Lost in all the losing that has come the Dallas Mavericks’ way is how young players such as Dwight Powell are directly affected when superstar forward Dirk Nowitzki is not on the floor.
With Nowitzki sidelined indefinitely due to a strained right Achilles, those clean looks at the basket Powell normally gets aren’t coming as easy. Thus, it has become more difficult for the third-year center/forward to make his game flow as fluidly as it did last season when Nowitzki was on the floor.
“Dirk is one of the best shooting bigs ever, so having him kind of spaces the floor in a different type of way, and we’re able to run different type of sets and take advantage of different opportunities,’’ Powell said following Monday morning’s shootaround at American Airlines Center. “Whether he’s in or he’s out we’re going to compete and try and take advantage of what we have and try to win as many games as we can.’’
Because of his stature, Nowitzki draws a lot of attention when he’s on the court.
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“When he’s in the game I’m more likely to set a screen on (Harrison Barnes) than I am on him – a ball screen,’’ Powell said. “But for the most part my role is fairly similar.
“It’s just some of the looks are little different from other guys.’’
With Nowitzki only playing five of the Mavericks’ 19 games this season, Powell had basically struggled trying to connect the dots. Yet the 6-foot-11, 240-pounder from Stanford made a quantum leap Saturday when he had a career-high 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds to help the Mavericks secure a 107-85 over the Chicago Bulls.
“Guys were looking for me on the rolls,’’ Powell said, “and I knocked down the shots that coach set up for me and (point guard Deron Williams) set up for me and our guards set up and I just tried to take advantage of opportunities.’’
So, how can Powell piggy-back off Saturday’s performance when the Mavericks (4-15) host the Charlotte Hornets (11-9) Monday night at 7:30 at AAC?
“He just got to keep playing hard -- he always does,’’ coach Rick Carlisle said. “He’s playing minutes really now at both positions – the (power forward) and the (center).
“The more he plays, the more experience he gets -- both offensively, defensively, guarding different guys at different positions -- he’s just going to keep getting better and better.’’
The Mavericks signed Powell to a four-year, $37 million free agent contract on July 8.
“I think the biggest pressure right now is our record and trying to kind of dig ourselves out of this hole we kind of made for ourselves,’’ Powell said. “So that’s kind of been the biggest focus for me is losing isn’t fun.’’