Injuries force Vince Carter to play power forward

DALLAS -- In the Dallas Mavericks' locker room following Saturday's 110-94 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, Vince Carter looked exasperated.

A shooting guard and small forward by trade, Carter has been thrust into helping the short-handed Mavs at power forward.

Carter said he doesn't mind the extra workload.

"It takes a toll on your body, but I told them I'm willing to do whatever," Carter said. "We're low on bodies down there and I'm not afraid to fight with the bigs down there and compete.

"I might not get the rebound every time, but whoever the big is in the game I might can help them. I just want to set the tone and the mentality of just fighting and competing."

With arthroscopic right knee surgery shelving Dirk Nowitzki for six weeks, and with Chris Kaman slowed first by a sprained lower back and now with a strained right calf, coach Rick Carlisle turned to Carter.

"He was playing it relatively early in training camp because Kaman missed some time and we didn't have a ton of big guys," Carlisle said. "He's doing the best job he can out there."

At 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, Carter has to battle against some of the game's top bruisers. And the Mavs' oldest player bulked up over the off-season to prepare himself for this challenge.

"I'm dying out there sometimes," said Carter, who turns 36 in January. "More than anything, I may play the position and I'm undersized, but I'm just trying to compete and just give it all I have and set the tone for these other guys.

"If the oldest guy can do it, I know for sure y'all [younger players] can do it, probably at a higher level."

Taking pity

Guard O.J. Mayo thinks Dirk Nowitzki's absence for the next six weeks could be a blessing in disguise.

For one, Nowitzki will rehab his surgically repaired right knee and it's hoped that won't be an issue once he returns. Mayo also believes opponents will take note.

"We'll probably get some teams that'll maybe take it a little easy on us with Dirk not playing," Mayo said. "But the Dallas Mavericks have been good for so many years, the name on the jersey will probably bring out a lot of the respect and have teams come at us hard.

"We just have to stay focused and understand and take it a game at a time, a day at a time, and just keep getting better."

Mavs host Hornets

The Mavs will play their fifth straight preseason game without Dirk Nowitzki at 7:30 tonight when they host the New Orleans Hornets at American Airlines Center.

Without Nowitzki, the Mavs must limit their mistakes just to stay in games.

"We can't take any days off at practice and we can't take any possessions off in games," Rick Carlisle said. "Everything's meaningful. When you lose a guy like that, margins for error become slimmer. I think the guys really understand that."

Mixed results

Mavs guard Rodrigue Beaubois returned to the lineup with mixed results Saturday after missing three games with a sprained left ankle.

The fourth-year guard had three points, two rebounds, four assists and two turnovers against the Hawks in 17 minutes. He also was just 1 of 5 from the field, including 1 of 4 from 3-point range.

The positive news is that Beaubois felt no ill effects in his left ankle after Saturday's game.

"I'm not 100 percent yet, but I'm getting closer," Beaubois said.

Dwain Price, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @DwainPrice

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