Najera's hustle just what Mavs needed

April, 8, 2010
4/08/10
9:28
AM CT
When the Mavericks traded young forward Kris Humphries for aging and oft-injured former Maverick Eduardo Najera, there was plenty of head-scratching.

But, Najera is showing that as long as he's healthy -- and it seems you never know with his gimpy back -- he can be an integral part of the rotation. He averaged 18.0 minutes a game in March, up from 10.7 in February, yet as recently as last Saturday's game against Orlando, coach Rick Carlisle never called his number.

Carlisle finally went to him in a desperate situation against Oklahoma City on Saturday and Najera's energy (11 points and tough defense in 14 minutes) helped ignite a late rally that ultimately failed, but it at least gave the Mavs something positive to draw upon from an otherwise demoralizing loss.

"That's my game my whole career and I take pride in my job. It is important for a team to have that type of player," Najera said. "I understand this role, sometimes that we need that when the team is low on energy I need to come out and step up and get creative sometimes, if you have to press fullcourt by myself, but it works and everybody else kind of follows up and plays kind of harder."

His hustle led to a 23-minute stint Wednesday against Memphis, his second-most minutes in a month -- good timing with the playoffs around the corner and Carlisle looking to tighten his rotation.

"Right now, I think it's just a matter of matchups and I'm not worried about playing time," Najera said. "If they need me, the only thing you've got to be is prepared to step up and do something positive for the team. That's really what it is. Sometimes I know that I might not get to play and I'm OK with it. Sometimes I'm going to have to play 20 minutes like tonight. I'm ready for that."

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Dirk Nowitzki
PTS AST STL MIN
21.7 2.7 0.9 32.9
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsS. Marion 6.5
AssistsM. Ellis 5.7
StealsM. Ellis 1.7
BlocksB. Wright 0.9