DALLAS – Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle’s “Be Ready” mantra sounds simple, unless you’re the veteran riding the bench.
That’s been Wayne Ellington's world for most of the season.
“It’s tough,” Ellington said. “It’s definitely a challenge. It’s definitely a test of your professionalism – keeping your head in it, making sure you’re ready in all aspects.”
The five-year veteran apparently aced the test in his first season with the Mavs.
Ellington signed a two-year deal with Dallas this summer with the expectation that he’d be a role player the Mavs relied on to provide hard-nosed wing defense and a perimeter shooting threat off the pine. However, Jae Crowder started the season hot and hung on to that spot in the Mavs’ rotation until last week.
That’s when Carlisle decided that Ellington had earned the chance to show what he could do with consistent minutes. Ellington has responded by scoring 30 points, dishing out seven assists and knocking down six of 11 3-point attempts in 61 minutes over the last four games.
To put that playing time in perspective, Ellington averaged only 67 minutes per month in November, December and January.
“There hasn’t been one time all year where he’s complained or dropped his head,” Carlisle said, noting that Ellington’s defense has been as impressive as his shooting. “He’s been a real pro about it. Guys that approach it the right way are always ready when their time comes. He’s a high-character guy, even though he’s a Carolina guy.”
Carlisle’s “Be Ready” mantra isn’t just coachspeak bull from the Virginia alum. He has a track record of major tweaks to the rotation, moving a player from the end of the bench to a significant role at a moment’s notice.
The classic example is DeShawn Stevenson, who bounced back and forth between the starting lineup and the end of the bench on the 2010-11 team. Stevenson’s defensive tenacity and spot-up shooting ended up being important ingredients on the Mavs’ title team.
Ellington doesn’t have a few hundred tattoos and a wild personality, but his recent performance is reminiscent of title-season Stevenson. He knows his role is to play tough defense and hit open jumpers when he’s on the floor. He just doesn’t know when he’ll get that opportunity.
Some players would pout about that situation. A smart veteran seizes the opportunities when they come, which is what Ellington has done.
“It’s Wayne being Wayne,” sixth man Vince Carter said. “He’s always been a great shooter and very solid defensively. It’s a luxury to have somebody like that who hasn’t had the minutes and then you throw him in there and it’s just like he’s been playing all season. He’s a professional player.”
Ellington proved his professionalism by his approach while he was riding the pine. Now he’s taking advantage of a chance to prove he can help the Mavs win.