The workload for point guards J.J. Barea and Raymond Felton just got a little heavier.
That came thanks to a bizarre day Wednesday when Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said he didn’t think starting point guard Rajon Rondo would ever wear the team’s uniform again.
Carlisle said Rondo incurred a back injury early in Tuesday’s loss to the Houston Rockets and would be out indefinitely.
That was the game in which Rondo kept making one mental lapse after another and was eventually benched after playing only 9 minutes, 55 seconds.
After the game, Carlisle said he benched Rondo because Barea and Felton were so effective — then the story changed the next day.
With Rondo now jettisoned to parts unknown —the nine-year veteran becomes a free agent on July 1 — that opens the door for Barea and Felton to show management what they can do.
“Well, both those guys are fighters,” Carlisle said after Thursday’s practice. “They’re big-time competitors.
“I don’t have any concerns about playing those guys more minutes. I know they’re ready for it, I know they relish the opportunity.”
The effectiveness of Barea and Felton will be part of the storyline when Game 3 of this best-of-seven series tips off at 6 p.m. Friday at American Airlines Center. The Rockets lead the series 2-0, but the Mavs are hoping Barea and Felton can help them win Friday, put pressure on Houston and climb right back in this series.
While Rondo had apparently mentally checked out of Game 2 after a series of unforced errors, Barea played 34 minutes, scored 13 points, grabbed six rebounds and was 5 of 14 from the field. Felton scored nine points and was 3 of 9 from the floor in 18 minutes.
Barea averaged 7.5 points and 3.4 assists in 17.7 minutes this season, and also started 10 games. Felton averaged 3.7 points and 1.4 assists in 9.7 minutes, and made three starts.
But Felton was limited to only 29 games after he suffered a nasty high ankle injury in the second preseason game against Oklahoma City, and then served a four-game NBA-imposed suspension after pleading guilty in June to a gun charge in New York.
The Mavs also are optimistic that point guard Devin Harris will be able to play Friday. Harris missed Game 2 with a recurring injury to his great left toe — an injury that occurred April 13 against Utah.
“The hope is that he won’t have any restrictions either in terms of minutes or anything like that,” Carlisle said. “The adrenaline of the game starts and that can help, too.
“Signs are good that he’ll be available, and so we’ll go from there.”
Harris wasn’t limited in practice Thursday, but noted that there weren’t a lot of contact drills. He did, however, admit to a wardrobe change.
“I changed shoes completely and got another injection [Wednesday],” Harris said. “Back to a normal size, what I was playing with before.
“It’s a little more comfortable, a little sturdier.”
With Rondo now a footnote in Mavs’ history, Harris knows the Mavs don’t have time to dwell on what’s past. Particularly with the Rockets’ James Harden and Dwight Howard ready to make life miserable for Dallas again.
“We’ve been short-handed a little bit throughout the year,” Harris said. “Other guys have stepped up.
“Now’s a perfect time to do so. We’ve got to play with the guys we have and try to get a win.”
And the guys the Mavs have running the show at point guard — Barea, Felton and Harris — are left to make the best of what turned into a combustible situation with Rondo.
“Well, we’ve just got to bring high energy, we’ve got to play together, we’ve got to play with pace, we’ve got to play with discretion, we’ve got to be aggressive without being frantic,” Carlisle said. “I like our team.
“The guys that we have available are going to fight their butts off, and our crowd’s going to be into it, and we’re going to have to make it happen.”
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760
With Rajon Rondo out, the Mavericks must lean on J.J. Barea and Raymond Felton at point guard. A look at their averages in the Houston series: