Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that Dalembert’s dominance as an interior defender and rebounder was one of the big reasons the Mavs had a chance to beat Brooklyn. The big man posted season highs in blocks (seven), rebounds (15) and minutes (35) while scoring 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting and hitting a couple of clutch free throws that gave the Mavs a four-point lead in the final minute of regulation.
“He did a nice job tonight,” coach Rick Carlisle said, not exactly pouring on the praise after a disappointing loss spoiled Dalembert’s outstanding effort. “He was really active, really into it. We need that every game.”
If it was reasonable to expect that kind of production on a consistent basis from Dalembert, his salary would be a heck of a lot higher than $3.7 million.
But it’s not necessarily about Dalembert’s production, which has been pretty impressive recently, with him averaging 13 rebounds and 3.3 blocks in the last three games. The Mavs just want Dalembert, who has bounced around to five teams in the last five NBA seasons in large part due to his inconsistency, to bring that kind of energy every night.
“I just hope this is a steppingstone into the rest of the year,” Vince Carter said. “Just his energy and his effort really gave us an opportunity, to be honest with you. ... Some great things came out of his effort. I just hope it’s something he can sustain and continue on for the rest of the season.”
Dirk Nowitzki described Dalembert’s performance against the Nets as “phenomenal.” Then, like the coaches and other veterans in that locker room, Nowitzki essentially challenged Dalembert to keep it up.
“If he’s active like that, we’re usually tough to beat,” Nowitzki said.
Dalembert’s up-and-down energy might be a source of frustration, but the truth is he’s been every bit as good as the Mavs could have expected after signing him to a relatively low-dollar deal late in summer. He’s averaged 6.4 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 20.2 minutes this season, and all of those numbers are up a bit since the All-Star break.
But the Mavs, who are in eighth place in the West at a moment and only a half-game ahead of the Phoenix Suns, might need Dalembert at his best the rest of the regular season to make the playoffs. He knows that and believes he’s ready to answer the bell.
“Being able to now play with the guys a lot, I’ve found my niche,” Dalembert said. “I’ve found exactly how I can help the team in the limited amount of time I’m playing. Keep going every game and keep bringing the effort and the energy.”
If Dalembert does that, his coaches and teammates might even offer a compliment that isn’t followed by a figurative kick in the butt.