For Dirk Nowitzki, finishing games has come secondary to Mavs’ young core getting crunch-time minutes

DALLAS — Although he admits that not being out on the court during crunch time for the Dallas Mavericks is something he’s yet to get accustom to, 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki has willingly sacrificed his playing time late in games to allow the team to develop its young contributors.

This season, Nowitzki is averaging just 12.2 points per game, which is his lowest total since his rookie year during the 1998-99 campaign. He’s also shooting 46.5 percent from the field and 41.2 percent from beyond the three-point line. However, with his fourth-quarter playing time limited to allow the Mavericks’ young contributors to gain experience, Nowitzki has been rendered to being the team’s lead cheerleader late in games. And while he admits that it’s been an adjustment, the 20-year veteran says he’s taken on a different role to help the franchise move forward in seasons to come.

“You know, it’s different. I mean, the new timeout rule hurts it a little bit, ’cause you used to have a million timeouts down the stretch, and you could just score one and get out. If they scored, then get out or get in. It’s just not happening anymore. It’s a little more free-flowing. You don’t have as many timeouts down the stretch, and it’s usually better for us to have a defensive lineup out there with Dwight (Powell) or Maxi (Kleber) some,” Nowitzki explained. “Usually teams all go small nowadays, especially down the stretch, and there’s five shooters out there, a lot of pick-and-rolls, and we feel like we need a little more mobile guy out there. And at times where there is a timeout, I’ll come back in and maybe spread the floor to help the guys score. But I’ve just been supporting the guys and trying to help them get the job done to get some wins.

“I mean, we’re losing, so most of the time it’s obviously hard to watch. I wish we’d be winning more, but we haven’t been great down the stretch. We’ve got to find ways to get the big stops. … And of course, it’s tough.”

This season, the 39-year-old Nowitzki is averaging 6.0 minutes in the fourth quarter, scoring 3.2 points per outing in the period on 49.1 percent shooting from the field and 41.2 percent from three-point range. According to NBA.com, that’s drastically down from the Mavericks’ 2010-11 title season when Nowitzki averaged 6.4 points on 49.8 percent shooting and 33.3 percent from three in 9.3 minutes per outing during the fourth quarter. That trend is likely to continue, coach Rick Carlisle admits, as the Mavericks (15-30) try to develop their young core. However, Carlisle also adds that Nowitzki could see additional time in the fourth period if the Mavs’ young contributors continue to struggle closing games.

“Well, you know, he can be (out there). A lot of it depends on situational matchups. You know, in our present situation, in many ways I feel it’s important for our young guys to experience these kinds of situations and go through it,” Carlisle confessed. “I’m very careful about extending his minutes, playing him crazy amounts of minutes in games where we quite frankly have to look at our overall picture and have to look at developing these young guys. Now, if the young guys just aren’t playing well, there’s going to be other guys in there. … But those guys need to go through it, learn and get better.”

Note: The Mavericks will now travel to Portland for Saturday’s matchup against the Trail Blazers. The game will tip off at 9 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 American Airlines Center on Jan. 22 against the Washington Wizards. Dallas leads the season series 1-0 after a 113-99 road win on Nov. 7. 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 groin strain) — out
Dorian Finney-Smith (left knee quadriceps tendinitis) — out
Seth Curry (stress reaction, left tibia) — out
Nerlens Noel (left thumb surgery) — out

The Fast Break: Mavs at Nuggets

Final: Nuggets 105, Mavs 102

Box Score | Highlights

Behind the Box Score

Dennis Smith Jr. recorded his ninth consecutive double-digit scoring game. It’s the longest such streak by any Mavs rookie since Marquis Daniels did it 11 straight times late in the 2003-04 season. (Smith’s also had stretches of eight and seven games at different times this season.) One more game with 10+ points and Junior will become just the ninth rookie in franchise history with 10 straight with 10 or more. He has no chance to break the record, though: Jay Vincent scored in double-figures a whopping 65 straight times during the 1981-82 season. That truly is a Mavs record that might never be broken.

Smith ended up with 25 points, his eighth game this season with 20-plus this season. With one more, he’ll tie Jason Kidd and Jim Jackson, who had nine apiece in 1994-95 and 1992-93, respectively. He was phenomenal, particularly in transition.

