DALLAS -- It appears likely the Dallas Mavericks won't have backup center Brendan Haywood for Game 3, increasing the chances of Ian Mahinmi seeing his first significant postseason minutes Sunday night against the Miami Heat. The third-year veteran sounded up to the task.
"I think I'm ready mentally and physically, too," Mahinmi said after Sunday morning's shootaround. "It's the Finals. I have a lot of energy. I just want to leave it all out there and see. I just want to be high-energy and confident when I step on the floor if I do."
Mahinmi, 24, doesn't have Haywood's experience and veteran know-how, but the athletic 6-foot-11 native of France has made a positive impact in his first season with the Mavericks. Mahinmi was solid whenever his number was called, and he could be the first big off the bench behind Tyson Chandler.
"He's always ready," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said of Mahinmi. "He's been ready all year and he's done a great job for us playing. A lot of nights during the year he was the guy we went to first just because of matchups, so he'll be ready tonight. We'll see what happens. We'll see what Brendan's status is, but Ian will be ready if we need him."
Mahinmi has spent the past two days watching more film and doing extra work with the coaching staff in case Haywood can't go. Haywood suffered a strained hip flexor in Game 2, and didn't practice Saturday or go through shootaround.
"He might be able to go tonight," Mahinmi said of Haywood. "It's tough. I know he's a warrior, so I'm not going to say he's not going to play. I think he'll do his best and we'll see, but for myself I'm ready to go. If he gives it a go that's good for the team, and if not I'll be here to step up to the challenge and give everything I have."
Mahinmi has made sure to stay engaged throughout the playoffs even though he's not part of Carlisle's normal rotation.
"That's been my story all year long being the third big man," he said. "Anytime the team needed me, I tried to step up to the challenge and tonight might be one of those nights. I've been preparing myself since we got back from Miami because obviously it's the Finals and it's the highest stage you can get."
Getting on the court in the Finals for the first time, especially in a game that gives the victor a 2-1 series lead, could be overwhelming for any young player. That fact that Mahinmi has logged all of six minutes in the playoffs and hasn't played since the second game of the Western Conference finals (May 19) can't be easy on his nerves.
"That's the big thing," he admitted. "I like to step out there with confidence and at the same time you want to be smart. If I'm Tyson's backup, I don't want to put the team in danger. I've definitely got to calm myself down a little bit before I step into the game and not make stupid mistakes on defense."
Mahinmi is clear on his marching orders should he make his Finals debut.
"LeBron James and Dwyane Wade handle the ball a lot and they're in the pick-and-roll a lot, so that's the main focus," Mahinmi said. "And then after that it's rebounding. You want to make sure you block out and box out all their bigs. I need to protect the rim."