Tyson Chandler is the exception and the standard. He’s the one starting center coach Rick Carlisle has been comfortable sticking with over the last five seasons.
Not coincidentally, Chandler is the one starting center employed by the Mavericks over that span who displayed a consistent level of energy and intensity.
Saturday night’s performance in Portland certainly wasn’t encouraging. Coming off the bench behind DeJuan Blair for the second straight game, Dalembert contributed so little in 12 minutes (two rebounds, one block, minus-7) that Carlisle decided to give the rest of the backup minutes to Bernard James.
Maybe that delivered a message to Dalembert. James played 11 frenetic minutes, scoring five points, grabbing six rebounds, blocking a shot and helping the Mavs outscore the Trail Blazers by three during his time on the floor. Carlisle can honestly tell Dalembert -- or let him figure it out on his own -- that he isn’t guaranteed minutes unless he performs.
That doesn’t mean it will have a positive effect on Dalembert. It didn’t on Haywood, who muttered “I just work here” over and over and moped the rest of the season when Erick Dampier came back from an injury and reclaimed the starting job weeks after the Mavs acquired Haywood from Washington. It didn’t on Kaman, who also took a passive-aggressive approach about Carlisle’s playing-time decisions during his time in Dallas and openly complained about the coach’s “mind games” when he came through town with the Los Angeles Lakers earlier this season.
Then again, maybe those guys just aren’t starting-caliber big men. Haywood was so uninspiring as the Mavs’ starter in 2011-12 that the Mavs waived him via the amnesty clause the following summer. He was a backup for the Charlotte Bobcats last season. For all of Kaman’s complaints about Carlisle, he’s averaging fewer minutes this season and is coming off the bench for the Lakers.
And maybe there’s a reason Dalembert is playing for his fifth team in five years. His numbers (7.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.3 blocks) are pretty close to his career averages, but the Mavs are demanding more from Dalembert defensively.
If Dalembert doesn’t deliver, he might not play many minutes. That’s especially true with Brandan Wright days away from making his season debut.
The Mavs signed Dalembert to be their starting center, but he might end up being the odd big man out.