Dallas Mavericks forwards Richard Jefferson and Charlie Villanueva must be comfortable in their own skin to be able to do what they did during Saturday’s 110-103 victory in Philadelphia.
Both Jefferson and Villanueva have been relegated to the bench most of this season. But when the Mavs decided to sit 12-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki for the game against the 76ers, the playing time that normally went to Nowitzki ultimately went to Jefferson and Villanueva.
Jefferson responded by scoring a season high-tying 10 points in a season-high 26 minutes. Villanueva added a season-high 11 points in a season high-tying nine minutes.
“Coming off of Toronto I talked to both Jefferson and Charlie about the fact that we were going to need them the next night in Philly, and both guys stepped up big time,” coach Rick Carlisle said after Monday’s practice at the Quest Multisport Complex.
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“Charlie gave us some great stuff on offense and did a decent job on the boards, and RJ gave us a physical combative game, which you need against a team like Philly that’s desperate and they’re coming at you. Both of those guys have been true professionals and they’ve proven over and over again that they’re ready to play.”
Carlisle hopes, if called upon, Jefferson and Villanueva will again be ready when the Mavs (13-5) face the Chicago Bulls (11-6) at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the United Center.
Barely getting any consistent playing time has not been an ideal situation for Jefferson, who started 78 games last season for the Utah Jazz.
But the 34-year old was told by Carlisle that his playing time would likely be sporadic when he signed his one-year, $1.4 million free agent contract with the Mavs this past summer.
“When you hear that for the first time in your career, it can be a bit frustrating,” Jefferson said. “And I’m not going to lie, the first couple of weeks were tough, not being able to contribute, especially I felt like I came in [to training camp] in shape and had a good preseason, and did everything.
“I didn’t really feel like there was anything else that I could do — I just was kind of out the mix, but I’m at ease with it right now. I’m very comfortable with my role and I embrace it.”
Villanueva, 30, also is embracing whatever he can get after he was the last player to make the Mavs’ roster this season.
“I learned that in being in my situation in Detroit that whenever the opportunity comes, take advantage of it,” said Villanueva, who has a one-year, $1.3 million contract. “I don’t get discouraged at all.
“I’m a professional at the end of the day, so I’ve just got to stay ready at all times. I think I prepared myself for that, so I’m just going with the punches now.”
Jefferson is averaging 3.4 points in 11.1 minutes; Villanueva averages 3.5 points and 5.1 minutes.
They know their time on the court will be limited.
“With this team, we’re so deep, guys have to make sacrifices,” Villanueva said. “Myself, RJ, Jae Crowder, these are guys that have to be making those sacrifices, and we’re OK with that.
“We accept our role, and whenever the opportunity arises just take advantage of it.”
Jefferson looked at his situation form a big-picture perspective.
“You just have to try to be a professional,” he said. “One good thing Coach has done is from the very, very beginning he’s being very upfront with me about what my position is going to be, what my opportunity is going to be, so it’s kind of been like a ‘stay ready’ mentality.
“I feel I can contribute, I feel I can still play, but we’re a very, very deep team. And if you’re going to be a successful deep team there’s going to be people that are sometimes out of the mix, sometimes in the mix.
“And to be able to sit Dirk on a night like that off a back-to-back and know that you can have people that you can count on just shows the strength of our team.”