DALLAS – As soon as the Mavs learned that Jason Kidd didn’t suffer a torn Achilles tendon, they recognized the silver lining to their gray-haired point guard’s injury.
The reins will be handed to Rodrigue Beaubois for at least a week while Kidd recovers from a strained right calf.
“This is where you learn a lot in a short period of time,” coach Rick Carlisle said.
Carlisle meant that this will be one heck of an on-the-job educational experience for the 23-year-old Beaubois, who showed flashes of brilliance as a rookie but endured a disappointing, injury-ruined sophomore season. But it’s also a chance for the Mavs to learn a lot about a kid who has a chance to be a huge part of the franchise’s future.
So far, the Mavs have learned that Beaubois isn’t overwhelmed by the role.
All he’s done the last two games is outplay veterans Devin Harris and Tony Parker while playing a major role in a pair of Mavs wins over teams in the West playoff picture. Beaubois has stuffed the box score with 36 points on 16-of-31 shooting, 14 assists, nine rebounds and seven blocked shots since Kidd limped off the court.
Oh, and he has committed only three turnovers in 72 minutes.
“It’s an opportunity for me to get better, learn as a player and for sure help the team to win,” Beaubois said after a 14-point, seven-assist, three-block performance in Sunday’s overtime win over the Spurs. “If coach is making me play that many minutes, it’s because he believes I can help the team. I just need to be ready for that.”
It’s a different challenge for Beaubois, as Carlisle put it, than coming off the bench and primarily playing shooting guard.
It’s a fascinating test of the things the Mavs believe Beaubois has improved the most since arriving in Dallas after playing in a midlevel European league: his mental toughness and his basketball IQ.
“He’s a competitor,” Jason Terry said. “He just hasn’t been in enough of these situations. It’s kind of a blessing in disguise that J. Kidd is out, because [Beaubois] is kind of forced into the role of having to assume the role of leading the team, starting at the point guard position.
“He’s going to take his lumps, but he’s going to do more right than wrong. We definitely encourage him more than beat him up.”
Beaubois has done much more right than wrong the last two games, including outstanding defensive efforts against Harris (10 points, four assists) and Parker (nine points, 2-11 FG, four assists).
Beaubois isn’t playing with the fear that seemed to paralyze him during the rare occasions that he got on the floor last season, which was bookended by significant foot injuries. He’s playing with confidence and aggression, as evidenced by the two driving buckets, two blocked shots, assist and rebound he had in the final 1:32 of regulation to fuel the Mavs' rally from seven points down.
By no means is Beaubois perfect as a point guard. There is much room to grow, especially with his ability to balance being aggressive while getting his teammates involved. For instance, there’s no way that it takes Dirk Nowitzki goes the first several minutes of a game without a touch if Jason Kidd is running the team.
But the Mavs’ veterans will happily live with those blemishes as long as Beaubois keeps bringing the intensity that the coaching staff has spent two-plus years coaxing out of the kid.
“This is a great time for him,” Vince Carter said. “He’s playing well, he’s very aggressive. He’s going to make mistakes, and I think young guys when they make mistakes and are playing in games like this, if you make them, you keep going. You don’t have to look over your shoulder now. We’re going to need you to play.”
Added Nowitzki: “I like what he’s doing. That’s being aggressive, looking for his shot. That’s his game. He will never be a Jason Kidd. I think we all understand that. He’s got to play his game and be aggressive and make stuff happen off the dribble.”
He’ll never be Jason Kidd, but it’s going to be a lot of fun to see who Roddy B. becomes. We’ll get a great glimpse over the next week or few.