DALLAS -- A team can only start five players in an NBA game.
Apparently, the Dallas Mavericks don't abide by those rules.
When asked about point guard Darren Collison not being thrilled in his new role coming off the bench, coach Rick Carlisle reminded his listeners that his "starters" extend beyond the five players he rolls onto the court for the opening tipoff.
"He's one of our starting eight, really," Carlisle said of Collison. "I think that's how we have to look at this team. Who starts and who finishes is not nearly as important as our collective effort toward winning. That's what we're all looking at."
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In addition to Collison, Carlisle describes Elton Brand and Vince Carter as his other two "starters" who are not on the floor for the opening whistle.
Collison started the first 14 games this season, and then was replaced by Dominique Jones in the starting lineup during last Tuesday's loss against the Philadelphia 76ers.
The next night in Chicago, a sprained right middle finger kept Collison sidelined during the Mavericks' loss to the Bulls.
That's the same day the Mavericks acquired Derek Fisher, who started Saturday's 92-77 victory over the Detroit Pistons.
In essence, Collison has lost his starting position to Fisher, although Carlisle doesn't view it that way.
"Listen, this is all about competition and winning," Carlisle said after Monday's practice. "I thought he played great [five points, eight assists] the other night [against Detroit].
"His response the other night was very positive, and I was very impressed. He played a terrific floor game, he had zero turnovers, made a couple open shots."
Fisher said a players' past experience is integral in how he's able to deal with and accept coming off the bench as something that's positive for the overall good of the team.
"For me, coming up through school and at different times, I was a starter and I came off the bench," Fisher said. "A lot of these guys that make it to this level they don't know what a bench looks like, and so you can't expect them to necessarily be happy with it.
"But I think over time, as long as there's open communication between coaches and players --and there's a respectful relationship - guys can get used to it. I think at the end of the day as long as a guy feels like he's getting a fair chance, a fair opportunity to earn what he gets, I think you can deal with it."
Carlisle said when the Mavericks won the NBA title two years ago, he had nine starters.
Point guard Jared Cunningham has played just 20 minutes in five games, which makes it difficult for the rookie from Oregon State to establish any continuity.
Cunningham could be a prime candidate to play for the Texas Legends, which is the Mavericks' Developmental League squad.
"We'll constantly look at that as a possibility," Rick Carlisle said after Monday's practice. "Right now he's done some good things to earn his way into a uniform for games, but that's something we'll analyze going forward.
"He's done a good job in practice. He's played hard, he's picked things up, he's making shots, he does things hard, that's the biggest thing."
Cunningham is 4 of 11 from the field and has just 10 points and one assist this season.
Rick Carlisle sent his condolences to the family of Utah coach Rick Majerus, who died of heart failure on Saturday at the age of 64.
"One of the years when I took a sabbatical from coaching and did some broadcasting, I went out to Utah and watched his practices and spent some time with him," Carlisle said. "He's a coach's coach.
"He just has a pure love and respect for the game, one of the really respected guys in terms of X's and O's and strategy and so forth. Very, very sad to see him go. He's given a lot to the game."
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760