Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Dallas Mavericks’ DeShawn Stephenson steps up while Nowitzki and Butler are out
Since Nowitzki has been out and Butler has been injured, the Mavs have gone 2-3, losing the first three but rallying to win the last two.
DALLAS The story of the early season for the Dallas Mavericks had been winning. The Mavs were one of the hottest teams to start out the season, compiling a 24-5 record to start out as one of the best teams in the NBA.
That all changed on December 27 against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The story went from winning to injuries. The Mavs ended up winning the game against the Thunder, but forward Dirk Nowitzki left the game with a knee injury that has sidelined him ever since.
New Year's Day, matters took a bigger turn for the worse in Milwaukee as forward Caron Butler went down in the first quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks. It was feared when Butler went down that the injury was a serious one, and those fears were confirmed on Tuesday, as Butler had surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon and will now be lost for the season.
Since Nowitzki has been out and Butler has been injured, the Mavs have gone 2-3, losing the first three without Dirk but rallying to win the last two games, including a gutsy 84-81 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday night at the American Airlines Center.
Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle said that with the injuries they have sustained, games like Tuesday night's have become chances for his team to come together and show what they are made of.
“It's an opportunity for us because when [Dirk is] on the floor this year, he's the leading plus/minus guy in the league,” Carlisle said. “Which tells you something about how great he is. When he's been off the floor, it's been challenging times for us, and now we're in that situation. We know we're in it, we know we're going to be in it, so this is where everyone else is going to have to come together and find ways to make winning basketball plays and it's going to start for us on the defensive end. That's the beginning and end of it.”
With Butler out and Nowitzki considered day-to-day, the Mavs starting lineup has had to be shifted. Normal starter DeShawn Stephenson has moved from shooting guard to small forward. Guard Jason Terry has had to give up his normal role as the sixth man to slide into the starting lineup and Shawn Marion has also moved from the bench to the starter's role.
Stephenson especially has been one that has taken up some of the slack on the offensive end caused by the injuries. Known mostly for his defense, Stephenson followed up a 21-point game against the Cleveland Cavaliers with 18 more points against the Trail Blazers.
Carlisle praised Stephenson as someone that embodies the Mavs' strengths.
“On our whole basketball team,” Carlisle said, “he stands for what we need to be about right now and that is just hanging in and being tough and having the guts to step into big shots. He has been great.”
As for Nowitzki, he is still considered day-to-day. Whether he plays Thursday will be a game time decision as the Mavs once again host the Thunder at the AAC.
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