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Thursday, December 9, 2010
Inside Skinny: Center of attention is the 5

By Jeff "Skin" Wade



So Tuesday night against the Warriors rolls around and early-season savior Tyson Chandler can't go because his stomach is an active volcano. No worries, right?

You just start Brendan Haywood -- he of the offseason $50-plus million variety -- and get back to playing that elite-level defense the Mavs have been doling out so far in the very promising early going.

But I was a little more worried about this proposition because I remembered when the Nuggets' front-line was decimated by injuries that Denver opted to posse up on the small side. It was deemed a bad situation for Haywood, and he barely played 30 combined minutes in back-to-back games against Denver.

I thought this scenario could repeat itself, and Dallas would be in scramble mode. And much like earlier in the season, it wasn’t a great situation for Haywood to get extended burn despite the fact he put up decent numbers (6 rebounds, 3 blocked shots in less than 18 minutes).

No worry. Ian Mahinmi burst onto the scene in full-on shock-the-world-Godard-does-Breathless fashion to deliver 12 points, 10 boards and ton of energy. The crowd went nuts, Twitter exploded, Kraftwerk remixed “Tour De France” -- everyone rejoiced.

Mahinmi’s play was certainly a big factor in Dallas pulling out a W against a Warriors squad that by rule generally balls when they come to the Dub. But I received a lot of queries via text, Twitter and e-mail with folks wanting to know if Mahinmi should be getting the backup minutes that Haywood has been getting at the 5. And while I’m certainly enthused by what I’ve seen from “Yungg Ian” (say it out loud, sound like a noodle dish) both Tuesday night and in the road win against San Antonio, let’s not forget that Haywood brings an element the other Dallas bigs don’t -- and that’s ridiculous size that’s still mobile and not a clog on offense.

Last week against the Jazz, Al Jefferson (not a tall dude but definitely a space-consumer) had significantly more difficulty scoring against Chandler than he did Haywood. We’ll probably see a similar scenario unfold Thursday night against the Nets with big Brook Lopez in the middle wondering why Avery treats him like that.

If the Mavericks go far, one of the main reasons will be that they have a ridiculously good center rotation with Chandler and Haywood, not Chandler and any other French dude currently on the roster. I like Mahinmi way better than I thought I would when the Mavs brought him in, but not nearly enough to move him ahead of Haywood or -- as some folks have suggested -- move Haywood altogether.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, aiight?