Sunday, April 10, 2011
Rodrigue Beaubois has plenty to learn
By Jeff Caplan ESPNDallas.com
DALLAS -- As Rodrigue Beaubois dressed after Friday night's win over the Los Angeles Clippers, a particularly poor performance in a string of duds for the Dallas Mavericks' second-year guard, he engaged in a casual interview with a French-speaking camera crew.
They talked soccer, and a somber Beaubois -- who had just gone 0-of-7 and again seemed lost and overwhelmed on the floor -- was able to crack a brief smile when his other favorite team, Real Madrid, was the topic.
Beaubois slipped a pinstriped suit jacket over his pristinely pressed white Oxford and was offered a compliment on his fashion chops. He again managed a smile, this time chuckling as he shook his head and looked down at his black dress shoes.
"I can't play," he said softly, his French accent still thick. "The least I can do is dress good."
Rodrigue Beaubois wound up with almost as many personal fouls (four) as points (five) in 12 minutes against the Suns.
He is his toughest critic. The reviews through 26 games this season are discouraging. Things didn't get any better for the lithe, 6-foot-2 starting shooting guard, who, once upon a time, was hailed as the ultimate X factor for an already streaking team.
"Everybody's thinking that he's the savior," point guard Jason Kidd said. "It's just hard. Everybody saw the one game against San Antonio [in Game 6 of the first-round playoff series] and, unfortunately, we can't all sit back and be a couch quarterback."
In Sunday's feel-good, 115-90 romp over the Phoenix Suns, happiness eluded Roddy B yet again. He opened the game actually looking as loose as he has in some time. Perhaps it was a product of playing alongside Kidd again instead of in place of him during two ugly attempts to play the point as Kidd rested.
It wouldn't take long, though, for the question to crop back up: Can the Mavs afford to be patient with Beaubois' steep learning curve and the playoffs starting this week? Mavs coach Rick Carlisle has consistently restated his commitment to keeping Beaubois in the starting lineup.
"I'm not going to bail on the kid," Carlisle said.
Said Beaubois: "That he says that means a lot. But, we have plenty of players capable of doing great things so I have to step up. I definitely have to because all of my teammates, the coaches have confidence. They trust me, so I need to step up my game and be ready to help the team win games."
Beaubois, 23, had to first battle regaining confidence in the broken left foot that kept him out of the first 54 games of the season. Thrown into the starting lineup on a team full of 30-something veterans after one game, he has struggled to fit in, and fouls have taken him off the floor just as Carlisle is desperately trying to keep him on it.
"I know that there were some big expectations, but I mean it is a good thing. It's always good to see that [people] believe in what you can do," Beaubois said. "I really want to reach that goal. My goal was to come for the season and be ready right away. The injury changed a lot of things, but the goal is still the same right now.
"I'm struggling a little bit, so I just need to keep working; keep working is the only thing I can do. The most important thing is to be ready for the playoffs and so, yeah, I just need to keep working and find a way to get off this bad period."
Beaubois had a couple of early assists Sunday, including a nice scoop pass from under the basket to a slashing Shawn Marion in the paint. He hit a 3-pointer to get on the board after missing his first two shots. But then the quick fouls came again -- two in a 2:23 span.
With 6:43 to go in the quarter, Beaubois made the slow walk to the bench and stayed there the remainder of the half, a bystander as the Mavs raced by the ragged Suns to a 65-39 halftime lead.
"It's not about just having patience," Marion said. "It's about trying to get him in a groove again and in the flow of things. He's still a work in progress. ... As a team we've just got to be behind him and support him. That's the best thing we can do right now."
Beaubois started the third quarter. He missed another 3-pointer. Then a defensive foul followed by an offensive foul in the span of seven seconds forced him to drag his drooping shoulders back to the bench after just two minutes, 36 seconds.
"For sure, I can be more confident," Beaubois said. "Right now it is a learning process so I am listening to a lot of things, a lot of people, just trying to get better. Right now I am thinking a lot, but I have to use that for the last games and when the playoffs come I have to be ready."
Beaubois would get back into Sunday's game with less than four minutes left in a round of meaningless garbage time. Time is running out before the playoffs.
"We've got two games left to put him in as many different positions and circumstances that he can learn from," Kidd said. "It's tough, especially when you got a team that's fighting for a championship and every possession means something, and every time that you have the ball it has to lead to something. Being young, you sometimes don't understand that, and that's what we're helping him with."
The "Free Roddy B" movement sure was a hoot a year ago. At the moment, the affable and polite Beaubois is a prisoner in his overworked mind. He is struggling on both ends, although Carlisle, and even owner Mark Cuban, are holding up defense as one area of positive growth.
On the offensive end, where the Mavs had hoped for a steady dose of the kid's quick penetrations, he is averaging 8.9 points on 42.5 percent shooting -- 31.3 percent from 3-point range -- and 2.4 assists in 18.6 minutes. He's scored in double figures twice in the last 10 games. He has attempted 28 free throws in 26 games and has jacked 80 shots from beyond the arc. He has accumulated 70 fouls.
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"Beaubois knows what's going on, he understands," Carlisle said. "We want him to be aggressive and sometimes that leads to fouls. And if it does, sometimes he gets pulled, sometimes we roll with him. We've seen this movie a lot and, again, it's just part of his whole learning curve."
It certainly sounds as though Beaubois will be the Mavs' starting shooting guard when they open the playoffs next weekend. The alternatives are DeShawn Stevenson or Corey Brewer, who started at the 2 on Friday when Kidd sat.
Stevenson hasn't shot well for a couple months and prior to Sunday's game Carlisle said to wait and see if Brewer is even active for Game 1 before anointing him playing time, never mind a starting job.
Kidd said it's still too early to pull the plug on Beaubois as a starter.
"But, understanding that in the playoffs, if you get off to a slow start you don't always want to be climbing uphill," Kidd said. "And also, matchups are a big thing, too, but coach will make that decision."
Beaubois was asked if he wants to remain the starter.
"That is going to be a coaching decision," he said. "Corey played great [Friday] and the night before. Obviously, he is doing a great job, so he [Carlisle] could decide to go differently. I would be the first one to support my teammates because Corey has been great.
"We want to win, so it's going to be a coaching decision. There is going to be a choice and I have to be ready whatever he asks me to do."
That choice is apparently made.
Jeff Caplan covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.