Mavericks give Seth Curry an opportunity to get the point

DALLAS -- You might want to get used to Seth Curry starting at point guard for the Dallas Mavericks. He certainly aced the first night of his audition.

Mavs coach Rick Carlisle opted to insert center Nerlens Noel in the starting lineup Thursday night, bumping rookie point guard Yogi Ferrell to the bench and sliding the rest of the starters down a position. Curry responded to his new role by more than holding his own against perennial All-Star Chris Paul to play a key role in the Mavs' 97-95 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.

This wasn't a case of going big to match up against the Clippers. It's a matter of figuring out whether this is the starting five of the immediate future for the Mavs.

"We've got to look at Curry at point with a really conventional team out there," Carlisle said after Curry scored a game-high 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting and dished out four assists. "We're going to give this a look. I don't know how many games it's going to be. It may be the rest of the year, it may not."

If Curry has his way, this experiment will extend into next season. He's proud of his ability to play both backcourt positions -- and has played well as Dallas' starting shooting guard the past couple of months -- but Curry embraces the opportunity to have the ball in his hands every play.

"I like being involved in plays," said Curry, who had cooled off recently after a sizzling scoring stretch coming out of the All-Star break. "At certain times when you play the 2, you can not touch the ball for four or five possessions. That's not getting me going energy-wise. I like bringing the ball up the court, feeling like I'm involved, then getting off the ball some, too."

Curry has a chance to convince the Mavs they don't need to find a starting point guard over the summer.

The franchise values Ferrell, who turned a sensational performance as a starter on a 10-day contract into a deal with a team option for next season, and released veteran Deron Williams a month ago in part because they wanted the rookie to develop. However, the Mavs view Ferrell's best fit as a backup at this point in his career.

Carlisle is at the least curious about Curry's ability to play point guard on a regular basis.

"There's a certain aptitude and understanding of the game that goes with being a point guard," Carlisle said. "He's demonstrated those abilities on a lot of occasions, but until we put the ball in his hands and really take a look at it, we're not going to know for sure. Now is the time to do it."

Curry points out that he has played well as a point guard when he has had the opportunity in the past, averaging 14.4 points and 3.8 assists with a .590 true shooting percentage in nine starts late last season with the Sacramento Kings. But that was with a team that was basically tanking.

Dallas has slim playoff hopes, standing three games out of the West's No. 8 seed with 11 games left in the season, but the Mavs are playing to win while trying to develop young talent like the 26-year-old Curry.

The Mavs know Curry, who is averaging 12.8 points while shooting 48 percent from the field and 42.3 percent from 3-point range, can score efficiently. It remains to be seen whether he can consistently find the balance between running the offense and remaining aggressive.

Curry is certainly confident he can thrive as a point guard, a position he prefers to playing off the ball all the time.

"It's just natural to me to make the right play," Curry said. "If I know I'm bringing the ball up the court and I'm going to touch it, then I don't think that I've got to attack, that I've got to score right here. At times when I'm at the 2, I'm thinking every time I touch the ball I'm going to look to score. When I'm at the 1, I feel like I know I'm going to have the chance to get shots up, so I'm just trying to not force it."

To be clear, the Mavs aren't asking Curry to morph into a pass-first point guard like Jason Kidd.

"Our system is meant for the 1 to be really aggressive," Dirk Nowitzki said. "That's when Yogi was great, when he came off making all those shots when we got him. The 1 has the ball in his hands a lot. Obviously we run some plays, but some of those plays only work if the 1 comes off and looks to score and sucks the big up and makes plays for themselves or others. We always want the [point guards] to be aggressive and score, and [Curry] was fantastic for us tonight."

Can Curry be consistently good enough for the Mavs to be comfortable going into next season as their starting point guard? They plan to find out.