The Mavericks trailed 99-83 late in the fourth quarter but used a 14-2 run to pull to within 101-97 with under two minutes to go. They eventually pulled to within one point with 10 seconds left. This team does not go down without a fight.

Notebook

  • An injury to a reserve player typically doesn’t lead to a change in the starting lineup, but the Mavs have always done things a little differently. With J.J. Barea out with a left groin strain and Yogi Ferrell having started the last couple games, Dallas would have running short on playmakers off the bench if it stuck with the usual group. Rick Carlisle’s solution was to return back to the old starting lineup, replacing Ferrell with Maxi Kleber and reuniting the second-year guard with Devin Harris in the second unit. That put a little more responsibility on those guys’ shoulders, not only to replacing Barea’s scoring but also his playmaking to keep everyone involved. Devin Harris was able to hook up with Dwight Powell for an impressive dunk. (More on his scoring later.)

    Barea hopes to play Saturday against Portland, and fortunately the Mavericks have three days off until that game to get Barea up and running and treat any other aches and pains they have after a quick first half of the season. Three off days in between games will be their longest break in between games all season, and they won’t have another break this long (aside from the All-Star break) until March.

  • Devin Harris had one of his finest scoring nights of the season, pouring in 16 points in 18 minutes off the bench. It was one point off his season-high mark of 17, set on Dec. 29 against New Orleans. Harris has quietly been shooting the ball brilliantly as of late, after an inauspicious 19-game run from early November through mid-December during which he shot just 30.6 percent from beyond the arc. In the 13 games since, he’s shooting above 42 percent from 3-point land. No matter what he himself shoots, the team tends to play better when he’s on the floor than when he’s off. But when he’s shooting as well as he has been, understandably it makes him that much more valuable. Dallas is 6-7 in those 13 games and just 9-23 in the 32 preceding contests.

  • Maxi Kleber had an opportunity at extended minutes tonight for the first time since being replaced in the starting lineup, and he was able to take advantage of that time by making a couple nice highlight plays in the second half. First, he had a pretty emphatic block.

    The cool thing about this play is that, just seconds earlier, he committed a turnover. Instead of compounding one mistake with another by not getting back on defense, Kleber hustled back and made a play. A couple minutes later, karma rewarded him with his efforts by giving him a chance to throw down a vicious alley-oop dunk.

    More of that, big fella!

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (15-30) will play the Portland Trail Blazers (22-21 on Saturday at the Moda Center at 9 p.m. Central.

  • Game 45: Mavs at Nuggets

    Mavs players discuss and react to Martin Luther King Jr.’s impact and legacy on MLK Day

    Harrison Barnes addresses the crowd ahead of MLK Day

    Mavs forward Harrison Barnes addressed the crowd ahead of Saturday's game against the Lakers to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ahead of MLK Day!

    DALLAS – One of the most iconic figures in the world will be honored today when America observes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

    Dr. King was a civil rights leader who spent the lion’s share of his life fighting for equality. King received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for combating racial inequality by using non-violence, and has often been celebrated for inspiring peace and unity.

    “Martin Luther King is like a super hero, because without him I wouldn’t be able to sit right here and give y’all this interview, or even be in (the NBA) and put my family in the position that they’re in now,” Dallas Mavericks rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. said. “He’s done a lot.”

    Mavs center Dwight Powell also is appreciative of Dr. King, who touched a country from his distinguished ‘I Have A Dream’ speech to his many marches in search of equal rights.

    “We’re forever indebted to him and the people around him and his family for the things that they did — all the people in the (Civil Rights) Movement at that time,” Powell said. “They gave up a lot and they risked everything for the next generations.

    “They saw some change in their time, but not nearly as much as they deserved. So we’ve got to pay homage to him and pay homage to them for their sacrifice and the price they paid for us to have the life that we have now.”

    The following are the thoughts of the African-American players on the Mavs’ squad — in their own words — about Dr. King and his legacy:

    HARRISON BARNES

    WHAT DOES MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. MEAN TO YOU: I have a lot of respect for Martin Luther King Jr. and his commitment to fighting for equality in the community. I think when you look at everything that’s going on now in our society – whether it’s Black Lives Matter or whether it’s a protest – we’re still fighting for the same issue, as sad as that is. I think he was definitely just wise beyond his time.

