NEW ORLEANS – Coach Rick Carlisle described the decision to make a change at starting center Wednesday night as “matchup driven,” making it clear that it isn’t evidence that Samuel Dalembert has worked his way into the doghouse.
There is no doubt, however, that the Mavericks expect more from Dalembert. Owner Mark Cuban said as much before the Mavs’ win over the New Orleans Pelicans.
“We’ve got to get Sam playing better,” Cuban said.
The Mavs are particularly determined to get Dalembert to perform better defensively. They signed him to a two-year, $7.6 million deal with a partial guarantee for the second season because they needed a big man who could serve as a defensive anchor.
Dallas has a defensive rating (points per 100 possessions) of 103.3 with Dalembert on the floor and 103.8 when he’s on the bench. Over the last 10 games, the defensive rating is 106.8 with Dalembert on the floor and 104.4 when he sits.
“I think he gets down on himself sometimes and gets too protective,” Cuban said. “He’s not as aggressive as he needs to be. When Sam is active, we’re better defensively. I think sometimes he just tries not to make mistakes. When a guy does that, that hurts him. When he’s active, we’re just better.”
Cuban also believes that Dalembert isn’t comfortable yet in the Mavs’ defensive schemes, resulting in the big man thinking too much and not reacting enough.
“It’s not natural,” Cuban said. “We haven’t had any practices. Offensively, too. But he’s catching a lot better on his rolls. He’s not dropping the ball like he was at the beginning. He knocks down his free throws. He still gets a rebound about every three minutes.
“So there’s a lot of good things that he’s doing. I just think he can take it to the next level.”
He’ll get no argument from Dalembert, who is averaging 7.6 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 23.2 minutes per game.
“I think there’s still a lot of improvement for my part,” Dalembert said. “I’m so hard on myself. Finding that niche is the toughest thing for me. I’ll keep on working on that, trying to make the best of the situation, when I come in, when I come out. It’s kind of different for me.
“Sometimes when you play and you sit down for a long time -- I’m trying different things. I’m riding the [exercise] bike because it’s such a long time sitting, and then to try to come back and bring that energy. It’s still in progress.”