ready. We want to make some ground up this month. Like I said, the schedule has slowed down, we’ve got more home games, and we’ve got more breaks in between. So, whoever is out there and whoever’s number is called with the first and second five has got to be ready.”

With Nowitzki at the five position, the Dallas starters connected on 24 of 52 from the field as the Mavericks shot 47.4 percent as a team. The Mavs also benefitted from Bogut in the second unit, ending the game with a 43-15 advantage in bench scoring. More importantly, the Mavericks collected a coveted win on their own floor to begin a three-game homestand. And despite never playing the center position for extended minutes in his illustrious 19-year career, Nowitzki says he’s willing to do whatever is asked of him if it leads to more victories.

“There were obviously spurts throughout my entire career where I played some five in smaller lineups and in winning situations, but I really haven’t played the five consistently. But it’s OK,” Nowitzki said in regard to his move to center after a 4-of-9 shooting night. “Obviously, you’re a little more involved in some rebounding situations and a little more in pick-and-roll coverages. Nowadays with the four, there’s a lot more spread fours out there, so you’re a little less on the perimeter usually. But I still think once I’m fully back and healthy I want to play some four on occasion. I played with Dwight (Powell), who is then the five and guards the four, but I play the four on offense, so I still think there will be occasions when me and [Bogut] are playing together. We’ll have to just wait and see how it goes, but I’ve got to be ready for both and know the plays at both positions. And whenever my number is called, I’ve got to be ready.”

Although he admits that his migration to the second unit is still a work in progress, Bogut says it’s also a necessary move in order for the Mavericks to keep up with the growing trend in the NBA.

For his career, Bogut has started 648 of his 663 total games, averaging 10.1 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.6 blocks an outing. He started his first 18 games with the Mavericks this season prior to Tuesday night, giving the team a solidified force inside while averaging 3.3 points and a team-best 9.7 boards. However, after seeing the Mavs struggle with him and Nowitzki together in the starting lineup, Bogut willingly put the success of the team ahead of his personal statistics by accepting a bench role. And after asking Mavs coach Rick Carlisle to come off the bench, Bogut’s interior play could prove to be an added dimension for the second unit.

“I’m not sure yet,” Bogut candidly said. “We’ll wait and see. Give it three or four more games, and we’ll see how it goes. It is what it is, and we won the game (Tuesday night). Obviously, no one likes coming off the bench, but it’s better than starting the game for a minute and then getting dragged out just to appease me, so it’s one of those things.  It’s tough to play [Nowitzki] and I together for long stretches, because of the rotations and the way the league is going, and Washington is a prime example. They play (Markieff) Morris at the four all game, and that’s a huge mismatch for me or Dirk, so it’s just one of those things.”

But while Bogut’s move to the bench could benefit the second unit, Carlisle says it’s Nowitzki’s ability to stretch the floor at center that will prove to be most beneficial for Barnes and the rest of the Dallas starters.

With Barnes operating in the high post as the starting power forward, the Mavericks’ offense thrived as Nowitzki pulled his defender away from the basket. Meanwhile, the Mavs found success from beyond the three-point line as a team, connecting on 17 of 32 behind the arc. And despite being outscored in the paint 50-22, Carlisle says the Mavericks could continue to stick with the new-look lineup Thursday night against the Phoenix Suns.

“The important thing is that we’re finding some lineups that work well together,” Carlisle confessed. “Coming into this season, most people thought Barnes was a three that could play four, and what he’s showing now is he’s a true four and he’s a real offensive weapon at the four who can play three and who holds his own, despite being a little bit undersized at times. You know, any time Dirk is out there, it helps space the floor, and it’s going to give Barnes more room to operate.

“You know, I don’t like this from the standpoint that Bogut is a starting center,” the coach added. “Bogut is a top six or seven center in the game, and he shouldn’t be coming off the bench. But the fact that he is not only willing to but basically offered to tells a lot about his character and how much he wants to win, and how much he likes being in Dallas. I mean, this is not a normal occurrence for a guy who is a 12 or 13-year player in the league, and he’s a very proud guy, too. And he deserves to start. They both do. But we haven’t been able to make it work well, so this is where we were. Come Thursday, who knows what will come out of the microwave?”

Note: The Mavericks will now return to American Airlines Center on Thursday night, hosting the Phoenix Suns. The game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest and 103.3 FM ESPN. The game will also air in Spanish on KFLC AM 1270. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by visiting Mavs.com, or by calling (214) 747-MAVS.

Injury updates:

J.J. Barea (left leg muscle strain) — out

Mavs defense plays historically well in 86-75 win vs. Milwaukee

They’ve said it basically ever since the end of last season: If the Mavs are going to win games, they’re going to do it with defense.

And Sunday night we finally saw what they meant.

Dallas limited Milwaukee to just 75 points in an overtime game, the fewest the team has allowed in a game that goes to extra time in franchise history. The Bucks scored just one point in overtime, also a Mavericks franchise record.

