Minute Men: Leash loosened on Dirk Nowitzki

Our weekly look at how Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle is managing the minutes of Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd during this 66-game schedule:

Rick Carlisle stole a catch-phrase from those silly cell phone commercials to describe those few extra minutes he plays Jason Kidd every now and then above his preferred limit.

Rollover minutes.

Kidd got a few of those Tuesday night against the Knicks. Carlisle's good with it as long as there's a day off in between games. He thought he was headed for a fifth consecutive game of holding Kidd to fewer than 30 minutes with the start of a back-to-back-to-back just ahead, but then he got a tad frustrated with Rodrigue Beaubois early in the fourth quarter and sent Kidd back in.

He logged 32:12, his second-highest total since Jan. 23 when Kidd ended a stretch of six consecutive games of playing 33 minutes or more. The next game, Kidd's right calf went haywire and he would miss the next six.

How Carlisle handles Kidd in these three games will largely depend on how the games are going. At 23-17, the Mavs don't necessarily have the luxury of just giving away a game in the name of preserving minutes like San Antonio did a few weeks ago at Portland (take a look at the Mavs' competition level the rest of March), but Carlisle also won't go nuts with Kidd's minutes even if all three games are nip-and-tuck.

As for Nowitzki, the leash on his minutes has loosened and for good reason. The Mavs need him on the floor as much as possible. Since Feb. 1, his average minutes are 34.7, up just a tick from last season's average of 34.3. Some of this has to do with the extended absence of Lamar Odom. He's the one guy that can keep Nowitzki down at around Carlisle's target of 32 -- but that's another story.


Season averages: 28.4 mpg, 5.4 ppg, 5.6 apg, 4.2 rpg

The breakdown: Carlisle has done a remarkable job of keeping Kidd's minutes extremely steady while making sure he's in the game during critical periods. Carlisle's job has been complicated by the extended loss of Delonte West (broken right ring finger). Since Feb. 10, Kidd has played at least 30 minutes just five times and never more than 34 minutes. During this incredibly busy past week, (going back to last Thursday), a span of four games, Kidd averaged 29.3 minutes and 7.0 points and 6.3 assists. In his last two games, Kidd made 6-of-13 shots, which is definitely a welcomed boost for the offense (he's shooting 32.7 percent on the season).


Season averages: 32.3 mpg, 20.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 2.1 apg

The breakdown: His minutes, points and rebounds continue trend upward, as do his shooting percentages, which now stand at 47.5 percent overall and 37.9 percent from 3s. Remember, it wasn't that long ago that Nowitzki scraped bottom in the high-teens from 3-point range. As for those minutes, Carlisle is adding more as we go. He's been taking Nowitzki out rather early in the first quarter of late, around the 7-minute mark and then putting him back in about four minutes later, same with the third quarter. Nowitzki averaged 34 minutes and 28.5 points in the last four games since leaving the Memphis game after 10 minutes with tight lower back.