UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas -- Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle has heard and read the speculation that Roddy Beaubois, when healthy, will start at shooting guard, Caron Butler will start at small forward and Shawn Marion will become the latest in an impressive line of career starters to be handed a bench job in Dallas.
After all, even owner Mark Cuban has weighed in on Beaubois as a possible starter and this summer president Donnie Nelson called moving Butler to the 3 and Marion to the bench a "natural progression."
On a club that returns virtually intact from last season and has few other lingering story lines, this situation has taken center stage. And naturally, attention has centered on how Marion, who has started 805 of the 820 NBA games he's played and all 75 with the Mavs last season, would handle such a role.
Not so fast, Carlisle said Tuesday after the first of two practices on the opening day of training camp at SMU's Crum Basketball Center. Carlisle said an assumption that Beaubois as a starter means Marion moves to the bench is not necessarily an accurate one.
Carlisle said he has had conversations with Marion as well as with Butler about the possibility of coming off the bench.
"It's something that, if it happened, would be different for them in their careers," Carlisle said. "And they both understand that this whole thing's got to be about putting our team in the best possible position. And there's always a possibility that there could be some fluidity with who did and didn't start depending on matchups and those kinds of things."
When the regular season rolls around on Oct. 27, one will be a reserve, and it could mean a delicate balancing act for Carlisle with veteran players on a roster that he said has, "got nine guys that have started [in the NBA] effectively."
Unfortunately, only five players are permitted to start. Butler, who reported to camp slimmed down and boasting of rejuvinated explosiveness after a summer of ramped-up conditioning work, is entering a big season personally, the final year of his contract. That fact alone could make a reserve role seem unsavory.
On an espndallas.com chat Monday, Butler answered a question about coming off the bench: "I'm not at the point of my career in which I feel I've declined, so I feel I'm still a starter in this game." Butler, 30, has started 527 of the 560 games he's played, including all 27 last year with the Mavs.
Butler has stressed his desire to become more of an offensive force, using his sleeker, stronger frame to drive more to the basket and rely less on his mid-range jumper. Marion, who excelled at running the floor with Steve Nash and draining 3-pointers in Phoenix, could get those aspects back into his game more rather than much of the post-up opportunities he had last season when he averaged 12.0 points a game.
"We are a veteran-savvy team, but that can be great at times and it can be bad sometimes," Marion said. "But, at the same time, that's when we really have to come together and trust each other, and just go out there and play ball and have fun doing it. That's tough [not starting], but we've got to start really recognizing the situations we have on the floor and taking advantage of that to the fullest. We are such a deep team and we've got so many different weapons on this team, we've just got to use it."
Carlisle believes he has differing and valuabe commodities in Marion and Butler, and he flinched at the notion that a bench role is a signal from the organization that a player's game is in decline.
"Any move to a backup position would never assume necessarily that a guy’s game is declining or anything else," Carlisle said. "It’s an opportunity for us to work into a position of strength, and it’s going to be an adjustment whoever ends up doing that. But, everybody knows we’re trying to do one thing -- that’s win."
Marion, 32, said Carlisle talked to him about a potential move to the bench about a month ago. In his first season with the Mavs, Marion was the team's best defensive player, but he was not typically in the lineup in the final minutes of close games and he became frustrated when his minutes dropped off in the playoffs.
Entering the second season of his five-year deal, Marion isn't playing for a contract and he seems to have softened to the idea of life off the bench, if that's the decision rendered.
"I'm a professional, definitely I'd get used to it. I've started my whole career, my whole life. It's definitely something to get used to, an adjustment, but I'm a professional, I'm coming to play," Marion said. "It boils down to I want to win. Everybody's got to make sacrifices. I've been doing it for the last year or so. If I've got to continue to make sacrifices, then I've got to continue to make sacrifices. I want to play."
On Monday, Dirk Nowitzki said players on championship teams can't have hurt feelings, can't be mad at the coach and the situation and must check their egos.
Jason Kidd said there's really only one way to keep everybody happy when roles require sacrifice.
"Winning always takes care of that," Kidd said. "That's the best deodorant. You've got to win."
Which would suggest the pressure is on the Mavs to get out of the gate quickly.
"Yeah, definitely," Marion said. "We've got pressure regardless. We've got a veteran team. We've got pressure regardless."