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Monday, March 1, 2010
The Come Up: Damp, meet Wally Pipp

By Jeff "Skin" Wade


Monday means The Come Up, and Dallas takes a seven-game win-streak into Monday night’s possible “schedule loss” against the Bobcats. Because of an 8:30 tip time in Sunday night’s win hosting New Orleans and a quick flight out to the coast for a 6 p.m. CT tip in Charlotte, the Mavericks will have completed two games in a 24-hour span by the time Monday night’s game is completed. It’s intriguing, but not as intriguing as the potential center controversy on the horizon. And it go a ‘lil summin’ like this:

Wally Pipp didn’t play basketball

Seems to me that I’ve heard coach Rick Carlisle say that he doesn’t believe in a player losing his starting job due to injury. Maybe I’m wrong on that. But, even if he’s said that in the past, I do know he’s prone to roll with the unexpected when it comes to minutes and rotation. As an example, he said before Sunday night’s game when talking to assembled media that he doesn’t believe this team needs a set rotation.

Virtually everyone I talk to believes that it’s a slam dunk that Brendan Haywood is your starting center for the rest of the season no matter when big Erick Dampier gets back. The initial prognosis after the gruesome finger dislocation injury almost two weeks ago was 3-5 weeks. Big Damp was thinking closer to one week. That was probably wishful thinking knowing what was waiting in the wings.

Haywood has been a revelation. Though his numbers aren’t that much better than Damp’s, the results on the floor have been most glorious indeed. Haywood was basically throwing down 11 and 11 and almost three blocks in 34 minutes a night going into the Hornets game. He gave the Mavs 12 points, nine boards and two big blocks late against David West to help secure the win. The Mavs have yet to lose with Haywood as their starting center.

Then There’s the Other Stuff

Haywood is also in a contract year. The Mavs want him to want to stay here as he’ll be a big part of their future plans. How would he react to playing this well for a team rolling like it is only to take a seat back on the bench when the games start just because Big Damp is back? It’s always hard to know the truth when you’re reading stuff about a team playing five states to the Northeast, but most of what I’ve gathered over the years about Haywood’s competition for minutes with Etan Thomas has been about fighting and team turmoil. Maybe that was misrepresented. Maybe it was the truth and he’s grown out of it. Maybe it was on Thomas. Whatever the case, I do remember reading about Haywood once yanking a couple of dreads out of Thomas’ head during a scuffle. So I’m glad that Damp shaves his domepiece.

But having said all that, I never have a clue what Carlisle is thinking on matters like this, so I won’t say it’s a done deal until it’s a done deal. The facts are that in eight fewer minutes a night, Damp gets you two fewer rebounds and four fewer points and about one fewer block. But the visible difference is that the on-the-floor confidence the Mavericks are playing with right now is immeasurable. Maybe it’d have been exactly the same had Damp not gotten hurt and the Mavericks had the two-headed beastmaster at center. But that’s an unknown. The Mavericks' current level of play during their win-streak is clear-cut evidence that for the good of everyone involved, only one guy needs to do any adjusting, and that’s Erick Dampier. And I have a feeling he’ll make the most of that new role coming off the bench.