Is Rick Carlisle ready to settle on starting lineup?

DALLAS – It’d be fine with Rick Carlisle if the Mavericks don’t pad their lead for the most starting lineups used this season.

They’ve already used 18 – five more than last season – and just might have found one that Carlisle is comfortable rolling with on a consistent basis. The Mavs are 4-3 when rookie center Bernard James joins Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, O.J. Mayo and Darren Collison, a lineup they’ve used the last five games.

“The hope is that we can develop some consistency,” Carlisle said. “Having said that, I’ve got to be open to adjusting on the fly when it’s helpful. We’ve had a little more consistency with our rotation in recent weeks, and I would love for that to continue. The nature of this game and our league and our team is that we’ve got to have everybody ready.

“It’s a simple fact. It’s not like two years ago when you could basically pencil in when guys are going to be subbing in and out, and who’s this and who’s that.”

It’s not like the Mavs planned to use this lineup. In fact, those five had never played a single second together before Carlisle benched the defensively challenged Chris Kaman and inserted James into the starting lineup for the Jan. 27 win over the Phoenix Suns.

James has started all but two games since then, but he’s still a part-time player, getting almost all of his minutes at the beginning of each half with Elton Brand coming off the bench to play the majority of the big-man minutes.

The starting lineup that features James has been outscored by 10 points in 68 minutes – or, if you prefer, they’re even other than that awful start against the Atlanta Hawks. However, Carlisle is mostly encouraged by the way James has performed in his role as an energy guy.

“It’s a lot to throw in his lap, to basically say ‘Hey, you’re a second-round pick. Go start in the NBA on a team that’s trying to get to the playoffs,’” Carlisle said. “But his job is simple. It is play hard, be aggressive, be a traffic cop defensively, contest everything and run your ass off. Those things he’s done and he’s getting a little better at.”