Wesley Matthews hopes Mavs’ young players return ‘angry, hungry’ next season

DALLAS — He served as a mentor for many of the Dallas Mavericks’ first- and second-year players throughout the 2016-17 season. Now, veteran swingman Wesley Matthews hopes his mentorship and guidance motivates the Mavericks’ young players to return to the court next season with a chip on their shoulders.

Starting out the ’16-17 schedule with a 4-17 record as injuries depleted their veteran-laden roster, the Mavs were forced to turn to a bevy of untested and unproven contributors often this season. The Mavericks’ unsung heroes then gained valuable experience on the court, despite missing out on the playoffs following a 33-49 season. Still, with the bitter taste of missing the postseason lingering his mouth, the 30-year-old Matthews says the Mavs must use their shortcomings as motivation going into next year.

“We need to stay healthy,” Matthews matter-of-factly said. “You know, in my two years here, it’s been a lot of what-ifs because of injuries, and that’s just part of the game. But everybody just needs to take the offseason to get better, let the frustrations of stuff that we could control kind of be in our minds and come back with a mentality that this isn’t going to happen again until later in the year.”

This season, Matthews averaged 13.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists an outing while playing in 73 games, connecting on 39.3 percent from the field and 36.3 percent from behind the three-point arc. Perhaps more importantly, Matthews took the team’s undrafted rookies under his wing after also going untaken in 2009.

The Mavs finished the season with four undrafted rookies playing meaningful minutes in point guard Yogi Ferrell, first-year forward Dorian Finney-Smith, midseason addition Jarrod Uthoff and Argentine swingman Nicolas Brussino. Second-round draft pick A.J. Hammons also saw plenty of playing time late in the season as the Mavericks rested their veterans and extended the minutes of their young players down the stretch. That experience figures to prove beneficial for the Mavs’ emerging young core going forward. And according to Matthews, the Mavs will now look to those young pros next year in hopes of producing a bounce-back season.

“They got better every week and every month. You know, as games went on, you’d see something else, and they’re receptive. They listened, and they work hard,” Matthews proclaimed while praising the team’s young contributors.

“I expect for them to keep working,” he added. “All of the young guys were essentially undrafted, so I can relate to all of them. And they should be angry regardless. They shouldn’t need much motivation. With us not making the playoffs, fortunately, it gave them more opportunity to play and more opportunity to grow as players, to get real-time minutes and be in situations like that. So, learn from that, and just be hungry for more.”

Mavs’ young contributors formed bond during late stage of ’16-17 season

DALLAS — Although it came in the midst of a 33-49 season, the Dallas Mavericks’ say their young contributors came together and formed a bond that will prove to be beneficial heading into the summer.

Dropping nine of their final 11 games to close the season, the Mavericks finished on the outside looking into the playoffs after 82 outings. The Mavs also increased the playing time of their young players during that span while resting veterans down the stretch run of the season, giving the team’s unsung heroes an opportunity to show the Dallas front office what they can do. And despite admittedly seeing his young contributors struggle during the late stage of the season, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle says the additional playing time allowed the team’s future stars to gain invaluable experience.

“We had a strategy in the last five or six games. We were going to play our veterans early, finish with the younger guys and let the chips fall where they may,” Carlisle confessed.

“It’s going to be busier (this summer) with player development internally than it’s been,” he added. “We have a schedule in place. Our first- and second-year guys will be back in mid-May for a couple of weeks, and then mid-June for a couple of weeks. We’re going to space out their workouts, so that their bodies can stay fresh, and then prepare them for the Summer League. We’ve got to get Yogi (Ferrell) and (Dorian) Finney-Smith and (Nicolas) Brussino and (A.J.) Hammons better. The first year there’s always going to be an increase in skill level and things like that. We’ve just got to be careful not to let these guys plateau. One of the ways we get better is to get better from within.”

The Mavericks finished the season with five first-year players seeing time on the court late in the schedule, featuring four undrafted rookies. They also ended the year with nine players on the roster 26 years old or under, forming the franchise’s emerging youth movement.

The team’s young contributors came together to end the grueling schedule on a high note by halting a five-game losing streak with a 100-93 road win over the seventh-seeded Memphis Grizzlies in the season finale on April 12. And after putting that season-ending victory under their belt with the team’s veterans resting back in Dallas, the Mavs’ young contributors head into the summer with their heads held high.

