PORTLAND, Ore. -- Shooting guard DeShawn Stevenson doesn't kid himself. He knows his place in the starting lineup if things quickly go against the Dallas Mavericks as they did out of the chute in Thursday's Game 3.
Before four minutes had elapsed, Stevenson had a pass picked off and slammed at the other end, and his man, Portland Trail Blazers' shooting guard Wesley Matthews, had swished two 3-pointers as the Blazers led 10-2. At the 8:18 mark, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle sat Stevenson down and never put him back into the 97-92 loss.
"He felt that I didn’t come out with a lot of energy," Stevenson said. "I made one bad turnover early and that kind of hurt. And whenever a team gets on a roll like that, the only person in that starting lineup that’s probably going to get pulled is myself. So, we got to be honest with it. I respect it. He’s not going to take anybody else out but me and you’ve just got to keep trucking with it."
Stevenson is expected to be back in the starting lineup for Saturday's Game 4, which would be his fifth consecutive start. Since he scored five points and drew a couple of quick fouls on Matthews in the first quarter of Game 1, Stevenson's minutes and production have slipped in Games 2 and 3. He had just one point in 13 minutes in Game 2 and then he got the quick hook in Game 3.
"Game 3 was a rough start for us, so he wasn’t that involved," Carlisle said. "But, he’s an experienced player. He’s been involved in a lot of playoff games. Going forward, there’s going to be ups and downs and he’s going to be ready."
Carlisle returned Stevenson to the starting lineup for the regular season finale on April 13 after two months of trying to coach up Rodrigue Beaubois. It became apparent that Beaubois wasn't ready for the pressures of the starting lineup and Carlisle realized he had to make a change heading into the playoffs. He turned to Stevenson, who started 48 games prior to Beaubois' return. Yet, Stevenson also logged just five minutes or fewer 14 times in the final 24 games.
"That’s the way he coaches. Sometimes you won’t play for five games and then you’ll start," Stevenson said. "See me, I think I got five DNPs (actually seven since March 1) before the New Orleans start on ESPN, and since then I’ve been the starter for the playoffs. If you would have asked me that question any other day I probably wouldn’t have thought that. So, you have the opportunity, you have to be out there and be ready. If not, he’s going to try somebody else."
"Be ready" has been a Carlisle mantra for role players since the day he arrived in Dallas. And it applied to Stevenson's return to the starting lineup. Stevenson said he had no idea when he woke up on the morning of the regular-season finale that Carlisle was preparing to make the move. And when he did find out, he said he didn't know he was replacing Beaubois.
"I got a text right before shootaround that said he was going to start me," Stevenson said. "I didn’t know it was for Roddy because sometimes when I do start he takes Trix [Shawn Marion]out [at small forward]. So, I didn’t know what was going on. They made the move and that’s the way stuff works out here and you’ve just got to be ready. If you’re not ready you will never get your chance."
Stevenson's starting job is likely safe. Carlisle's choices for a different direction are rather limited. Corey Brewer has played four minutes in the series and he didn't touch the floor in Games 1 and 3. Jason Terry is the other option, but that would rob the bench of its top scorer.
Stevenson, though, said he's ready.
"Just got to get myself going, get the open shots I get, lock down as a defender," Stevenson said. "[Thursday] night I didn’t really get to play Matthews that often. He got off to a good game. LaMarcus Aldridge got off to a good game. So, I just have to be myself and play my game. When I do that I know coach will leave me on the court a little bit longer and if not that's when Jet comes in. With this year up and down I've just got to be positive, stay positive and hopefully I’ll get that look I always get when I play a little bit longer."