NEW YORK After playing 25 minutes against the New York Knicks on Dec. 16, Al-Farouq Aminu nearly disappeared from the Dallas Mavericks’ rotation.
He played a total of 24 minutes over the next eight games, including three contests where he didn’t play at all by coach’s decision. But Aminu played a key role in Sunday’s 109-90 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers when he came off the bench to score four points, grab six rebounds and add some stellar defense in 25 minutes.
“It’s cool just to be able to help out the team in whatever capacity I can,” he said.
Aminu said he had to keep a level head as his playing time decreased.
“It’s difficult, but when you’re winning it makes it a lot better,” Aminu said. “You just try to stay ready and stay focused and keep encouraging the guys that are out there playing.
“Everybody plays a part in winning.”
Aminu’s rebounding ability was a big reason the Mavericks signed him as a free agent last summer. And he knows he can help the Mavs in that area.
“You have to learn how to box out and make a point of just doing it,” Aminu said. “That might have been one of the reasons that I was able to help and I was able to get rebounds [Sunday] and help the team get a win.
“Any way that I can help the process of winning, I’m down for it.”
Coach Rick Carlisle credited Aminu for being prepared and making an impact despite the lack of playing time.
“Farouq hasn’t had his number called in a few weeks and he’s ready to play and step in and play defense and do what he does — rebound and be long out there,” Carlisle said.
West better than East
Carlisle wasted no time giving his honest opinion when someone asked him why the Western Conference teams seem so much better than those in the Eastern Conference.
“There are better players in the West overall, I think, just top to bottom,” Carlisle said. “That’s just a fact.
“A lot of Eastern teams are rebuilding right now.”
Only six teams in the East have a .500 or better record, while 10 teams from the West are .500 or better.
“We have a tradition here, and teams in the East are getting better,” Carlisle said. “The East is getting better and the West is going to have to work harder to keep up, or should I say, to stay ahead where we are.”
The Mavs are only 10-7 against the West, but have dominated the East while going 16-3.
“We go hour-to-hour with our team,” Carlisle said. “When we have breakfast, we’re looking to get to lunch unscathed.
“In the West, we’re trying to move up the Western Conference [standings]. That’s where our focus is.”
▪ The Nets observed a moment of silence before the game for ESPN studio host Stuart Scott and former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo. Cuomo, 82, died Thursday and Scott, 49, died Sunday.
▪ The Mavs flew home Monday night and will host the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday before leaving again to play the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday.
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760