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Is Ian Mahinmi ready to be a backup?

12/5/2011

DALLAS -- Ian Mahinmi couldn't tell a lie, not through that beaming smile he couldn't.

"I won’t lie to you guys, I’ve probably watched it about 100 times," Mahinmi said of the pretty fallaway he sank at the end of the first half of Game 6 of the NBA Finals. "Yeah, great memories."

Mahinmi is ready to create more memories and possibly as the Dallas Mavericks' backup center. With Tyson Chandler's return uncertain, Brendan Haywood would stand to take over as the starter with the 6-foot-11 Frenchman possibly ascending from third string to a legitimate backup for the first time in his career.

"It’s going to be my second year [in Dallas], I’m more familiar with the system, what the coach wants from me and all of that, and I think I’m ready to grow into a bigger role," Mahinmi said Monday prior to working out for the first time with a handful of teammates back at the American Airlines Center. "Hopefully Tyson’s back, but I’m really ready to be whatever coach wants me to be."

Haywood averaged 18.3 minutes a night last season. Mahinmi averaged 8.7 last season playing in just 56 games, 30 more than he played in the previous season with the San Antonio Spurs and 50 more than in his rookie season.

So, Mahinmi, entering his fourth season, remains a raw, developing player, whose biggest task in securing a backup gig will be having to learn how to defend without fouling.

In 487 minutes played last season, Mahinmi picked up almost as many fouls (105) as rebounds (120). That will have to change in a hurry. Mahinmi showed flashes last season of being able to develop into a dependable rotation player. He saw extended time against smaller lineups that were problematic for the more lumbering Haywood.

If Chandler does sign with another team, the Mavs will likely look for a cheap, one-year fill-in at center or a physical power forward for insurance purposes.

Mahinmi headed home to France to play for Le Havre in the French Pro-A league as the NBA lockout lingered. Mahinmi was a dominant player, averaging 12.3 points and 8.8 rebounds in 24.3 minutes a game.

But, the French Pro-A league is not the NBA.