Dallas Mavericks

Veteran forward Villanueva impressing Mavericks

Because he’s never been mired in a situation like this, where he has to fight to earn a spot on a team, Charlie Villanueva realizes he has to reinvent himself.

Villanueva knows that the 144 games he missed over the past three seasons due to back and ankle injuries have created havoc with his career. He also knows that’s why coaches and general managers aren’t swooning over him anymore like they were when he was the seventh overall pick of the 2005 NBA Draft.

“Now I’ve got to throw myself up, reinvent myself again,” Villanueva said Wednesday afternoon. “It’s not a problem. I’m actually looking forward to the opportunity.”

The Dallas Mavericks signed Villanueva to a non-guaranteed contract this summer.

And even though the Mavericks already have the NBA maximum of 15 players with full or partially guaranteed contracts, they’re not against dumping one of those players to create a roster spot for Villanueva.

“We’re just going to pick the best players,” owner Mark Cuban said. “I don’t care what their contract is. I’m happy to [eat a contract]. I don’t care.”

What the Mavericks do care about in regard to Villanueva is his ability to play the stretch power forward position and possibly be the main guy who gives superstar Dirk Nowitzki some relief.

The Mavericks saw some of Villanueva’s strengths during Tuesday’s 111-108 loss to the Houston Rockets in their preseason opener.

In that game, Villanueva tallied 13 points in just 14 minutes. He was 4 of 8 from the floor, including 3 of 6 from behind the 3-point line.

But he soured defensively, as he fouled out during his short stint on the court.

“He can score and he can shoot it, that’s his gift, that’s his skill,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I’d like to see him do a better job defensively, particularly in the post where he got hurt, particularly late in the game.

“And I think he’s capable of doing that. But he did some good things.”

Villanueva averaged 16.2 points and 6.7 rebounds in only 26.9 minutes while playing for Milwaukee in 2008-09.

“It’s good to have guys like that [Cuban and Carlisle] on your back, on your side, but I can’t get satisfied at all,” said the 6-foot-11, 232-pound Villanueva. “I’ve got to keep grinding. I’ve got to keep working. I’ve got to keep getting better every day.”

Villanueva said he considered signing with the Los Angeles Clippers, but just got a better vibe from the Mavericks’ front office. He also said he’s not using training camp as an audition to showcase himself to other teams.

“My mentality is here,” Villanueva said.

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