The Dallas Mavericks Define “Next Man Up”
By Isaac Harris
The Dallas Mavericks won their sixth straight game on Friday night behind the play of some unlikely players.
Throughout the years, across all different sports, the sports mantra “next man up” is constantly used when referring to the players who are stepping into playing time unexpectedly. The slogan is often used when describing the bench players who are taking the place of an injured starter. This season, the Dallas Mavericks have defined this.
Including a healthy Parsons, the Mavericks main starting unit consisted of Deron Williams, Wesley Matthews, Dirk Nowitzki, and Zaza Pachulia. But you can make the argument that the main storyline of the season has been the players behind them in the rotation.
Going back to the beginning of the season, one of the biggest surprises of the season has been the rejuvenated play of Raymond Felton. With Parsons coming back slowly from his offseason knee injury, it was Felton that led the team in minutes the very first game of the season. From clutch moments in key victories to giving the Mavs veteran leader on the court, Felton took advantage of the injuries to begin the year.
With Deron Williams only playing in 62 games thus far, Felton has taken the opportunity by storm in being Carlisle’s versatile guard who can play both spots. Felton is averaging nine points, three rebounds, and three assists a game on 27 minutes a night. Last year, Felton played in just 29 games, averaging three points a game on nine minutes a night, quite the turnaround for Mr. Felton.
But Felton was just the beginning for the Mavericks.
It was a January 13th game for the Mavs where starting center Zaza Pachulia was sitting out, that a new Maverick stepped up and introduced his name to fans across the country.
Salah Mejri became the next man up against Oklahoma City that night by recording 17 points and 9 rebounds. Mejri found himself logging spotty minutes as the season went along, but it was his presence on the defensive end that kept forcing Carlisle to give the big guy minutes. Names such as Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden have all been victims to his viscous shot blocking above the rim.
From the injuries/rest that both Nowitzki and Pachulia took time off for earlier in the season, Mejri became the next man up and this has resulted now to the big guy getting nightly minutes for the Mavs.
Now for the two most recent examples for the Mavericks.
Ever since Parsons went down with his second season ending knee surgery, Carlisle and Co. found themselves searching for answers in the starting unit as they looked to stop a reeling Dallas team that had lost 10 of their last 12 games. Enter first round draft pick Justin Anderson.
Carlisle inserts Justin Anderson into the starting unit and now the Mavericks have won six straight games. Not saying it is solely because of Justin Anderson’s play, but he has had a lot to do with the recent success. Anderson has brought athleticism to the Mavs starting unit that they simply haven’t had all year-long. To go with his athleticism, his passion and energy on the court is contagious to all.
Since March 25th, the Mavericks have won six out of their last eight games when Anderson logs more than 20 minutes of play. In light of the huge disappointing news of losing Parsons for the year, Anderson has been the “next man up” for the Mavs in filling into the starting lineup.
Arguably the hottest Maverick to date entering into Friday’s matchup with Houston has been nine-year veteran J.J. Barea. Since Deron Williams went down with his cloudy hernia injury a few weeks ago, Carlisle elected to insert Barea into the starting unit to replace Williams…and replace him he has.
Before Friday’s game, Barea has started at point guard for the Mavericks in all five games of the recent winning streak. He has logged over 26 minutes a game while averaging 24.2 points and 7 assists a game. He has been the catalyst for the Mavericks during this crucial playoff push. He was even recognized league wide for his impressive play by being honored with Western Conference Player of the Week for the first time in his career.
With Parsons being out for the year and Deron Williams going down with no timetable, the Mavericks looked done to most people. But Justin Anderson and J.J. Barea had other plans as they were the next men up.
The trend even continued again on Friday night as the MVP of the last week for the Mavs, J.J. Barea, went down with a groin injury and played only 8 minutes in a crucial game against Memphis. But just like all season, another Maverick was there to step right in.
Devin Harris stepped right in and added 16 points off the bench for Dallas in route to a huge victory at home for the Mavericks.
This Dallas Mavericks team never stops. Their will and fight throughout every game of the past couple of weeks show the true testament of determination from a veteran team unwilling to throw the towel in on the season where they very easily could have. The injuries keep coming and the Mavs keep answering.
Next: Mavs Beat Grizzlies in Crucial Game at Home
They are the definition of “next man up.”