“We just got stops,” said Harrison Barnes, who scored a career-high 34 points as well. “Everyone across the board — Justin, Wes, J.J., Dorian and Bogut. We just had everyone coming in and helping us get stops. I think that really is what allowed us to just grind away.”

Simply put, the Mavericks turned last night’s contest into a halfcourt affair. The Bucks have the athletes to push the tempo and play back-and-forth basketball, but Dallas did not allow them to. Of Milwaukee’s 100 possessions, just 10 of them came in transition, per Mavs analytics. And on the Bucks’ 90 halfcourt possessions, they scored just 63 points, or 0.70 points per possession. For the game, Dallas’ 71.2 defensive rating was a single-game best since a November 2014 win against Philadelphia.

“We had a plan, we stuck to it, and then we got down early,” head coach Rick Carlisle said. “But we stayed the course, we stuck to it, and we wanted to make these guys have to beat us in the halfcourt. These games get very physical and a little ugly, because it’s hard to get shots. But in our situation right now, this is what we’ve got to do to give ourselves a win.”

There’s a precedent in place for the Mavs to find success in these grind-it-out kinds of games. Dallas was 22-8 last season in games played at a pace of 95.0 possessions per 48 minutes or slower, per NBA Stats, and last night’s tilt was played at a crawling 92.63 poss/48, the second-slowest game of the Mavs’ season.

The Mavericks believe their halfcourt defense is stout enough to withstand almost any opponent, and their defensive numbers in those situations have been on the upswing as of late. Dallas now has the 13th-best defense in terms of efficiency in the halfcourt, according to Synergy Sports, at 0.895 points per possession allowed. Meanwhile, the Mavs rank 28th in transition defense. It’s vital that this team dictates the tempo.

One source of the team’s success last night was rookie Dorian Finney-Smith, who played more than 31 minutes in what was essentially his NBA debut. Before Sunday, the 23-year-old had zero points and one rebound to his name, but by the end of the contest he forced Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo into an off-balance fallaway to win the game in regulation.

Maybe the Greek Freak was going to take a step-back all along. Or maybe Finney-Smith forced him into a shot he didn’t want to take, simply by staying patient. “Just keep the ball in front of me, don’t foul, and contest the shot,” the Mavs rookie said after the game, walking through his thought process on that final play. “I did a great job, he missed the shot, and it forced overtime.”

All together the Mavericks allowed just 53.2 points per 100 possessions when Finney-Smith played on Sunday, per NBA Stats. And this came in his first meaningful minutes as a pro. Not bad for a first impression.

Another was center Andrew Bogut, who put together his most effective performance as a Maverick, scoring just two points but grabbing 16 rebounds and drawing two charges. Through Sunday’s games, no one in the NBA had drawn more charges than the first-year Maverick.

“I think that discourages them, takes them out from what they want to do,” Bogut said. “And if we can clog the lane up and just make things tough defensively, it’s kind of like a pinball effect, where every time they come in the lane they get hit by someone, contested at the rim, or someone’s taking a charge. It gets annoying to play against a team like that after a while.”

Charges also result in a turnover, and Dallas forced plenty of those on Sunday. Milwaukee gave it away 27 times, tied for the most by a Mavs opponent since March 2004. The club is 16-4 when forcing at least 20 turnovers since the beginning of the 2014-15 season, per Basketball-Reference.

If the Mavericks continue defending the way they did against the Bucks, they’ll quickly become a very annoying opponent. And that’s exactly what they want to be.

Rick Carlisle voted league’s best at making in-game adjustments

A coach is a motivator, but also a thinker. And no one in the NBA — if you ask the GMs, that is — plans, executes, and shifts strategy better than Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle.

The franchise’s all-time wins leader was voted the head coach who makes the best in-game adjustments in NBA.com’s annual GM survey, earning 41.4 percent of the vote, and edging San Antonio boss Gregg Popovich (31.0 percent) and Boston’s Brad Stevens (13.8 percent). He was also one of six to receive votes for the head coach who runs the best offense, finishing tied for third with new Houston playcaller Mike D’Antoni.

If there’s anything we’ve learned from watching Carlisle work over the years, it’s that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to win a game, even if it means benching stars or calling on the deepest reserve to make an impact. His mantra of “stay ready” has motivated backup players to work hard no matter the playing time he’s been receiving, because he could always get a chance in the next game, depending on the circumstances. For example, Salah Mejri had barely played an NBA minute last season before entering late in the game at home against Oklahoma City, but he went on a shot-blocking rampage and led a charge to help the Mavericks turn a double-digit deficit into a one-shot game.

Carlisle also finished second in the best head coach in the NBA category, with Popovich receiving 83.3 percent of the vote. Carlisle earned 13.3 percent. The Mavs’ head caoch had finished second to Popovich in the in-game adjustments category every year since 2011.