“I think it’s a morale booster, especially with all these young guys,” late-season addition Jarrod Uthoff explained after the win. “This is the beginning for a lot of us of our careers, and it’s always nice to get a win with all of us playing. I think it’s very important, because it speaks to the future of the Mavs. … I think it was just a great opportunity for all of us to get on the court together and kind of go through the growing pains together to figure out each others’ games out. You get more time, you get comfortable and you get more adjusted to the game flow. A lot of times the young guys, like me, they don’t get in the game for a couple of games, and maybe you don’t play for a week or two. You know, it’s tough to come back in, play four minutes and expect to be productive. But I think that’s all a part of it, being productive in the time you get.”

The Mavericks featured the second-oldest team in the league behind only San Antonio during the 2015-16 season, sending out a lineup with an average age of 30 years old. The Mavs then finished this season with an average of 27.3 years old, beginning the process of getting younger on the fly. The Mavs will now attempt to foster that young talent going into next season, hoping each of the first- and second-year players can build on their play this summer. But with 24-year-old leading scorer Harrison Barnes and 26-year-old combo guard Seth Curry both producing breakout seasons, the Mavericks already have two budding stars to help lead the team’s youth movement.

“We have a great organization,” Barnes proclaimed. “We definitely had a lot of guys in and out, but I think that group we had at the end of the year really fought like heck. I’m proud of our young guys for stepping in. They were being put in a tough situation with a lot of minutes, and I thought we had them do a lot of responsibilities. I think we have something to build off for next season.”

“I think we’re excited going forward,” Curry echoed. “We showed a lot of things we can build on with young talent. Guys were playing big minutes and playing big moments throughout the season against other great teams and playing well, showing that we can win and not just playing well and just being good. We competed with some of the best teams in the league. And obviously, guys have got to get better going into the offseason. Guys have got to come back and build off the experience they got this year. I think everybody who played and got an opportunity to show what they can do is excited about that.”

Wesley Matthews relished role as mentor for Mavs’ undrafted rookies

2016-17 Exit Interview: Wesley Matthews

Mavs G Wesley Matthews addresses the media for exit interviews.

DALLAS — Despite seeing a slight increase in his production during his second campaign with the Dallas Mavericks, versatile swingman Wesley Matthews’ biggest impact throughout the 2016-17 season may have come in the locker room while serving as a mentor for the team’s young contributors.

This season, the 30-year-old Matthews averaged 13.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists an outing while playing in 73 games. He also connected on 39.3 percent from the field and 36.3 percent from behind the three-point arc, continuing to provide stellar outside shooting in his second season with the team after signing a reported four-year deal worth $70 million last summer. But after seeing the Mavericks’ playoff hopes dashed by countless injuries during a 33-49 campaign, Matthews says the team’s veterans and young players must return next year motivated by their lackluster record.

“We need to stay healthy,” Matthews matter-of-factly said. “You know, in my two years here, it’s been a lot of what-ifs because of injuries, and that’s just part of the game. But everybody just needs to take the offseason, get better, let the frustrations of stuff that we could control kind of be in our minds and come back with a mentality that this isn’t going to happen again until later in the year.”

Going untaken in the 2009 draft after earning second-team All-Big East honors at Marquette as a senior, Matthews related to the Mavericks’ young contributors and unsung heroes this season.

All told, the Mavs finished the season with four undrafted rookies on the roster in point guard Yogi Ferrell, first-year forward Dorian Finney-Smith, midseason addition Jarrod Uthoff and Argentine swingman Nicolas Brussino. Second-round draft pick A.J. Hammons also gained experience late in the season after a stint with the Mavericks’ NBA Development League affiliate, the Texas Legends. Matthews and the Mavs now hope all of the young contributors can expand their games during the summer to return better players next season. But according to Finney-Smith, it was Matthews’ mentorship and tutelage that helped him get through the grueling 82-game schedule during the ’16-17 campaign.

“He did a lot, man. I mean, I learned a lot through the adversity this year, especially shooting droughts, and he never let me doubt myself,” Finney-Smith said while praising his veteran mentor after playing in 81 games as a rookie. “He always stayed on me, and he always told me to remember what got me on the court. So, whatever happens on offense, just make sure you keep doing what you’re doing.”

Finney-Smith was just one of the many young players on the roster that Matthews took under his wings this season as the Mavericks’ veterans suffered through an injury-riddle year. But it’s the experience that the Mavs’ young contributors gained this season that Matthews says will be beneficial as the team tries to make a playoff push again next year.

