Nerlens Noel behind Salah Mejri in quest for playing time, Rick Carlisle says

DALLAS -- Center Nerlens Noel, who turned down a four-year, $70 million contract from the Mavericks before eventually settling for the one-year qualifying offer, did not play in Saturday's 111-104 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers because of a coach's decision.

Coach Rick Carlisle, who mentioned that matchups made it difficult for traditional centers to play against Cleveland, said that Salah Mejri had earned playing time over Noel at this point.

"Look, minutes have to be earned," Carlisle said. "At this point, if it's between him and Salah, Salah has earned the minutes. There's no doghouse here. There just isn't. It's pretty simple: You compete, and if you earn minutes, you get minutes. And you've got to compete to keep them, because it's a competitive situation."

Noel said he wasn't frustrated by not getting the opportunity to play Saturday night, emphasizing that he would remain ready.

"I'm good, I'm good," Noel said. "I'm a very self-confident player. I know I can go in there and change games. When my number is called, I'll do just that and help some winning efforts. That's all my play style is about, is just winning. When I'm called on, I'll bring my winning effort."

Noel is making $4.2 million this season and will be an unrestricted free agent next summer. He settled for the qualifying offer after Mavs owner Mark Cuban pulled the $70 million deal off the table, a reaction for Noel's request for a maximum deal, according to sources.

Noel, who fired agent Happy Walters and hired Rich Paul to represent him after negotiations with the Mavs went sour over the summer, is averaging 5.5 points, 5.6 rebounds and 0.8 blocks in 17.2 minutes per game this season.

"I've just been focused on just coming in here and doing what I have to do, focused on the season, playing hard when I'm in the game," Noel said. "I'm just keeping everything simplified. Things are going to come, things are going to play out. I'm just really focused on getting better and better and supporting my guys."

Carlisle explained to Noel his concern about matching up against the Cavs' perimeter-shooting centers. Noel respected the coach's decision but says he believes he can defend shooters such as Kevin Love, who had 29 points and 15 rebounds in the game, and Channing Frye.

"Me personally? I think I can match up on anybody," said Noel, who was labeled a "Tyson Chandler starter kit" by Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson after arriving in Dallas in a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers last season.

Mejri had six points and four rebounds in 10 minutes against the Cavs and was the only Dallas player to finish with a positive plus-minus (plus-2). The rest of the center minutes went to Dirk Nowitzki and Dwight Powell, a pair of converted power forwards.

Noel played only six minutes in Tuesday's win over the Washington Wizards, Dallas' second victory of the season. Mejri, who did not play in four of the Mavs' first five games this season, had 10 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks in 25 minutes against the Wizards.

"Our guys have to have an edge. No one's given anything," Carlisle said. "That's how we've got to do things. The situation like we're in with a tough schedule, a lot of tough opponents, record's not good right now, competing is what it's all about."