DALLAS – Samuel Dalembert, the Dallas Mavericks’ new starting center, offers one simple guarantee: He will play hard.
“That’s one thing I can promise,” the 6-foot-11 Dalembert said after his first official practice in Dallas. “I can control that.”
An inconsistent motor was the biggest knock on Dalembert, a 12-year veteran who is playing for his fifth team in five seasons, during his brief stint with the Milwaukee Bucks. Dalembert’s playing time was sporadic during a season he describes as the “dark side,” but he proudly points out that he was productive when he did get on the floor.
The stats support Dalembert’s point. His per-36 minute averages last season (14.7 points, 13.0 rebounds, 2.5 blocks) were very respectable. The Mavs would be thrilled with that type of production from Dalembert, who won’t have to worry about minutes in Dallas as long as he plays with energy and passion.
“You’ve got to seize the opportunity and embrace it and give your best and make it work,” Dalembert said. “You can make the judgment for yourself. When I do play on the floor, do I produce? I produce. The key is the stats don’t lie. The tape don’t lie.
“If you’re talking about inconsistent offensively, yeah, I’m not a scorer. Nobody passed me the ball [in Milwaukee]. Some games, I’m going to have six points. Some games, I’m going to have 15 points. Some games, I’m going to have 30 points. But that’s not what I’m focusing on. My focus is, when I do play, defensively do I change the game? Do I bring energy?
“If you can see that, if I’m consistent with that, if you give me consistent time, now we have something to talk about.”
The slate is clean for Dalembert in Dallas, which gave him a two-year, $7.6 million deal with the second season partially guaranteed to replace disappointing, defensively-challenged stopgap center Chris Kaman. Veterans such as Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion are excited to play with an athletic big man again whose best attributes are his ability to block shots and rebound.
The Mavs are depending on Dalembert to be the backbone of a defense that needs to be drastically improved.
“He’s going to fit in well,” Marion said. “He’s going to make it a lot harder to come in there. When they know there’s a shot-blocker in there, they have a hesitation to go in there. They know somebody is going to either give them a hard foul or block their shot, guys don’t want to go in there.”
If Dalembert delivers that sort of presence, he can reshape his reputation while playing a key role on a playoff team. And fulfill his promise.