Matthews now expects for the first- and second-year pros to enter the summer motivated for more success after gaining valuable on-court experience this season. That said, the eight-year veteran will admittedly continue to push the young pros for more personal and team success moving forward.

“I mean, I expect for them to keep working,” Matthews proclaimed. “All of the young guys were essentially undrafted, so I can relate to all of them. And they should be angry regardless. They shouldn’t need much motivation. With us not making the playoffs, fortunately, it gave them more opportunity to play and more opportunity to grow as players, to get real-time minutes and be in situations like that. So, learn from that, and just be hungry for more.

“They got better every week and every month. You know, as games went on, you’d see something else, and they’re receptive. They listened, and they work hard.”

With their veteran leaders out, Mavs’ young contributors gained valuable experience at Golden State

Practice Report: Harrison Barnes

Mavs F Harrison Barnes dishes on his game against the Warriors, being the focal point of the offense and more.

DALLAS — Albeit in a 116-95 lopsided loss to conclude a difficult back-to-back on the West Coast, the Dallas Mavericks’ young contributors gained valuable experience in a hostile environment Wednesday against the Golden State Warriors.

Taking the floor without 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki (right Achilles soreness), starting point guard Deron Williams (left calf strain) and veteran reserve Devin Harris (right great toe sprain), the Mavericks (2-6) tried to carry over the momentum of Tuesday’s 109-97 win over the Los Angeles Lakers to begin their daunting road trip. However, after undersized guard J.J. Barea, swingman Wesley Matthews and starting center Andrew Bogut all logged at least 29 minutes in Tuesday’s victory, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle opted to give the veterans a scheduled rest the following night against the reigning Western Conference champions. And although the Mavs didn’t have enough firepower at their disposal to keep pace with the Warriors on Golden State’s home floor, Carlisle says the team’s youth movement gained experience that could prove beneficial down the line.

“In the first half, we were all disappointed. The second half was 100 percent better,” Carlisle confessed. “I think we got off to a 24-8 start, and we ended up winning the half by 10. A team like Golden State that has the stars and has a loud building, these guys have got to experience what that’s like at the beginning of a game. You can’t duplicate the experience that they got, but it was painful in the first half.”

Surrendering 14 three-pointers to the Warriors in the first half on 20 attempts from behind the arc, the Dallas defense allowed 66.7 percent shooting from the floor through the first two quarters. Golden State also held a 23-21 rebounding edge in the half, overcoming seven turnovers to lead by as many as 33 before taking a 67-36 advantage into the intermission.

The Warriors then finished the game outshooting the Mavericks, 58.1 percent to 39.5 percent, overcoming a 42-39 rebounding disadvantage and their 15 turnovers. But after the young Mavs outscored the Warriors in the second half, 59-49, new addition Harrison Barnes and second-year standout Justin Anderson say there was plenty of positives that the team can build on going forward.

“In the first half, it was kind of like a deer in headlights. It was kind of like the scouting report went out the window,” the 24-year-old Barnes admitted after scoring 25 points on 8-of-20 shooting to go along with eight rebounds in the loss. “We were just out there playing. But I think, once guys settled in, we did a much better job.”

“It was settling down and toughening up,” Anderson added after scoring 16 points, grabbing eight boards and dishing seven assists. “You know, we started getting to the rim, crashing more, getting rebounds and being aggressive. … We kind of put that together in the second half. The first half was more about trying to feel our way into it. And against a team like this, you really can’t feel your way into things.”

Taking the floor with a starting lineup of Barnes, Anderson, point guard Seth Curry, undrafted rookie Dorian Finney-Smith and third-year big man Dwight Powell, the Mavericks sent out a first unit with all five players 26 years old and under. All told, the Mavs played nine players 30 years and under during Wednesday’s loss, giving Carlisle a chance to evaluate his young core. However, with the Mavs hoping to be at full strength Monday night in New York to begin a road trip on the East Coast against the Knicks (3-4), Carlisle admits that he looks forward to having his proven veterans back in the lineup.

Practice Report: Rick Carlisle

Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle shares a team health update and looks ahead to the upcoming road trip.

“These guys are getting valuable experience,” Carlisle said of his young contributors. “Right now, the story is we’ve got to get our veteran guys healthy and get our team back together, and then get our formula right. That’s where we are. And right now, the realities of our situation are dictating who’s playing.

