DALLAS -- This is not the time for Rick Carlisle to be concerned with stepping on toes.
The Mavs want to be considered championship contenders. Carlisle plans to hold them to that standard and started by calling out a couple of veterans after Wednesday night’s loss to the Nuggets, the Mavs' fourth loss in a row and ninth straight against West playoff teams.
Shawn Marion earned the coach’s wrath by failing to run back on defense after a missed shot, prompting Carlisle to call a timeout to pull Marion from the game early in the third quarter. Jason Terry was benched after getting called for a technical foul with 28.1 seconds remaining.
“We’re pros here,” Carlisle said. “We don’t have a bunch of rookies running around out there. We have one rookie who’s got a screw in his foot, and he ain’t played in more than two months. So we can’t be doing that stuff. Simple as that.
“After the fact, I think our guys realized that, but in the heat of the moment we’ve got to be better.”
That was Carlisle referring specifically to Terry losing his composure. He also wasn't pleased by Terry’s poor defensive performance down the stretch, when Denver’s J.R. Smith scored eight points after the Mavs fought back to tie the score with less than three minutes remaining.
This is the second time in a week Terry let his emotions get the best of him. He was ejected for a flagrant foul on Steve Blake, which started an altercation that resulted in three other players getting tossed, early in the fourth quarter of Thursday’s lopsided loss to the Lakers.
“He knows that this is going to be everyone’s game plan -- to try to get him out of his game, get him to react emotionally,” Carlisle said. “This is a good lesson, because with 46 and change seconds left, it’s a two-possession game and he’s got to keep his head. He knows that. And we did talk about it.”
We’ll have to take Carlisle’s word for now. Terry, who is usually one of the most talkative Mavericks, had left the locker room by the time the media entered after Carlisle’s press conference.
Carlisle quickly changed the subject after being lobbed a softball question about Marion’s 21-point, 10-rebound performance. The coach made a point to mention that Marion’s actions -- or lack thereof -- after a missed shot were unacceptable.
Marion, who was 10 of 14 from the floor, didn’t run back on defense after airballing a 3-point attempt from the corner with 10:23 remaining in the third quarter. That left Denver small forward Danilo Gallinari wide open for a transition jumper. After a Dallas turnover led to a Denver layup, Carlisle called a timeout and benched Marion for the next six minutes.
“I don’t give a crap about a missed shot, but when anybody on our team is not running back, that’s a problem,” Carlisle said. “That’s a problem. I can’t tolerate it as a coach, and those guys can’t tolerate it as a group that’s trying to get somewhere.”
Marion got the message loud and clear.
“We need more than that, but that’s OK,” Marion said. “I’ll take it, but you’ve got to make an example out of everybody. I’ll lead by example. That’s fine. It is what it is.”
It is time for Carlisle to crack down, if it’s not too late.