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Thursday, January 5, 2012
Minute Men: Big PT in important win

By Jeff Caplan

Our weekly look at how coach Rick Carlisle is managing the minutes of Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd during this 66-game schedule:

DALLAS -- Dirk Nowitzki half-joked that his 1,000th career game Wednesday night felt like his 2,000th. After playing four games in five days Monday night, Jason Kidd said it's to early to really tell how the body and legs will feel after two, three and four such stretches during this compacted, 66-game schedule.

Carlisle said it will always be important to monitor minutes during games, understanding the rugged clump of games that is always around the corner. We've seen him go heavy on both players' minutes in high-intensity games such as the pair against Oklahoma City, and try to keep things more in check against Toronto and Phoenix. Other times, feisty squads like Minnesota will force Carlisle to keep his guys in longer than he may like.

Through it, Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle will try to rest both veterans whenever possible to keep their minutes within reason with an eye toward late April when the real season begins.

Here's a look at how Carlisle is handling his two most important players through the first seven games.

J-Kidd
Season averages: 30.4 mpg, 5.6 ppg, 4.7 apg, 4.0 rpg
The breakdown: The 30-minute is exactly where Carlisle would like to keep Kidd's average minutes, right at about three fewer minutes per game than last season. Kidd played arguably his strongest game in Monday's win over Oklahoma City, posting nine assists and solid defense in 34:05. It came 24 hours after playing 34:31 at Minnesota and it was also the fourth game in five nights. He played five games in seven nights in all this past week, capping it Tuesday by playing a well-executed 27:43 in the win over Phoenix. A key to this season will be what happened Friday night against Toronto, the second game of a back-to-back. Kidd logged about 28 minutes through the first three quarters and was able to rest the final 10 minutes of the fourth quarter thanks to quality play from Rodrigue Beaubois.

Dirk
Season averages: 32.6 mpg, 22.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 3.0 apg
The breakdown: Dirk has admitted that it has been a slow burn to get into playing condition and the 32.6 minutes he's averaged so far is probably just about right. Now, had the first two games not been blowouts, he would likely be averaging around the 34- or 35-minute mark, which is realistically where he will be soon. He logged more than 34 minutes three times in the five games this past week, including a season-high 38:48 in last week's buzzer-beater loss at Oklahoma City in which he put up season highs with 29 points and 10 rebounds. He played 36:01, scoring 26 points with three six rebounds in Monday's win over the Thunder. Limiting Dirk's minutes is not as critical as with Kidd and, frankly, the more he plays at this point, the stonger he is likely to become.

What's ahead: Beginning tonight at the San Antonio Spurs, Dallas plays a manageable four games in seven nights. Three are on the road and a trip to Washington D.C. to visit President Barack Obama at the White House on Monday precedes the lone back-to-back of the week at Detroit (Tuesday) and Boston (Wednesday).