DALLAS -- Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle has two centers used to starting, but only one can.
While Erick Dampier has said he takes no issue backing up Brendan Haywood, as he has most of the time since returning from finger surgery, Carlisle has inserted Dampier into the starting lineup three times in the last seven games, including Saturday's game against Oklahoma City.
Carlisle on Monday compared the situation to the unsettled backup point-guard rotation.
"Look, it’s kind of like [J.J.] Barea and [Roddy] Beaubois. I talked to Damp and Haywood about treating their approach as a team to covering that position," Carlisle said. "Again, I’m looking at who’s playing well and how best to maximize our minutes with those two guys being a little bit different, being a little bit different ages and those type of things."
Of course, it didn't seem as if Haywood enjoyed the reserve role when Carlisle turned to Dampier on March 23 against the Clippers. Asked afterward what he thought of coming off the bench -- despite playing 30 minutes -- Haywood replied, "I just work here." Haywood played 35 minutes off the bench the next game at Portland.
Haywood, 30, is obviously the more agile of the two centers and is a better shot blocker. Dampier, 34, is averaging about two points and a block less and is virtually even on the boards compared to Haywood's production in 23 games with the Mavs.
Against the Thunder, Dampier played 20 minutes and played well at times. It was just the fourth time in 12 games since his return that he's logged at least 20 minutes. Haywood came off the bench and logged 18 minutes, mostly because of defensive deficiencies. Carlisle went without a center nearly the entire fourth quarter.
It was just the fourth time since joining the Mavs that Haywood played less than 20 minutes (excluding the March 5 game when he left in the first quarter with a back injury). Against the Thunder, Haywood had nine points and three rebounds.
"He’s had some terrific games and he’s had some others that he’s struggled," Carlisle said of Haywood. "Oklahoma City was not a good night for him."
Haywood started in the miracle in Memphis game on March 31. He had 11 points and eight rebounds before fouling out in 32 minutes. Dampier had one point and three rebounds in 16 minutes. We'll see if that plays into Carlisle's decision Wednesday against the Grizzlies.