After one game into the regular season, the prized backcourt the Dallas Mavericks put together in the off-season didn’t play in the team’s second game of the year.
Point guard Deron Williams sat out Thursday’s road game against the Los Angeles Clippers with a left knee contusion. His backcourt running mate, Wesley Matthews, sat out the same game as a precaution because he played 26 minutes in Wednesday’s 111-95 win at Phoenix and coach Rick Carlisle didn’t want to extend his minutes.
An MRI was negative on Williams’ knee after he collided with Suns guard Eric Bledsoe in the third quarter of Wednesday’s opener.
“He came out of it a little sore,” Carlisle said of Williams. “He had an MRI and the results were good — negative — in terms of any structural damage, so we don’t consider it serious.”
As far as Matthews is concerned, the Mavs don’t want to stack a lot minutes on him after he just returned last week from rehabbing his torn left Achilles, which was operated on March 11.
“This was not a prescheduled rest day,” Carlisle said of Matthews. “But considering the minutes that he did put in, this is the right move for us.”
Matthews was already ahead of the Mavs’ return timetable. The fact that he was able to play against the Suns was icing on the cake.
“I’m no doctor, but from what I’ve seen it’s remarkable,” Carlisle said of Matthews’ swift return. “It’s an example of an athlete with a very strong focus, a very strong will, and an extreme work ethic.
“He was hell-bent on making it happen on opening night. And again, convincing him [that] to not play [Thursday] is the right thing is not easy. It’s one of those things that almost results in a fistfight.”
Both Williams and Matthews likely will be back in the lineup when the Mavs end this three-game road trip against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night at the Staples Center.
Fortunately for the Mavs, they are deep in the backcourt with reserves Raymond Felton, Devin Harris, J.J. Barea and John Jenkins. Felton was part of a three-guard starting lineup Carlisle utilized against the Suns, and he finished with a game-high 18 points and six assists.
“Those are two of our high-usage guys, guys who are very smart,” Harris said of Matthews and Williams. “Defensively, obviously you see what Wes can do and what we did for us [against the Suns].
“Deron’s a great ball-mover and another perimeter shooter that we’re missing, and just a guy who can defend and keep guys in front of them.”
Jenkins, who led the Mavs in scoring in six of their seven preseason games, sees the absence of Williams and Matthews as an opportunity to show the coaching staff what he can do in a real game.
“I just need to go out there and play hard like I did in preseason, and just be aggressive and play hard defense,” Jenkins said. “The thing I came here for is to work hard and take advantage of things like this.
“Those guys played well for us [Wednesday] and helped us get a win on the road, and it’s going to take a lot of us to try and fill that void.”
Carlisle to attend Saunders’ funeral
Carlisle and Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers are among those who will attend the funeral of Flip Saunders on Saturday in Minnesota.
Carlisle and Rivers will fly to Minnesota on owner Mark Cuban’s plane, along with some other coaches, including Mavs assistant Melvin Hunt, Clippers assistant Sam Cassell and Lakers assistant Mark Madsen.
The coach and president of basketball operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves, Saunders died last weekend at the age of 60 due to cancer.
The Mavs will practice Saturday in Los Angeles. While he’s away, Carlisle said his staff will conduct the practice.
Parsons to launch shoe Friday
The launch of the Del Toro x Chandler Parsons shoe will be Friday from 6-8 p.m. at Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills.
Parsons and Del Toro Shoes have created a men’s collection for the spring and summer of 2016.