Yi Jianlian getting a feel for the game

DALLAS -- One side benefit to Dirk Nowitkzi missing the last four games was it provided opportunity at power forward for Brandan Wright and Yi Jianlian.

Wright has displayed some ridiculous skywalking ability, while Yi has shown a soft mid-range jumper. But the 7-footer from China also revealed that he can get up -- or at least get up as much as a 7-footer needs to to throw down a slam. Late in the fourth quarter with the Mavs pulling away from Utah in Friday's 15-point win, Yi faced up Jazz rookie big man Enes Kanter on the baseline, drove by him and finished with a two-hand slam.

Yi then balled his right hand and pounded his fist, American style, over his heart.

"That felt great," Yi said. "To get a dunk and win the game is exciting."

He drained a 15-foot jumper soon after to give him eight points for the game on 4-of-9 shooting. He also had four points in the second quarter on a pair of arching jumpers and pulled down five rebounds, two on the offensive glass. The shot that has been most available for Yi is the 18-to-20-foot jumper from the top or side of the circle, the shot that he and the coaching staff work on most, the elbow jumper.

Yi was 4-of-11 from the floor in Wednesday's game, but many of those shots he missed were clean looks that could have gone down. As the last addition to the team, Yi has had to learn everything on the fly, and that included a brief stop with the D-League Texas Legends before officially joining the big club.

"The first couple weeks I was learning the team and running the plays, offensive and defensive things," said Yi, whose English is not half bad. "The players and coaches have really been helping me. This season with the schedule you don’t have real practice time, so for me it’s just watching and watching."

With Nowitzki expected to return to the starting lineup tonight, which would push Lamar Odom back to a reserve role, it's uncertain how much time will be available for Yi and Wright. Carlisle called it a coin flip over the last four games as to which big man would get more run with Dirk out.

Carlisle said he likes the way Yi is coming along in a short period of time.

"We’re spending a lot of time with him on his shooting and there’s some things I really like about him," Carlisle said. "I love his size, his aggression. He really understands what we’re doing defensively. He’s physical and puts his body on people and he’s working hard on the midrange shots. Those are the shots that are going to be there for him."

With Dirk set to return, now we'll just have to see how many minutes are going to be there.