Villanueva, the nine-year NBA veteran whose once promising career fizzled the last few seasons with the Detroit Pistons, has a legitimate shot. That’s in large part because of Villanueva’s long-distance shooting range.
“You’ve got to guard Charlie when he walks in the tunnel,” coach Rick Carlisle said, right after Villanueva knocked down 22 of 25 3-point attempts in a post-practice shooting drill. “He can flip in shots from 35 feet. He’s one of those guys with uncommon range and quickness of release.”
The Mavs could use a 6-foot-10 stretch power forward coming off the bench. They thought they signed that guy in Rashard Lewis before his contract was voided following the discovery that knee surgery was necessary.
Villanueva is over the health problems that plagued him the last few seasons, when he missed a total of 144 games and didn’t contribute much to the Pistons when he did played. He resembles the player who averaged 11.1 points in 21.9 minutes per game and shot 38.7 percent from 3-point range in 2010-11.
“I’ve always liked his game,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “I always have. He’s got one of the quickest triggers we’ve got in this league. The first couple of days, he’s been shooting it really, really well. The challenge for him is to do some other stuff. We all know that he can shoot.
“But he looks fired up. He looks in great shape. He’s actually sneaky athletic. He’s faster than you think. He jumps higher than you think. I like him as a player, but it’s going to be tough. There’s only 15 spots and we’ve got a lot of men.”
Fifteen of those men on the Mavs’ roster have fully guaranteed salaries for this season, so Villanueva would have to perform well enough to convince owner Mark Cuban to pay somebody who isn’t on the team. Villanueva’s veteran-minimum deal doesn’t include any guaranteed money.
But Carlisle, who is impressed by Villanueva’s conditioning and calls him “a weapon,” assures that finances won’t be a factor in the decision about whether Villanueva makes the cut.
“It’s going to come down to who plays the best, who fills needs,” Carlisle said. “And we’ll go from there. Mark’s the kind of owner, he’s not going to let a few dollars get in the way of keeping the right team together.”
At the least, Villanueva has made himself a player worth watching during the preseason, which the Mavs begin Tuesday night at home against the Houston Rockets.
“I’m real curious to see how it goes the rest of the month,” Carlisle said, “but I like what I see so far.”