    WHERE WOULD THIS COUNTRY BE WITHOUT THE SACRIFICES HE MADE: He gave his life for the cause. He put himself out there. He knew it was going to be tough, especially the way that blacks were treated back then. There are some parallels to how blacks are still mistreated now — the gap that we still need to close in terms of equality. But he did all of that in the face of diversity. I think that’s commendable, and you have respect and honor his legacy by continuing that work.

    WHAT DO YOU THINK WOULD BE HIS THOUGHTS IF HE WERE ALIVE TODAY: I’m sure he would be happy in some regards and disappointed in others. A lot of the things that he was fighting for and championing and trying to get people to be aware of, we’re still fighting for today, all these years later. I’m sure he can’t be happy about that.

    SETH CURRY

    WHAT DOES MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. MEAN TO YOU: Obviously he was a great person. He put a lot on the line and sacrificed a lot for the movement for African-Americans and just people in general in this country to make it a better place. It’s good to see the NBA and people all around the league paying respects to him.

    WHERE WOULD THIS COUNTRY BE WITHOUT THE SACRIFICES HE MADE: Obviously he knew his life was in danger. People tried to burn his house down. He knew his life was in danger on a daily basis because of the stance he was taking and what he was trying to do in this country, but he never wavered in his commitment to the cause.

    WHAT DO YOU THINK WOULD BE HIS THOUGHTS IF HE WERE ALIVE TODAY: I don’t think he would be happy with where (this country is) right now. Obviously we have a long ways to go as a country and as a place. But I think he probably would be proud to see some of the things that athletes and other people are doing to try to help the cause and make the country a better place.

    YOGI FERRELL

    WHAT DOES MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. MEAN TO YOU: The only thing I can say is he’s just inspirational, and (we’re) carrying on what he wanted. He saw a bigger picture. He looked into the future and saw where this nation and this world needed to go. So he just strived for equality for everybody, and I’m just thankful for him so I could be able to be here playing in Dallas, in this great league. He definitely paved the way for many African-Americans.

    WHERE WOULD THIS COUNTRY BE WITHOUT THE SACRIFICES HE MADE: That just means whatever you want in life you’ve got to make sacrifices for it and you’ve got to not do some things that you want to do in order achieve what you want to achieve. I’ve learned from that. That’s how I got here. I sacrificed a lot and stayed the course when things aren’t going to go your way. Obviously for him, being thrown in jail, that’s different. Bad things happened to him, he stayed his course because he saw the future and what he wanted.

    WHAT DO YOU THINK WOULD BE HIS THOUGHTS IF HE WERE ALIVE TODAY: He would probably say it’s definitely gotten a lot better. A lot of people would recognize him as one of those influential leaders that paved the way. But I feel like he still, even to this day, would probably be trying to fight for equality for everybody, not just for African-Americans.

    DORIAN FINNEY-SMITH

    WHAT DOES MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. MEAN TO YOU: He was a great public figure for us growing up learning about him at school and all he gave for this world. He’s one of the people where, if I could have three people that I could sit at the table and have a conversation with, he’s definitely one of the guys I’d like to have a conversation with.

    WHERE WOULD THIS COUNTRY BE WITHOUT THE SACRIFICES HE MADE: He put his life on the line. He was fearless. He didn’t do it with violence. He just wanted to peacefully change the world. Bless him and I’m just thankful for everything he did.

    WHAT DO YOU THINK WOULD BE HIS THOUGHTS IF HE WERE ALIVE TODAY: I think he would be happy for how much change has been since he was here. But there’s still a lot more that we can do.

    DEVIN HARRIS

    WHAT DOES MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. MEAN TO YOU: He’s definitely a historical figure who was fighting for our rights. Our ability to do what we do today, I think, is heavily on him and the group that marched for our equality, and I don’t think we celebrate him enough. I think there’s more that we can do, but I think we need to educate ourselves more to find our heritage and find out where we came from.

    WHERE WOULD THIS COUNTRY BE WITHOUT THE SACRIFICES HE MADE: He truly believed in what he was preaching. I don’t think a lot of us would be here and doing what we’re doing and living this fantastic life that we have without somebody like him that really fought for what he believed in.