“I think we need to transition the team young. That’s a fact,” the coach added. “I think we all know that. And so, you know, we’ve worked hard to get this roster of younger guys together. They’ve all earned their way on the team, and so we work tirelessly with them. You know, they’ve produced in situations where needed, but first-year guys seldom hold up on an every-night basis. That’s just a fact in this league. But right now, they’re helping us bridge this difficult situation with injuries.”

Note: The Mavericks will now return home before traveling to the Big Apple to begin a two-game road trip on the East Coast, matching up against the New York Knicks next Monday night. The game will tip off at 6:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest and 103.3 FM ESPN.

The Mavs return to American Airlines Center next Friday, hosting the Memphis Grizzlies. That game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest 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:

Devin Harris (right great toe sprain) — out

Dirk Nowitzki (right Achilles soreness) — out

Deron Williams (left calf strain) — out

Building young core around Dirk Nowitzki was priority for Mavs this offseason, Donnie Nelson says

DALLAS — Although he says it wasn’t purely by coincidence that the Dallas Mavericks were able to retool this summer by adding a stable of young players, president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson admits he’s excited to see how the team’s emerging youth movement contributes during the upcoming season.

Signing 24-year-old forward Harrison Barnes this summer in free agency, the Mavericks feel they added a budding star capable of taking the reins from 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki in seasons to come. The Mavs also inked big man Dwight Powell, 25, expecting the former Stanford standout to continue to blossom in Year 3. Meanwhile, the front office drafted 23-year-old rookie center A.J. Hammons, adding him to a young core that already featured second-year pro Justin Anderson. And after signing several players 25 years old and under in combo guard Seth Curry, big man Quincy Acy, Argentine swingman Nicolas Brussino, BYU standout Kyle Collinsworth, forward Dorian Finney-Smith, undrafted LSU guard Keith Hornsby and post player Jameel Warney, the Mavericks built a roster mixed with proven veteran leaders and untapped talent.

“I think it’s just a status of kind of where we are as a franchise,” Nelson said while assessing the roster last month. “I wouldn’t say it was more important, but I think we had more roster spots and there’s more opportunity for young guys whether they be free agents or draft picks to come in and make an impact. You know, you’re always measuring where you are, you’re always measuring what the Western Conference looks like, and then in our business you’re always talking about your succession plan. You know, this year things fell right and happened last second and split second, and it really put us in a good position. But I think this year, maybe a little bit more than in the past, we’ll have an emphasis on seeing which of those young guys can step up and fill rotation roles.”

Last season, the Mavericks featured the second-oldest team in the league behind only San Antonio, sending out a lineup with an average age of 30 years old. The Mavs also had just three players under the age of 25 when the season began, putting more burden on an aging core to compete with the young and athletic teams in the West. That could change this season, however, as the Mavs try to lighten the load on the 38-year-old Nowitzki in his 19th campaign.

Nowitzki posted a team-best 18.3 points per game during his 18th season, becoming the oldest player in the league to lead his respective squad in scoring during the 2015-16 schedule. The Mavs now hope a few of their young contributors can help take some of that scoring burden away from Nowitzki, who sits just 509 points away from becoming the sixth player in league history to amass 30,000 for his career. Still, according to Nelson, the Mavs will have a good complement of tested veterans and hungry up-and-comers surrounding Nowitzki as he attempts to lead the team into the playoffs for a 16th time in 17 years.

“You know, we’re excited. I think we’re better than we were last year,” Nelson explained. “We also have some really nice young pieces, and I think at the start of training camp we’ll have some really solid veteran leadership in the starting positions laced with guys in their mid-20s. So, it’s a really nice complement of Mavericks that have carried that baton for years and a young complement of Maverick young guns that will be positioning themselves for roster minutes.”

Mavs will look to get younger while maximizing Dirk Nowitzki’s final seasons

DALLAS — Placing the re-signing of 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki at the top of their offseason to-do list entering the summer, the Dallas Mavericks also hope to build a younger roster while remaining competitive next season.

Finishing with a 42-40 record this season while earning the sixth seed in the Western Conference standings, the Mavericks reached the playoffs for a 15th time in the last 16 years before eventually falling in five games during the first round to Oklahoma City. Meanwhile, Nowitzki continued to put the Mavs on his broad shoulders at the age of 37, averaging a team-high 18.3 points and pulling down 6.5 rebounds an outing in 75 appearances while connecting on 44.8 percent from the field and 36.8 percent from three-point range in Year 18. But with Nowitzki now expected to opt out of the final season of a reported three-year deal worth $25 million, the Dallas front office will admittedly have work to do in order to keep the 7-footer in the fold while adding young talent around him.

