SAN ANTONIO -- As rookie Rodrigue Beaubois performed basketball CPR during the second quarter, owner Mark Cuban hopped out of his seat behind the bench and hollered the Dallas Mavericks fans' favorite saying these days.
"Free Roddy B!" Cuban shouted.
Too bad Cuban didn't say something, oh, about five months ago. Heck, even five games ago. Who knows what would have happened if coach Rick Carlisle didn't wait until absolute desperation had set in to give the electrifying rookie guard a chance to make an impact in the first-round series against the San Antonio Spurs?
The young guy from Guadeloupe gave the Mavs a chance to extend the series with his remarkable performance in Thursday night's 97-87 Game 6 loss at the AT&T Center. Beaubois, who had 16 points on 7-of-13 shooting in 21 minutes, was a major reason the Mavs made the Spurs sweat after spotting them a 22-point lead.
The Mavs were on the butt end of a blowout when Carlisle turned to Beaubois, who had played a total of 10 minutes in the previous five games, midway through the second quarter. Suddenly, the Mavs had a spark with the sinewy rookie slicing and swooping through a Spurs defense that had smothered the rest of the Dallas roster.
"Same thing he showed us all year," Jason Terry said. "The kid can play. Now whether he's out there or not, that's another story, but the kid can definitely play. He showed it tonight. He showed it all season long."
And that's coming from a man whose playing time is likely to be cut to get the kid on the court more next season.
The rookie's sporadic playing time was a source of discontent for Dallas fans all season. They fell in love with the sweet stroke and awe-inspiring athleticism of Beaubois, who became the first rookie in NBA history to shoot at least 50 percent from the floor, 40 percent from 3-point range and 80 percent from the free throw line.
Carlisle consistently praised Beaubois publicly, but it was clear that the kid never earned his coach's trust. Why else would Beaubois average only 12.5 minutes and never take off his warm-ups in 26 games during the regular season and three more this series?
"I guess if I didn't play much, it was because I didn't show him enough things," Beaubois said without a hint of sarcasm. "This summer is going to be very important. Right away from the beginning next season, I want to show him that I'm ready to play."
Carlisle didn't hesitate to give Beaubois minutes against lesser teams. The coach was happy to set the Roddy B free against the Golden States of the league, but even a 40-point performance against the Warriors didn't earn Beaubois a permanent spot in the rotation.
Beaubois rarely played against playoff teams. He almost never played during crunch time.
"These have been tough decisions all year," said Carlisle, who opted to play Terry (two points on 1-of-7 shooting) instead of Beaubois for most of the fourth quarter. "The thing I like is that the kid was ready tonight."
It's not as if something happened over the past week to prepare Beaubois for the playoffs. If he was ready with the season on the line in Game 6, he probably could have helped the Mavs while their offense sputtered during the previous three losses.
There is no doubt that Beaubois needs to play a much more significant role next season. It'd make it much easier if he learned how to play point guard during the Las Vegas Summer League, allowing the Mavs to use him in a role similar to the Spurs' George Hill, a combo guard who had a breakout campaign in his second season and killed the Mavs in their last two losses.
On a roster loaded with aging veterans, Beaubois is the only young player with star potential. We saw glimpses of that during his rookie season. He ought to be a front-runner for the NBA's Most Improved Player award next season, as his numbers soar with increased opportunities.
"He's got a swagger about him," Dirk Nowitzki said. "Man, if he keeps improving and stays humble, he's going to be fun to watch in this league for a long, long time."
No matter what, Beaubois gets Mavs fans out of their seats. In the future, they shouldn't need to be screaming at the coach to put him in the game.