DALLAS -- Samuel Dalembert didn’t pout or mope after being informed Monday morning that he wouldn’t start for the first time this season.
Dalembert simply proved his coach wrong when he got on the floor.
Coach Rick Carlisle cited concerns about the Dallas Mavericks’ ability to match up with the Philadelphia 76ers as the reason he switched up the starting lineup for the first time this season, sitting Dalembert in favor of Jae Crowder to begin the game with a smallball lineup. Carlisle worried that Dalembert would struggle defending Sixers center Spencer Hawes, who does more damage from the perimeter than the paint.
Carlisle called the decision to change the starting lineup a mistake after the Mavs’ 97-94 win, just in case there was any doubt after Dallas dug an eight-point hole to begin the game.
The Mavs probably don’t manage to pull out the win without Dalembert’s contributions off the bench, which included eight points, a season-high 14 rebounds and three blocks in 28 minutes.
“He was terrific,” Carlisle said. “I explained the situation this morning. He was great about it. He said, ‘Hey, whatever’s best for the team. That’s fine.’ It’s a case of a guy didn’t let that affect him. He came in and was a big factor.”
Added Dirk Nowitzki: “He changed the game for us. We weren’t quite sure if this was the game for him, but he made it his game.”
To Carlisle’s credit, he wasn’t too stubborn to acknowledge his error during the game and adjust accordingly. The Mavs started the second half with Dalembert at center as part of the same lineup that opened the previous 10 games.
“It’s not a problem,” Dalembert said. “Nobody’s perfect. The communication was clear. I understand his mindset. I’m usually by the basket and he didn’t want to let [Hawes] get open 3s. That’s a relationship. Next time, we’ll know, I can do it.
“To me, I just didn’t want to get a night off. So when I saw things weren’t going well the first five or six minutes, I was ready to get my chance to prove to him that I can get it done. We adjusted fast. And that’s a good thing.
“I’ve been on teams sometimes when coaches don’t want to adjust.”
And Carlisle has had big men too mentally fragile to handle moving back and forth from the starting lineup to the bench.
Perhaps it’d be wise just to leave the starting lineup alone, but Dalembert’s performance off the pine was an impressive exhibit of professionalism.