DALLAS -- The philosophy all season has prioritized health and rest above all else. It's why coach Rick Carlisle pulled Jason Kidd for the second overtime against Portland and why he decided not to play Shawn Marion Wednesday against the Lakers.
Such discipline to the bottom line has reaped remarkably low minutes for the Mavs' key veterans. Dirk Nowitzki is the Mavs' top minute man, averaging 32.3 minutes, two minutes less than last season and five fewer than the two season prior to that. Nowitzki ranks 57th in the NBA in minutes per game. Jason Kidd's 28.1 minutes, the first time he's ever averaged less than 33 minutes a game in his 18-year career, ranks just inside 100.
No team's top minute man has averaged fewer minutes than Nowitzki. Closest is Utah's Al Jefferson at 32.9 and Phoenix's Marcin Gortat at 32.9 and Steve Nash at 32.5.
"It was one of our goals," Carlisle said. "It's kind of been implemented in a different way than we expected, but it was a necessity. To this point we like where we're at with it, but on nights when we don't have back-to-backs the minutes will ramp up slightly. I just think that's going to be a byproduct if they have to. That's kind of where we are."
That's been the case for Nowitzki, who averaged 34.0 minutes in four games going back to last Thursday night, twice logging 36 minutes, including Wednesday against L.A. Kidd's minutes have remained constant, averaging 27.8 minutes in those four games.
"When something is a fact of life you adjust to it," Carlisle said. "This became a fact of life and we knew it was going to be. The truth is [Lamar] Odom has made it possible to keep Dirk's minutes much lower than expected. I didn't expect him to be at 32 minutes a game or wherever he's at...But, going forward we've got to be vigilant about using the position that we're in and if we need to have a little latitude and play guys a little more we can do it within reason, but we've got to stay to a template that is relatively similar."
They've also got to make sure they win games.
Season averages: 28.1 mpg, 5.8 ppg, 5.5 apg, 3.9 rpg
The breakdown: Kidd had one of his better shooting weeks, knocking down 8-of-17 from 3-point range. He scored 14 points and had 10 assists in the big win over San Antonio, playing 34 minutes in that one, the only game in which he played more than 28 minutes in the last four-game stretch. The Mavs play at the Spurs on Friday and at Houston on Saturday, so how liberal will Carlisle will be to extend Kidd in a close game in the first of back-to-backs?
Season averages: 32.3 mpg, 20.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 2.3 apg
The breakdown: It was another big week for Nowitzki as he averaged 28.3 points in four games. He recorded consecutive double-doubles in the last two games for only the second time this season. His shooting percentage continued to rise, making 40-of-83 shots, but he had a rough night against the Lakers. He started the game 4-of-10 and finished 10-of-24 missing some jumpers that are typically automatic. With 18 games left and the importance high for every one, Carlisle might have no choice but to keep Nowitzki's minutes creeping up.