Our weekly look at how coach Rick Carlisle is managing the minutes of Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd during this 66-game schedule:
Entering game No. 51 of this 66-game schedule, there is no doubt now that Jason Kidd will finish his 18th season having logged the fewest minutes of any season in his career and, at best, tied for the second-fewest games.
Tonight's return to Miami, where Kidd's guiding hand helped the franchise that drafted him in 1994 win its first championship, will be Kidd's 41st game of the season. If he plays in all 15 remaining games he will play 55, the number he played in 1996-97 when the Mavs traded him to to the Phoenix Suns after 22 games.
He played a career-low 50 games in 1998-99 for the Suns when slowed by a knee injury. Consider that Kidd has played just 1,128 minutes this season and is on pace to finish with 1,551. He played 2,060 minutes in those 50 games 13 seasons ago.
Incredibly durable since then, Kidd missed 10 games earlier this season with separate injuries.
But whatever, this shortened regular season never meant much to Kidd, who turned 39 a week ago. This season is all about the 28 possible games that in what Kidd is calling the real season and that one starts April 28. This one is only the dress rehearsal.
They key all along has been to keep Kidd as healthy and rested as possible. The health has come. The rest has been as consistent as possibly could have been imagined.
A couple weeks ago, owner Mark Cuban suggested that the starters' minutes would rise, including Kidd's, as Carlisle turned to a more playoff-mode rotation. That has not been the case with Kidd. That's partly because Rodrigue Beaubois has played well enough to handle a chunk of fourth-quarter duty that could well be crucial in his own development down the stretch and into the "real" season, a season in which Beaubois has virtually no experience.
In 14 games this month, Kidd has played fewer than 30 minutes nine times. He finished at 30 once and played a high of 35 minutes once.
After playing just 24 minutes against Houston on Tuesday while sitting out the entire fourth quarter, Kidd said his low minute totals were fine by him.
"With three minutes left (against Houston)," Kidd said, "I asked for the ice."
Season averages: 28.2 mpg, 6.0 ppg, 5.3 apg, 4.0 rpg
The breakdown: With 15 games in 30 days, Kidd is in good position to finish the regular season with a head of steam. Only four back-to-backs remain starting tonight at Miami. After the first two back-to-backs, the team is granted two days of rest. A bit of a surge from beyond the arc has lifted his scoring average to 6.0 and his 3-point percentage to 34.4 percent, a mark that had been below 30 for a large chunk of the season. He's hit multiple 3-pointers in four consecutive games for only the third time this season.
Season averages: 32.6 mpg, 21.0 ppg, 6.7 apg, 2.3 rpg
The breakdown: Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said he never figured he'd be able to keep Dirk down this low all season. His season average remains under 33 minutes, but that is slowly on the rise and with the competition level of the next month and the team fighting it out with plenty of others just to maintain a playoff spot, those minutes might continue to rise as they did this past week. In the last three games going back to Friday's loss at San Antonio, Dirk averaged 37 minutes a game with a high of 39 on Saturday at Houston. He still has just one 40-minute game this season, coming in the double-overtime win against Portland.