    WHAT DO YOU THINK WOULD BE HIS THOUGHTS IF HE WERE ALIVE TODAY: I think we always can do better, we always can strive to be better. I think he believed in that. I don’t think we can settle for where we are. We’ve got to grow together as a country.

    WESLEY MATTHEWS

    WHAT DOES MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. MEAN TO YOU: He means a lot. For us to even be able to talk to each other right now, he means hope, he means progress. But it also means that we’ve got a lot of work to do, still, as a community and as a country.

    WHERE WOULD THIS COUNTRY BE WITHOUT THE SACRIFICES HE MADE: Who knows? As a black man I’m thankful that he did (make those sacrifices). I’m thankful that all those who were involved did as well. It’s kind of crazy to say this, but he could foresee the future.

    WHAT DO YOU THINK WOULD BE HIS THOUGHTS IF HE WERE ALIVE TODAY: I don’t really know how happy he would be, but we still have gone very far. And I’m very humble, very grateful for all the sacrifices that he and everybody that fought in the Civil Rights Movement — black, white — everybody that helped get us to this point, everybody that picked up the torch and continue to run with it. And again, it’s bigger than just black people. It’s black, white, everybody involved. But we’ve got a long ways to go. We can get there, but we’ve got to work, too.

    JOHNATHAN MOTLEY

    WHAT DOES MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. MEAN TO YOU: He’s meant a lot. He did a lot of revolutionary things and he changed the way the country looks at different cultures. He meant a lot to the country, diversity-wise.

    WHERE WOULD THIS COUNTRY BE WITHOUT THE SACRIFICES HE MADE: He made a lot of sacrifices, especially going the non-violent route. I think that’s just a testament to his character and everything he stands for, especially him going through all he went through and being able to stay non-violent. He gave his life for the cause, so that’s a testament to what type of character and the type of guy he was.

    WHAT DO YOU THINK WOULD BE HIS THOUGHTS IF HE WERE ALIVE TODAY: He would probably be on the same route still trying to change things, still trying to make some strides to make the country even greater and make it even more equal than it is today. I think his work probably never stops. It’ll keep going and keep pushing.

    NERLENS NOEL

    WHAT DOES MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. MEAN TO YOU: He means a lot to me just knowing the history and knowing how much he’s done for African-Americans and young African-Americans like myself. Just the whole foundation of freedom and the rights that we’re deserving to have – going back to the slavery days. I’m really appreciative of everything he’s done. Malcolm X, Rosa Parks – the really iconic people. And the people that weren’t as iconic. So it’s all really something to be honored for.

    WHERE WOULD THIS COUNTRY BE WITHOUT THE SACRIFICES HE MADE: You never really know how it could have been if he wasn’t in the position he was in. I think things were meant to be and he was meant to live for a purpose of just changing the culture of America in the ’60s, and he really stepped forward to be that face and really took all that punishment and all the backlash he did to put us where we are.

    WHAT DO YOU THINK WOULD BE HIS THOUGHTS IF HE WERE ALIVE TODAY: I definitely say he’d say it’s progression. You look at it and you see young individuals like myself that weren’t as blessed as they were when he was alive, so it’s been a lot of progression. I think gains are being made, but there’s still a long ways to go. But I think as long as it’s a conversation and the gap is closing, we’re headed in the right direction.

    DWIGHT POWELL

    WHAT DOES MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. MEAN TO YOU: He might be one of the most influential figures in our history. His legacy obviously lives on and the dream that he had is still something that we’re fighting for every day. He made a lot of change in this country for the better, and I think we — all around the world — are forever indebted to him for what he did. If the change didn’t take place when it did and how it did, I don’t think the opportunities that a lot of us have been provided in this generation would be available to us, just because the climate would be different and things would be different.

    WHERE WOULD THIS COUNTRY BE WITHOUT THE SACRIFICES HE MADE: He set a great example as far as what it means to serve and what it means to be selfless and give up some of what a lot of people think is their right in life. He gave up a lot just to have his voice heard and he made a lot of sacrifices – him and his family. He took a lot of risks to make this world a better place. I think we can take that as an example of how to live life, which is to serve others and to be an example for the next generation and influence change where it’s needed, regardless of the price.

    WHAT DO YOU THINK WOULD BE HIS THOUGHTS IF HE WERE ALIVE TODAY: I think he would be definitely happy in comparison to where (this country has) been, but he would still probably be fighting for continued progress and continued change. I think he would still be a major voice for the people and try to improve situations for minorities and for majorities and for everyone, really. I think he would be still fighting for progress.

