Since Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler basically sat out Wednesday’s game in Denver so they could receive some rest on the second end of a back-to-back, the player who also sat out that game, whom the Dallas Mavericks are most concerned about, is point guard Rajon Rondo.
Rondo aggravated an old left Achilles injury during Tuesday’s 108-104 overtime win in Sacramento. But the Mavs (27-13) are hopeful he’ll be able to play at 7:30 Friday night when they host the Nuggets (18-20).
“It’s bothered him a little bit from time to time,” coach Rick Carlisle said of Rondo’s sore left Achilles. “We asked him to get up and press full court [against Sacramento] and really get into the game. . . and he’s got some soreness.”
Raymond Felton started against Denver in Rondo’s place and delivered 10 points and five assists in 29 minutes. Before that game, Felton had played a total of 16 minutes this season while recovering from a right high ankle sprain he suffered during an Oct. 10 preseason game against Oklahoma City.
“He’s a [high] caliber player in this league and he’s definitely a rotation player,” Carlisle said of Felton. “He can start on a lot of teams, so we’re very fortunate to have him.
“Unfortunately he kind of tweaked his ankle a little bit [against the Nuggets]. The thing about him is he’s such a fighter, he got up and stayed in the game and knocked the free throws in and kept playing, so I like him.”
While Carlisle didn’t hide his fondness for Felton, Rondo is the playmaker who will always get the lion’s share of minutes. He’s also the playmaker who will become a free agent this summer, and the player whom the Mavs hope will be here beyond this season.
So far the Mavs are 8-4 in games in which Rondo has played, and they expect to persevere even more as they reach the midway point of the season against the Nuggets.
“We like Rondo a lot,” said Carlisle, who will definitely have Nowitzki and Chandler playing Friday night. “Nothing’s a finished product until the season is over and you’ve accomplished your goal or you haven’t.
“He’s working extremely hard, he’s a different kind of player than we’d had. But he’s got a presence and a resourcefulness at both ends of the court, which is really unique. And he’s helped out a lot so far, and we just see it getting better as time goes on.”
Carlisle said, he’s “seen a lot” of Jameer Nelson lately.
The Mavs signed Nelson to a free-agent contract last summer, but traded him to the Boston Celtics on Dec. 18 in a deal that brought Rondo to Dallas.
But Nelson played only six games for the Celtics before they traded him to Denver on Tuesday. He also played against the Mavs on Jan. 2 when they played the Celtics in Boston.
“He’s a terrific player and a very high character guy, leadership abilities, leadership qualities, a very good shooter,” Carlisle said.
“He gave us floor spacing, he gave us full-court pressure defense, and he made plays for us.”
In 23 games for the Mavs, Nelson averaged 7.3 points and 4.1 assists in 25.4 minutes per contest. In six games for the Celtics, Nelson averaged 4.8 points and 5.5 assists in 20.2 minutes.
“He was the guy who kind of got our season going off to a good start,” Carlisle said. “And then we had the chance to acquire Rondo, and they wanted [Nelson]. So you’ve got to give up good players to get good players.’’
Nelson, 32, will be in uniform Friday night when the Nuggets meet the Mavs in Dallas. And Carlisle believes he’ll fit well with Denver point guard Ty Lawson.
“He’ll help this team, he’ll be a good complement to Lawson,” Carlisle said. “He and Lawson will be able to play well together because Jameer can play off the ball and he can play with the ball.
“He’s a good player and he’s got a lot of game left. He’s not that old.”
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760