Nerlens Noel was going to make his first start with the Dallas Mavericks when they face the Atlanta Hawks tonight at 6:30 from Philips Arena.
But the 6-foot-11 center was 10 minutes late for the Mavericks’ plane that departed from Dallas Love Field on Tuesday afternoon. Thus, Dorian Finney-Smith will start in tonight’s game.
“This would have been an opportunity to start Nerlens, but he just had a little mess up there,’’ coach Rick Carlisle said after this morning’s shootaround. “He understands that we do things the right way here and we can’t have slippage with things like being on time.
“He understands, he apologized to his teammates and we’ll go from here.’’
Carlisle also said guard Wesley Matthews didn’t make the trip to Atlanta after he injured his hip during Monday’s win over the Miami Heat.
“He went back and got worked on and decided he wanted t go back in – he was feeling a little bit better,’’ Carlisle said. “And then after the game and yesterday morning he was just feeling it a little bit, so he was left back to get looked at by the doctor today to maybe get a diagnostic test on it.
“We’re hoping that it’s not serious. We don’t think it’s serious. But we’re going to get it checked out.”
As far as Noel is concerned, a reporter asked Carlisle if his new center will play at all tonight.
“Yeah, he’s going to play. He was going to start, he’s not going to start now,” Carlisle said.
The Mavericks acquired Noel in a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers last week, and he arrived in Dallas on Friday. Admittedly, he’s still trying to find his way around town.
“I’m still transitioning a little bit,’’ Noel said. “It was my mistake.
“I apologized to my teammates and that won’t happen again. I’m still learning some things.”
Noel explained the glares he got from his new teammates when he finally showed up for the trip to Atlanta.
“It caused a lot of anxiety on the whole plane ride,” Noel said. ‘I don’t like my teammates or anybody in the organization having that feeling about me.
“So I made it a point to reach out to my teammates and let them know that was my fault and it won’t happen again.”
Noel was told he could make up for his mistakes by just going out and getting 20 points and 20 rebounds tonight against Dwight Howard and company. He smiled and said, “Yeah, I’ll go to work tonight. For sure.”
Penalizing Noel by not starting him – Noel said – sent the right message to him.
“Coach has been real tough on me since I’ve been here this whole week with trying to memorize plays and all the little things that are going to bring me to fruition that much faster with this team,’’ Noel said. “I’ve been taking it all in trying to learn as fast as possible.’’
Forward Dirk Nowitzki said he didn’t help Carlisle discipline Noel.
“That’s obviously between him and coach, and coach made the decision and we’ll roll with it from here,” Nowitzki said. “We have a certain culture here.
“We like to be on time, we like to do things a certain way. He’ll be fine, he’ll adjust.”
Noel is more than ready for that adjustment.
“It’s a veteran team, so they’re very critical on some things,’’ Noel said. “But they were pretty light with me and just told to just feel it out and get used to the normal things.’’
And one of those “normal things” is getting to team events and functions on time. Especially when the team plane is about to leave town.
“He was 10 minutes late and that ain’t going to cut it here,’’ Carlisle said. “That’s all you need to know.
“He’s lucky he got on the plane. Listen, we love him and that’s why there’s going to be a consequence for this and we’re going to fix this problem with the idea that it shouldn’t happen again.’’