HOUSTON – Because he’s on the verge of accomplishing something he’s never accomplished before, Charlie Villanueva had a very restless night Friday night.
The Dallas Mavericks’ backup forward tossed and turned, and tossed and turned some more, at the mere notion that he was on the cusp of participating in his first-ever NBA playoff series.
"I’m excited man, ‘’ Villanueva said. "I’ve been waiting a long time for this drought.
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"It’s behind me now and I’m excited, and excited to play some basketball, man, and see what these playoff basketball is all about.’’
Now in his 10th season, Villanueva has played in 594 regular season games without playing in a playoff game. It’s the longest such active streak in the NBA – a footnote Villanueva is well aware of.
But it’s a streak that will end tonight at 8:30 when the Mavs play the Houston Rockets in Game 1 of a first-round best-of-seven playoff series at the Toyota Center.
"It’s crazy how my career took that path,’’ Villanueva said. "I never would have thought that coming from winning championships in high school and in college and experiencing this in the NBA, but it is what it is.
"I wouldn’t change it. I think everything happens for a reason and this is the best club to go to the playoffs with.’’
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle isn’t concerned about whether any butterflies will surface in Villanueva tonight and hinder his playing abilities.
"Charlie is ready every time he steps in the game,’’ Carlisle said. "I thi k that’s pretty clear.
"He’s locked and loaded. It’s great that he’s getting the opportunity to experience playoff basketball.’’
Villanueva won a national title with the University of Connecticut in 2004 and was the No. 7 overall pick by the Toronto Raptors in the 2005 NBA Draft. But after one season in Toronto, he was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks for T.J. Ford and cash considerations.
Still, while Villanueva has averaged 10.9 points in his career, playing in a playoff game was never something he could put on his résumé. Until now.
"My fourth year in Milwaukee I came real close, but never made it until now,’’ Villanueva said. "I’m looking forward to it."
Villanueva’s teammates have offered some encouraging words leading up to his memorable moment.
"I’m excited for him,’’ forward Chandler Parsons said. "Just going 10 years without a playoff game is wild, so I know he’s excited.
"He’s played in big games before, but (the playoffs are) a totally different atmosphere. I don’t think he’ll have any problems adjusting to it. He’s got experienced guys around him that’ll help him out if he does.’’
Villanueva said his teammates told him to just go out there and have fun and don’t even think about the moment. He just hopes his nerves settle down.
"I couldn’t sleep (Friday) night to be honest,’’ he said. "I tried not to think about it too much, but I couldn’t sleep, but I’ll be ready.
"I’m the type of guy that I’m fearless when I’m out there, so the atmosphere is not going to change the way I play basketball.’’