Delonte West injury tests resiliency
Mavs once again must pull together as a team and show off versatility to plug holes
DALLAS -- So the whole gang was back together for all of three games. And suddenly it's back to plugging holes and plugging away.
"This is how fragile this league is," Dirk Nowitzki said after the Dallas Mavericks' breezy 102-84 win over the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday. "You can go from a healthy squad and in one game you're depleted in one position."
No need to tell that to the punchless Nuggets, who were basically playing without a frontcourt. The backcourt was of issue for the Mavs -- and stands to be for perhaps some time.
Jason Terry sat out for the first time in 127 games with what coach Rick Carlisle deemed a mild quad strain. He'll also miss Friday's game at Philadelphia for personal reasons, but Carlisle said he's hopeful his sixth man will be back for Sunday's matinee showdown at Madison Square Garden against Jeremy Lin and that other guy, the tall one, for the New York Knicks who spent a little time with the Mavs, Tyson Chandler.
Carlisle could not be certain how long Rodrigue Beaubois will be away from the team. He received the horrible news Wednesday that his father had unexpectedly passed away.
Then, with 7:14 left in the second quarter, came the next injury on a long list this season, and this one could sting. Delonte West hunched over, grasping his right hand with his left. He finally revealed a gruesome right ring finger pointing in a most unnatural position.
A fracture and dislocation was the official word from the Mavs. Carlisle could only surmise that West, the team's feisty perimeter defender who could run the team as the point guard or play the 2, will miss a good bit of time.
For the final 31 minutes of Wednesday's win, the Mavs backcourt was down to 38-year-old and twice-injured Jason Kidd, whose minutes are being strictly monitored, the rejuvenated Vince Carter and seldom-used second-year guard Dominique Jones. The 6-foot-5 combo guard played a season-high 31 minutes, recorded four points (despite missing all six of his shot attempts), six assists and four boards. He suddenly just might be looking at his first big break.
"The main thing is me stepping in and showing that we don't miss a beat," Jones said. "Showing that no matter who plays, who we play or whatever, we're still playing Maverick basketball."
Wednesday night was yet another prime example as the defending champs dismissed their personnel issues and moved on to a season-best eight games over .500 at 19-11.
Six players hit double figures, including Lamar Odom outscoring Dirk Nowitzki 14-12, Kidd dropping four 3-pointers for only the second time this season and Brandan Wright putting up 10 points and seven boards. Along the way, Dallas dumped its third-quarter struggles and pounded the wounded Nuggets, 32-15, to assume a 31-point bulge that landed Nowitzki and Kidd on the bench for the entire fourth quarter.
"The ability to be resourceful and resilient is what defined us last year and I don't see this year as being any different, probably more so in many ways just because of the way the schedule's condensed," Carlisle said. "And it's one reason why we go get players that are versatile, that can play multiple positions."
The versatility list includes Odom and Carter, but might as well stop and start it with Shawn Marion, who is proving his nickname -- The Matrix -- has never fit better. Hands-down the team's MVP through nearly half this strange season, Marion was all over this win and deserves a campaign for the Western Conference Player of the Week -- and it's only Wednesday.
The 6-foot-7 small forward scored a team-high 16 points, grabbed 10 rebounds -- half on the offensive end -- dished off six assists and once again was assigned to defend the opposing point guard.
Ty Lawson, Denver's 5-foot-11 jitterbug whose season was up for All-Star consideration, sat down for good with 6:45 to go in the game. He had three points and two assists; this from a player averaging 15.3 and 6.4. Marion shut him out. Lawson's first-quarter drive for an and-1 came against West.
"Marion's defense again tonight was so key in the game because Lawson's penetration is something everybody in the league is trying to solve," Carlisle said. "Again, Marion's versatility defensively, he came up huge. And if you look at his offensive numbers, they were great."
So now it's back on the road with a busted backcourt. The Mavs have fought through prior injuries and perhaps these are the types of struggles, when players go down and others must rise up, that ultimately come to define a team's makeup when the stakes are at their highest.
"That's how we all learn is through adversity," said Odom, speaking as a two-time champion with the Lakers. "That's how we get better, even as men, even if we're not talking sports and just talking life. That's how we live and learn is through adversity. And sometimes what happens is somebody who wouldn't get a shot gets a shot at confidence.
"Because hopefully this team will be playing through June, so to have everybody confident, everybody prepared mentally first and have their confidence is a big deal."
Time to plug holes and plug along.
Jeff Caplan covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.