To hear Rick Carlisle tell it, Darren Collison didn’t get demoted.
Never mind the fact that Collison didn’t start in Philadelphia, a first for him since he was traded to the Mavericks this summer.
“He’s our starting point guard, but tonight he came off the bench,” Carlisle said after the Mavs’ 100-98 loss to the 76ers. “I mean, Jason Terry was our starting 2 guard, but he came off the bench for four years. It’s not that big a deal.”
Collison didn't seem to buy into that line of thinking.
"Am I happy about the situation as a competitor? No," Collison said. "I know how hard I work. I'm still going to try to lead this team to victories in the near future."
Carlisle’s point is that Collison will continue to be the Mavs’ primary point guard, whether he starts or comes off the bench. That was the case Tuesday night, when Collison played 30 minutes, finishing with 12 points, six assists, five steals and four turnovers.
Left unsaid is that the Mavs don’t have any better options at point guard. Rodrigue Beaubois has fallen out of the rotation. The Mavs tried to remove Dominique Jones from the roster before the season but couldn’t find a taker in a trade.
The Mavs sacrificed having the insurance of another experienced point guard on the roster when they released Delonte West due to repeated incidents of conduct detrimental to the team.
At this point, Carlisle really has no choice but to be committed to making it work with Collison, who played with the type of aggression and energy his coach demands against the Sixers, although his turnovers were a big part of the problem in the fourth quarter.
Collison sparked a 16-2 run immediately after entering the game in the first quarter. The Mavs were plus-9 in his minutes against the Sixers.
"I just wanted to come into the game and show them that I'm a starter in this league," Collison said. "But I also want to make it a point that it's not about me, it's about the team. I really just want to focus on winning."
Added Carlisle: “I love the way he played. He impacted the game immediately with quickness and energy. I thought he was terrific.”
A few more notes from the Mavs’ seventh loss in the last 10 games:
1. Brand’s big return: Maybe it’s a coincidence, but Elton Brand had his most productive performance of the season the first time he faced the team that used the amnesty clause on him this summer.
The former Sixer had a season-high 17 points on 5-of-10 shooting, eight rebounds, one block and one steal in 19 minutes off the bench. Brand surpassed his previous season high (11 points) by halftime.
“He’s a man’s man, and that’s the ultimate compliment I can give to him,” Carlisle said. “It’s extremely hard coming back to a place you have played and play well because it’s so emotional and all that. The way he played big and hit timely shots and gave us a physical presence was very impressive.”
2. Mayo’s misfortune: O.J. Mayo knocked down 55 of his first 63 free throw attempts this season, a clip of 87.3 percent.
If the Mavs could have picked someone to go to the line with a chance to tie the score with 2.7 seconds remaining, Mayo would have been the man.
But he missed both shots, albeit the second one intentionally.
“We got unlucky,” Carlisle said.
3. Sub-.500 strangeness: At 7-8, the Mavs are under .500 for the first time since they were 4-5 last season. This is the latest in a season that they’ve been under .500 since they went 7-8 to start the 2008-09 season, Carlisle’s first with the Mavericks. The last time the Mavs had a losing record later in a season was the end of 1999-2000, the last time they didn’t make the playoffs.