DALLAS – If Shane Larkin plays passively, the rookie point guard will ride pine.
That point was proven to Larkin during the Dallas Mavericks’ loss Monday to the Denver Nuggets, when he was pulled after two minutes and didn’t get back in the game until garbage time. Larkin was motivated to make sure it didn’t happen against Wednesday night, when he had seven points and six assists in 17 minutes to help the Mavs beat the Golden State Warriors.
“He had by far his best game,” coach Rick Carlisle said.
Larkin uttered variations of the word “aggressive” dozens of times while talking to reporters after the victory. It’s obvious the importance of aggressiveness has been hammered into his head recently.
“They’ve been saying it for a while, and I haven’t done it and saw the consequences,” Larkin said. “I played two minutes that meant something the other night, pulled me, didn’t get back in the game. That just lit a fuse under me.
“It didn’t upset me. It proved a point to me, like if you’re not going to be aggressive, why are you here? Why do we need you? I just had to go in there and be aggressive and get back to what I was doing in college. That’s why they brought me here.”
The Mavs made Larkin the 18th overall pick in the draft in large part because they liked the 5-foot-11, 176-pound guard’s dynamic quickness and ability to create problems for defenses as a pick-and-roll ballhandler. They want him to get in the lane and make good things happen.
But Carlisle recognizes that Larkin, who didn’t make his NBA debut until Nov. 18 due his recovery from a surgically repaired right ankle fractured before the summer league team left for Las Vegas, is learning on the job.
“He’s getting comfortable,” veteran Vince Carter said. “He’s understanding what’s asked of him. You’ve got to understand this is like a training camp for him, because he missed that. We’re bringing him along in the fire. I think he did a great job handling it.”
While the Mavs are dedicated to Larkin’s development, he isn’t guaranteed minutes over 25-year-old rookie Gal Mekel. Larkin has more potential, however, in large part because of jets rare enough to result in a locker room debate about whether Monta Ellis or the first-round pick is the quickest player on the roster.
That quickness was evident at the end of the third quarter, when Larkin dribbled about 70 feet in less than four seconds before launching a 22-foot runner that hit nothing but net to stretch Dallas’ lead to double digits.
“That was a huge play,” Carlisle said. “That’s a good example of what Larkin’s speed can bring to our team.”
And Monday night is an example of what will happen if Larkin doesn’t use that speed. The rookie learns quickly.