    DENNIS SMITH JR.

    WHAT DOES MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. MEAN TO YOU: “I think Martin Luther King is definitely a hero. Without Martin Luther King I wouldn’t even be in this position I am now to play in this league. Just the sacrifices that he made are very important to everybody, not just black people. I think (it’s important) to the entire world. He showed everybody what true equality means. He was a very just man. I don’t think just giving him one day is really celebrating how much he’s done for everybody.

    WHERE WOULD THIS COUNTRY BE WITHOUT THE SACRIFICES HE MADE: A lot of that stuff, it’s hard to appreciate all of that. He’s one of the greatest men for our country’s history. I don’t think all his accomplishments can ever be fully appreciated. He died for this moment right here, for a lot of guys to be in unity.

    WHAT DO YOU THINK WOULD BE HIS THOUGHTS IF HE WERE ALIVE TODAY: He would be thrilled. Of course, everything is not perfect. Racism is still alive, but just the strides that were made from then to now is incredible, and I think it’s in large part due to him. The world ain’t perfect yet – probably never will be. But if he was here today I’m sure he’d be happy with the strides that’s been made.

    The Fast Break: Mavs vs. Lakers

    Final: Lakers 107, Mavs 101

    Box Score | Highlights

    Behind the Box Score

    Dallas outscored Los Angeles 32-15 in the second quarter. The +17 point differential was the team’s third-best quarter of the season, behind a +18 fourth quarter against Houston on Oct. 21 and a +19 third quarter at Memphis on Nov. 22.

    With a pair of free throws in the first half, Dirk Nowitzki moved out of a tie with Jerry West and into sixth place on the all-time free throws made list (7,162).

    Notebook

  • Dennis Smith Jr. put on a show in the first half, finishing a few highlight reel plays like the ones below.

    Smith was aggressive from the get-go, hitting three treys and attacking the lane, too, especially in transition. It’s a treat to watch him when he’s playing like that. It should be no surprise that he played so aggressively considering who lined up across from him: Lakers rookie point guard Lonzo Ball, the No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft. Smith loves the competitive aspect of facing off against fellow rookies from this illustrious class. Like Smith, Ball made a few really nice plays too. This batch of rookies has the chance to really be special. Smith recorded his seventh 20-point game.

  • The Lakers did a really good job of switching and building a wall in the second half to keep the Mavs out of the paint, which led to a ton of Mavs 3-point attempts. Unfortunately Dallas couldn’t consistently take advantage of those open looks, but still managed to mount a comeback in the final minute and force overtime. Down the stretch in regulation, the Mavs’ final two buckets — scored by Smith and Harrison Barnes — came at the rim.

    Those two have proven they can get in the paint when they’re aggressive enough. It was nice to see them able to create relatively easy shots in a very difficult situation. That’s the type of aggression Barnes (and Smith especially) must constantly play with in order to evolve into the type of closers they want to become.

    What’s Next

    The Mavs (15-29) will play the Denver Nuggets (22-20) on Tuesday at the Pepsi Center at 8 p.m. Central.

  • Mavericks sign Kyle Collinsworth to 10-day contract

    DALLAS – The Dallas Mavericks announced today that they have signed guard Kyle Collinsworth to a 10-day contract. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed. 

    Collinsworth (6-6, 210) originally signed a two-way contract with Dallas on Dec. 19 but was waived by the team on Jan. 10 after appearing in four games.

    Collinsworth spent the last two seasons with the Mavericks’ G-League affiliate, the Texas Legends. In 18 games (all starts) for the Legends in 2017-18, he averaged 11.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.7 steals in 35.8 minutes per game.

    After going undrafted in 2016 out of BYU, Collinsworth competed for Dallas at the 2016 NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. He spent the 2016 preseason with the Mavericks before being waived by the team on Oct. 22, 2016.   

    A native of Provo, Utah, Collinsworth played four years at BYU and averaged 12.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.6 steals and 30.9 minutes per game in 140 games. He was a three-time First Team All-WCC selection (2014-16) and set the NCAA career triple-double record with 12.

    Game 44: Mavs vs. Lakers