“If you ask me and you ask the guys in the locker room, he’s a very rare bird. And at 37 plus, he maybe had one of the best years of his career,” Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said during his exit interview with the media last month while speaking highly of Nowitzki’s 2015-16 campaign.

He added: “If [Nowitzki] takes care of his body, I think he’s got a couple of more good years in him. And who knows, he might be one of those guys that actually hits 40. But those are decisions that he makes, in terms of what the goal is, and the goal will always be winning with Dirk. No matter what, he’s all about winning, so we’re hopeful that it’s here in Dallas.”

Looking to ink Nowitzki to a longer deal this summer, the Mavericks will try to maximize the future Hall of Famer’s final seasons by remaining competitive in the West. But after seeing the emergence of rookie Justin Anderson and second-year standout Dwight Powell this season, the Mavs will also try to surround Nowitzki with a younger supporting cast that’s capable of growing together over the years.

Appearing in 55 games and making nine starts, Anderson finished his rookie season averaging 3.8 points and 2.4 rebounds an outing in 11.8 minutes per game. Anderson, 22, then stepped up his production in Dallas’ first-round playoff series against Oklahoma City, scoring 14 points, pulling down four rebounds, dishing an assist, recording a block and collecting three steals in a series-clinching 118-104 Game 5 loss.

Meanwhile, the 24-year-old Powell made two starts in his 69 appearances while averaging 5.8 points and 4.0 rebounds in 14.4 minutes a game. He also saw a slight spike in those numbers in the playoffs, posting 6.0 points and 4.3 boards an outing while appearing in four of the five games. And after turning heads with 12 points, 11 rebounds, two assists and two steals for the World team in a 157-154 loss during the Rising Stars Challenge at All-Star Weekend, the pending restricted free agent figures to be a young contributor that the Mavs will look to keep in the fold.

“It’s a big part of it,” Nelson explained while addressing the Mavs’ need to foster their young talent this summer. “You know, Anderson just really started to come into his own. Powell, who was kind of a castoff in the Boston trade (last season), we’ve got really high hopes for him. They’re two young cornerstone-type pieces with big hearts and a work ethic that’s really second to none, besides Dirk, that just continues to set the bar. Those two guys are a piece of the fabric. Obviously, Anderson is under contract, but our hope is we can keep that young core going. … If you look at kind of the Justin Andersons, the Powells, and (Chandler) Parsons is certainly one of those up-and-coming guys, I think you can look for us to get younger. But like I said, anything that’s coming to Dirk is well-deserved. I’ve been around a few different owners, and [Mavs owner Mark Cuban] is one of the most loyal guys that I’ve ever been around, so that will be our first conversation. He’s got decisions to make, obviously, and we’ve got to do what’s in the best interest of the franchise. But I think there’s middle ground there, and hopefully we can strike it.”

Sharpshooter John Jenkins, first-round pick Justin Anderson see opportunity for growth during preseason

DALLAS — While the Dallas Mavericks haven’t been at full strength thus far this preseason, coach Rick Carlisle says the team’s injuries early in exhibition play have created opportunities for his young contributors.

Tuesday, the Mavericks (0-2) took the court for the start of their preseason schedule without the services of prized new addition Wesley Matthews (left Achilles surgery), Tunisian center Salah Mejri (fractured left fibula), big man JaVale McGee (left tibial stress fracture), 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki (rest), starting small forward Chandler Parsons (right knee surgery), second-year standout Dwight Powell (left elbow sprain) and first-string point guard Deron Williams (left calf strain). The result was a 96-86 loss at home to the Denver Nuggets as the shorthanded Mavs got off to a rocky start in exhibition play.

One night later, the Mavericks were still without their top contributors while traveling to Houston, falling to a 109-82 loss to the in-state rival Rockets. Still, Carlisle says he was encouraged by what he saw from the team’s young players and roster hopefuls during the two games.

“We’ve got work to do, and we’ve got to get some guys back in there. The guys we’ve got out there are going hard, and we’ve just got to get more done,” Carlisle confessed after Wednesday’s loss.

One player that has stepped up and taken advantage of his extra time on the floor due to the injuries has been swingman John Jenkins, who has quickly earned the respect of Carlisle for his aggressive play.

Jenkins scored 16 points and hit six of his 15 shots from the field during the loss to Denver, overshadowing his seven turnovers while finishing the game at point guard in a matchup against No. 7 overall draft pick Emmanuel Mudiay. He followed that up with 19 points on 6-of-14 shooting in Houston, grabbing five rebounds and playing turnover-free basketball in just under 29 minutes of work.