Mavs names pop up elsewhere in the survey. After being named the league’s top international player every year but two since 2004, Dirk Nowitzki (22.4 percent of the votes) was surprisingly voted third-best behind Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo (27.6 percent), a first-time winner, and Memphis’s Marc Gasol (24.1 percent). Nowitzki finished second to Gasol in voting last season, but the Spanish center suffered a significant injury which prematurely ended a terrific season. Nowitzki, meanwhile, averaged a team-high 18.3 points to go along with 6.5 rebounds per game, one of the best seasons by any player his age in NBA history.

Antetokounmpo, also known as “The Greek Freak,” is still just 21 years old, but GMs and fans alike are captivated by his athleticism and potential. At nearly seven feet tall, Antetokounmpo began playing point guard for the Bucks toward the end of last season and could continue those duties in 2016-17. He averaged 16.9 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game for Milwaukee. All that’s missing from his arsenal is a reliable 3-point shot; he’s just 28.0 percent from beyond the arc in his career.

Fellow international player Andrew Bogut appeared on the list, but in a different category: most underrated player acquisition. He received 10.3 percent of the vote, finishing third behind George Hill to Utah (24.1 percent) and Jeff Teague to Indiana (13.8 percent). That pair finishing 1-2 in the voting is interesting because they were essentially traded for each other in a three-team deal involving Teague’s former team, the Atlanta Hawks.

Bogut is considered a top-flight interior defender and a very good defensive rebounder, and his passing skills have already dazzled Mavs fans just a couple weeks into preseason. The man he replaced at center, Zaza Pachulia, also received votes in the underrated acquisition department, as he’s now in Golden State with Bogut’s former team.

Mavs hope to narrow down rotation during final two preseason games

DALLAS — Although Friday’s 112-107 loss at Phoenix was just the first time the Dallas Mavericks’ five starters stepped on the floor together this preseason, the team believes it can still have its top contributors ready for the upcoming season with extended minutes during the final two exhibition contests.

Clocking exactly 19 minutes and 38 seconds together during Friday’s loss, point guard Deron Williams, swingman Wesley Matthews, versatile forward Harrison Barnes, 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki and center Andrew Bogut saw their first game action together. The starting five also showed its unfamiliarity with each other in the opening quarter of that game, combining to committing six of the team’s eight turnovers during the period. However, with opportunities for the starters to make amends for their lackluster play Wednesday night at home against Houston and Friday on the road versus Denver, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle says the group will see plenty of time together during the final two preseason outings as he begins to examine his regular-season rotation.

“Well, we’ve just got to play better, for one thing. We’ve been inconsistent. You know, our starters need to keep playing together, develop chemistry and a collective force to play with,” Carlisle explained following the team’s Monday practice.

He added: “We want to be healthy Opening Night, and we want to have a pretty good idea what our rotation is going to be. The next couple of games is going to be key for that.”

All told, the Mavericks’ starters combined to shoot 16 of 38 from the field against the Suns, committing 10 of the team’s 18 turnovers. Much of those offensive miscues came from a lack of familiarity, according to Bogut, as the unit works in two newcomers from a season ago. Now, with two exhibition matchups remaining before games begin to count in the standings, the new-look Mavs will try to utilize their experience and veteran leadership in order to jell together on the court.

“It’s a lot of guys that know how to play. It’s a lot of guys that have been in winning situations, so we have no excuse,” Bogut proclaimed. “We know what it takes, and this is a locker room that has a lot of pride. I think it will help us in the long run. We need as much time under our belt as we can get, just to get a rhythm and learn how to play together. A lot of us haven’t played with each other before, and we’ve just got to get our rotations down. I mean, it obviously puts pressure on coach [Carlisle] as well, ’cause he’s got to figure out who’s playing the bulk of the minutes, who are guys I can throw in every now and then, substitution patterns and all of that, so that’s what these preseason games are for.”

Playing 10 players in the first half of Friday’s contest, Carlisle may have already began trimming his rotation in anticipation for the regular-season opener on Oct. 26 at Indiana. That said, the Mavs were also playing without veteran reserve guard J.J. Barea (rest) and big man Quincy Acy (right foot injury), who both figure to be in the rotation when the upcoming season gets underway.

Meanwhile, the Mavericks’ roster currently sits at 20 after waiving big man Jameel Warney on Sunday and signing free-agent center Jaleel Cousins just 24 hours later. Still, despite needing to trim the roster down to at least 15 by Oct. 24, Carlisle says he will continue to focus on getting his top rotation players more minutes together on the court against a Houston team the Mavs will see four times during the regular season and twice within the first three games.

“The priority is the guys that are going to be the rotation guys,” Carlisle said. “The end of the roster, you know, we’ll figure that out. That’s not going to be a problem. We’ve just got to keep getting better each day. We had a very competitive day (Monday), which was good. And Houston presents some real tough challenges on defense, so we’ve got to get ramped up for that, ’cause we play them a couple of times early in the year.”

Note: The Mavericks will now home to host the Houston Rockets at American Airlines Center on Wednesday night. The game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on TXA 21 and 103.3 FM ESPN. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by visiting Mavs.com, or by calling (214) 747-MAVS.

Injury updates:

Quincy Acy (right foot injury) — out