DALLAS -- Even at a bargain price of $2.1 million via the amnesty waivers, the Mavericks expected much more out of Elton Brand.
The former All-Star has a long track record of being a productive NBA player. His current averages of 6.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game would be the lowest of his 14-year career by a long shot.
Unlike his former AAU teammate Lamar Odom last year, Brand reported to Dallas in good shape and actually gives a flip. So Brand has got to get going at some point, right?
“I feel like it’s a matter of time,” Brand said after his four-point, four-rebound outing in Monday’s loss to the Timberwolves. “All puns intended, I think it’s also a matter of time.”
As in, playing time. Brand logged a grand total of 17 minutes against Minnesota, not one second of which came in the fourth quarter.
“You know, 17 minutes, I can’t do too much,” Brand said. “I’m not a firecracker, you know what I mean? I’m definitely here supporting my teammates and whoever gets the minutes. I just hope we can do the best.”
As diplomatically as possible, Brand acknowledges that he’s frustrated that he isn’t getting the chance to finish games. That’s a first for a man who has averaged 18.2 points and 9.4 rebounds in his career.
It’s one thing to watch from the bench when Dirk Nowitzki is doing work during crunch time, but that's obviously not the case now. Coach Rick Carlisle has opted for Troy Murphy over Brand down the stretch in the last two losses.
Brand is shooting the ball poorly (.386), but that’s 100 points better than Murphy’s clip so far for the Mavs.
“Coach is trying to win ballgames,” Brand said. “Whatever he sees fit. There’s no need to communicate. I’m running sprints with the guys who played less than 20 minutes and doing everything to make sure that when my number is called, I’ll be ready.
“It’s an adjustment from the standpoint of just kind of (being used to) getting the benefit of the doubt to close a game or two. If you don’t, then all right, kind of move on when you get that chance. But like I said, I’m not trying to rock any boats. Whatever it is, I’m here to play hard and practice hard and be a good teammate.”
Carlisle made a general comment about taking a “good, long look” at the rotation after Monday’s loss. That might not necessarily be to Brand’s liking.
Asked specifically about Brand’s struggles, Carlisle said, “He’s been great in terms of his approach. It’s a long season. He’ll get there.”
It would seem that the Mavs really need Brand now, while Nowitzki is forced to watch.
A few more notes from Monday’s loss:
1. Slow starts: The Mavs scored 30-plus points in each first quarter during their three-game winning streak. Their first-quarter point totals during the current three-game losing streak: 23, 21, 17.
“We’ve got to get off to better starts,” said Mayo, who was 2-of-8 from the floor in the first quarter and finished with 18 points on 7-of-18 shooting. “That’s the second game in a row that we’re depending on our bench to give us a little energy and effort out there. Our starters have got to take responsibility to come out with a little more energy and effort.”
Added Collison, who scored 13 of his team-high 21 points during a futile fourth-quarter rally: “We have to hit first. We have to come out aggressive early and hopefully we can sustain.”
2. What’s wrong with the offense?: The Mavs shot a season-low .407 from the floor in Friday’s loss to the Knicks. Bad got worse with a .405 night in Saturday’s loss to the Bobcats. And they set yet another new low with a .363 stinker against the Timberwolves.
So how does Carlisle plan to fix the Mavs’ suddenly sputtering offense? By getting his team to play better defense and hit the boards.
“We’re giving up too much dribble penetration and we’re not rebounding,” Carlisle said. “That’s the thing that’s killing us. If we can just get stops and rebound, our offense will pick up.”
3. Sarge silver lining: Maybe it’s fitting that former Air Force Staff Sergeant Bernard James, the 27-year-old rookie, was the Mavs’ biggest bright spot on Veterans Day.
The man known as “Sarge” provided a spark off the bench. James played 10 high-energy minutes, scoring six points and grabbing four rebounds.