The Dallas Mavericks held their annual Blue-White scrimmage Sunday afternoon at American Airlines Center.
Unfortunately for the 4,500 in attendance who watched the Blue defeat the White 42-32, at least four players expected to be in the regular season starting lineup weren’t able to play.
Injuries kept center JaVale McGee (leg), and guards Wesley Matthews (Achilles tendon) and Deron Williams (calf) sidelined. Meanwhile, forward Dirk Nowitzki also sat out so he could rest.
In addition, forward Dwight Powell (elbow) and center Salah Mejri (leg) were out due to injuries. That left the Mavs with only 13 players to participate in the 20-minute scrimmage.
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But that didn’t damper the enthusiasm from coach Rick Carlisle, who watched the game from the stands while his staff ran the show.
“It’s OK, because we’ve got 20 guys competing for 15 spots,” Carlisle said. “We’ve got some young guys that are capable and deserving in being prospects, and they’re fighting it out.”
There were some good things, particularly offensively. Defensively, we’ve got to keep working.
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle on the Blue-White scrimmage
Down seven players enabled Carlisle to get a deeper perspective from those who were able to play.
“I’m looking very closely at a game like this,” Carlisle said. “We’re looking for a lot of little things.
“There were some good things, particularly offensively. Defensively, we’ve got to keep working, and again we’ve just got to keep everybody coming into the training room and doing what they need to do to get healthy.”
One player who has managed to stay out of the training room, despite a sore right ankle, is forward Charlie Villanueva. In Sunday’s game, Villanueva led all scorers with 13 points, and also made a pair of 3-point field goals.
“These guys found me and I just made shots,” Villanueva said. “That’s my job. My job is to make shots. Nothing new.”
After signing his second one-year contract with the Mavs this past summer, Villanueva appeared more relaxed in Sunday’s game.
“He’s coming in [to training camp] in very good shape, very focused this year,” Carlisle said. “Last year he resurrected his career. This year he’s looking to build on it and right now he’s well positioned to do that.”
Villanueva hopes being “well positioned” translates into receiving more than the 10.6 minutes per game he played last year for the Mavs.
“Just take it day by day, just get better every day and keep earning coach’s trust and hopefully that comes with more minutes,” Villanueva said. “I just have to just go out there and just play hard and just leave it all out there.”
Admittedly, with so many of the Mavs’ heavy-lifters sidelined, Villanueva said that made it difficult to exactly see what’s what heading into Tuesday’s preseason opener at home against the Denver Nuggets.
“A lot of guys that are going to be a big part of what we’re trying to do are not suiting up for us yet, but I’m excited,” Villanueva said. “I think with Wes, Chandler, D-Will — once those guys get back it’s going to be very exciting, it’s going to be very interesting.”
The Blue starting backcourt of Devin Harris and J. J. Barea acquitted themselves well for the winning squad. Newcomer Jeremy Evans also provided a spark for the Blue team, including grabbing a pass from Barea and scoring on a lob dunk in the second half.
“We’re kind of working him at small forward and power forward mostly now, but he could he end up playing some center as well,” Carlisle said of Evans. “We want activity, we want rebounding, shot-blocking, open-shot making.
“And as you can see — as we know from his career — you can throw the ball up and he’ll go get it and dunk it.”
Overall, Carlisle thought his team’s offensive flow was solid, with Raymond Felton shining throughout the day.
“We can use work on defense and we can use work with our health,” he said. “Let’s face it, we’ve got most of our main guys out, but the good news is that they’re going better.
“A lot of those guys got pretty significant workouts earlier today and we’ll just keep chipping away in the right direction with our health.”