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Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Fountain of Youth: Intrigue on two fronts

By Jeff Caplan

Our weekly look at the Mavericks' young players:

And suddenly there's intrigue at backup center.

The full-game benching of Ian Mahinmi came as a surprise Saturday at Cleveland. So did the fact that Brandan Wright logged 29 minutes and 18 consecutively when he re-entered the game midway through the third quarter. Wright has certainly come to understand the Rick Carlisle mantra of "Be Ready." Against Oklahoma City, Wright played 25 minutes, then got just four minutes two nights later against Indiana.

In his two high-minute games in the last three, Wright produced 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting and nine rebounds (eight coming Saturday at Cleveland).

"He’s just been active and productive," Carlisle said. "A combination of those two things is a real positive. Activity, energy, he’s a positive vibe-type kid and he’s getting better. He’s working really hard on his game. A lot of good things."

Those are all things Carlisle has said about Mahinmi in the opening third of the season.

But, the 6-foot-11 Frenchman, who was actually splitting minutes evenly with starting center Brendan Haywood, has dipped recently. Since going for 17 points and nine rebounds on Jan. 23, he's managed just 28 points and 31 rebounds in the last 6 games (4.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg).

So it will certainly be interesting to see which way Carlisle goes in tonight's game at the Denver Nuggets and Nene.

On a second front, Rodrigue Beaubois' recent slump has come at bad time with Jason Kidd still nursing a strained right calf and, more importantly, Beaubois trying to prove he's a valuable rotation piece to this puzzle. Beaubois was removed from the starting lineup at Cleveland after four consecutive starts at point guard and five overall. After playing 32 or more minutes in three of four games, he's logged just 20 and 21 in the last two games and he's mired in a 5-of-23 shooting slump in the last three games.

Does Carlisle stick with Delonte West as the starting point guard tonight with Kidd likely out for a sixth consecutive game? Either way, Beaubois figures to be on the court at some point. The question becomes will Beaubois earn do enough to stay on the floor in a game Dallas desperately needs?

It all leaves intrigue on two fronts.