Brian Cardinal ended January the way he began it, in the starting lineup and logging a 30-plus minute game, his only two of the season. On New Year's Day, Cardinal replaced the injured Dirk Nowitzki at power forward. On Monday night, Cardinal made his third start of the season, becoming the latest alternative to fill Caron Butler's vacancy at small forward.
Sasha Pavlovic had started the last six games, but the Dallas Mavericks bid farewell to him after his second 10-day contract expired after Saturday's game. Rather than break up his favored off-the-bench pairing of Shawn Marion and Jason Terry and move Marion back into the starting lineup, coach Rick Carlisle turned to Cardinal, the pro's pro.
"It’s a privilege to be here with the Mavs. It’s awesome to be here," said Cardinal, whose non-guaranteed contract was fully guaranteed last month. "Anything I can do to help us win, whether that’s diving on the floor for a loose ball or taking a charge, or trying to get a stop on defense, whatever I can do to help us win, I’m more than happy to do it."
Cardinal, 33, skipped over his specialty -- draining 3-pointers.
The 6-foot-8 forward hit his first two 3-point attempts in the opening five minutes of the game and then made another in the second quarter to move the Mavs within 45-40 after a sluggish start saw them fall behind the road winless Washington Wizards by 12 points.
Cardinal finished with nine points -- although he was just 1-of-6 from beyond the arc after making the quick two -- four rebounds, an assist and a block in 31 minutes. His fundamental dependability on defense and ability to can the 3-pointer might have earned him another start when the Mavs begin a three-game road trip at the New York Knicks on Wednesday night.
Carlisle said he could rotate starters at the small forward position at least until Peja Stojakovic make his Dallas debuts. Stojakovic will not make the three-game East Coast trip so his earliest action would be Monday's home game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
No problem, Cardinal said.
"You just have to stay ready," Cardinal said. "It can be difficult when you’re not playing, but we’ve got a great group of guys here, a veteran group of guys and they keep everybody focused, everybody on their toes. It’s about staying professional, getting in early, staying late, getting your work in, and staying in shape and staying ready."