And although Carlisle admits that playing point guard has been out of Jenkins’ comfort zone, the coach raved about the 6-foot-4 sharpshooter’s aggression thus far this preseason.

“The learning curve is always going to be there with young players. You know, we’ve got some young guys that are getting a real chance to play and are learning things. That said, I really like Jenkins. You know, Jenkins has played a real aggressive game both of the last two nights. He’s shown he can handle the ball a little bit. He’s done a good job, and he’s got to continue doing what he’s been doing,” Carlisle explained.

That aggression hasn’t always been there, according to Jenkins, but the former Vanderbilt standout is learning to look for his shot more after three seasons in Atlanta.

Jenkins, who was selected with the 23rd overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, suited up with the Hawks in 98 career games. He comes to Dallas after averaging 5.6 points and 1.6 rebounds in 13.8 minutes an outing for the Hawks, showing an ability to stretch the floor while swishing 37.5 percent from three-point range in his first three seasons.

Foregoing his senior year after he led the Southeastern Conference in scoring as both a sophomore and a junior, Jenkins left college as the 10th all-time leading scorer in school history. And after also tying the SEC single-season record with 134 made three-pointers to garner First Team All-SEC and Third Team All-American honors in his final collegiate year, Jenkins hopes to continue building on his strong play when the regular season gets underway.

“[Carlisle] has really been on me about being aggressive, and it’s something that in Atlanta I was passive at times,” Jenkins admitted. “I’m trying to break out of that mode, and it’s been tough on me actually. A couple of times I felt like I’m taking bad shots. But to him, he said I’m a good shooter, so shooters shoot. I’m just adjusting to that and playing as hard as I can on defense, being solid and just being aggressive on offense.

“It’s been a huge challenge. I’ve gotten a lot more time at point guard now. It’s just getting everybody in the right position and getting everybody involved, and also trying to create for yourself. It’s a balance to it, and I’m still trying to learn it.”

First-round draft pick Justin Anderson is also trying to learn that balance while quickly adjusting to the NBA game.

Anderson was selected by the Mavericks with the 21st overall pick in June’s draft after averaging 12.2 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.7 assists during his junior season at Virginia. Anderson was named to the NABC All-America Third Team and All-ACC Second Team during his junior campaign after connecting on 46.6 percent from the field. However, the 6-foot-6, 230-pounder got off to a slow start in preseason while scoring just one point on 0-of-4 shooting in the loss to Denver.

The rookie was then thrown into the fire during Wednesday’s contest, scoring seven points and grabbing six rebounds while defending MVP runner-up James Harden. And after seeing Harden explode for 19 points, six rebounds and five assists in the first half of Wednesday’s contest, Carlisle admits that Anderson is still a work in progress.

“Look, if you’re going to learn to swim, you might as well get thrown in the deep water. And you’re going to have to learn quick, so he got some valuable experience and we’re going to have to help him. And again, he did some better things in the second half,” Carlisle said of Anderson’s progression.

Continuing to struggle shooting the ball while hitting just two of his eight shots from the field against the Rockets, Anderson says he’s learned to focus on impacting games in other ways when he can’t get the ball in the basket. With that said, the first-year pro has turned his attention to concentrating on defense and rebounding, looking to make a difference on the floor in the two areas where the Mavs struggled last season.

Receiving the support of Carlisle and his veteran teammates, Anderson admits that his confidence has grown during training camp and early in the preseason. And after defending one of the league’s most lethal scorers, Anderson hopes to continue learning on the fly.

“Yeah, it was a big challenge,” Anderson said after guarding Harden. “I didn’t know until right before the game, because you never know with preseason what guys are going to play and everything. But it was a big challenge for me, and I think I stepped up to the challenge. I came over to Coach one time after he hit a tough stepback and was like, ‘Wow, it was tough defense and even better offense.’ It was a good challenge, and I think I stepped up to it well.

“I’m just trying to take everything in and just take it in stride, keep going and keep pressing forward. I took a step in the right direction (Wednesday night) by being more aggressive, like I challenge myself to be, trying to get in the paint and trying to get out in transition a little bit. And then I’m also trying to affect the game in a different way defensively and rebounding, so I think I took a step in the right direction. You know, like I’ve always said, it’s with expectations. I understand what this is, and I understand what this is about. It’s an opportunity for me to learn every game, so the guys keep telling me to keep pressing forward.”