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Wednesday, December 21, 2011
More production needed at center position

By Jeff Caplan



No one in the Dallas Mavericks organization is asking Brendan Haywood to become Tyson Chandler. But certainly they expect more than the 7-footer provided Tuesday night, exhibition game or not.

Haywood did not a score a point. He did not get to the free-throw line. He did not grab an offensive rebound nor did he block a shot. In two preseason games, the 7-foot, 263-pounder averaged 2.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 0.5 blocks in 22.0 minutes.

Haywood is seemingly the starting center for the Mavs by default. Before Lamar Odom fell into their lap for the trade exception provided by the sign-and-trade of the fiery Chandler to the New York Knicks, the Mavs were attempting to land Sacramento Kings veteran center Samuel Dalembert. Desperate for interior help, Dallas is providing a fresh start to troubled local lad Sean Williams, an athletic shot-blocker and defender.

You can see why.

Haywood is not expected to bring the demonstrative accountability in the locker room or the primal screams on the floor as Chandler did a year ago in fueling Dallas to become a top 10 defense, but if the Mavs are to be a contending team their starting center must account for more than two rebounds, an assist and a turnover in 20 minutes, 37 seconds of action as Haywood did Tuesday.

Backup Ian Mahinmi came away with nine rebounds and five points on 2-of-8 shooting in 21:41.

The best post presence Tuesday night belonged to 6-foot-10 Brandan Wright, a self-confessed power forward, whose minutes on this club will come at center if they come at all. Wright scored 12 points and demonstrated nice body control down low. He was 6-of-7 from the floor and had four rebounds in little more than 16 minutes.

Williams, a former first-round pick like Wright who hasn't panned out, is expected to be in Dallas today. He'll learn on the fly and will be ready to play whenever he's ready.

The starting job and the bulk of the minutes belong to Haywood, a man who will earn $7.6 million this season, and he must begin to deliver more.