In the Dallas Mavericks’ quest for a balanced offensive attack, fewer and fewer shots are coming Dirk Nowitzki’s way.
During Tuesday’s 101-100 season-opening loss to the San Antonio Spurs, Nowitzki got off only 11 shots — he made seven — in 32 minutes. It looked at times as though the greatest Mavericks player of all time was a forgotten man on the AT&T Center court.
“We always want to get him as many easy shots as possible, but we don’t want to dump the whole thing on him either,” coach Rick Carlisle said after Wednesday’s practice. “We want to get him as many high-quality touches as we can.
“Do we want to get him more great looks? Sure. Is that easy to do? No, it’s not, because teams really gear up for him, and when they do that, we’ve got to have other guys step up.”
The Mavericks were only 5-4 last season in games when Nowitzki had 11 field-goal attempts or fewer. In that same scenario two years ago, they were 6-10.
In the loss to the Spurs, Nowitzki was 3-of-4 from the field in the first quarter, but had no shot attempts while playing seven minutes in the second quarter. He also was 1-of-3 from the field in the third period and 3-of-4 during the frantic fourth quarter.
Nowitzki, 36, said he didn’t “want to really overdo it” against the Spurs, even though he had a relatively hot hand.
“In that third quarter, I probably should have forced it a little more,” said Nowitzki, who finished with 18 points and six rebounds. “Things were not going great, so I probably should have shot it a couple [of times] here and there in the third just to mix it in, but the fourth, I felt good.
“I had a good wind, even down the stretch, to make some moves. I felt better driving again than in the last couple of years, so that was encouraging for me, but unfortunately we didn’t come out with the win.”
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The Mavericks hope to even their record at 1-1 Thursday when they tip off at 7:30 p.m. in their home opener against the Utah Jazz at American Airlines Center.
In striking that balance on offense where the Mavericks hope fewer shots for Nowitzki and others could translate into more victories, the flip side of that dynamic is to see how it all unfolds.
“Really, I’ve preached for the last several [seasons] that we’ve got to have a team of go-to guys because teams can load up and take one guy away,” Carlisle said. “We want there to be a balance, we want [Nowitzki] to get shots off of being a screener, we want to get him shots off of being a guy that’s spotted up when guys are driving it, and we want to get him shots in transition.”
Guard Monta Ellis certainly didn’t notice anything special the Spurs were doing to prevent Nowitzki from getting off more quality shots.
“He had open shots — they weren’t going in,” Ellis said. “That’s how the game goes. We stuck with him. He made shots when he needed to.”
Point guard J.J. Barea cleared waivers Wednesday and has signed a one-year, $1.31 million contract with the Mavericks.
The Mavericks waived second-year point guard Gal Mekel to make room for Barea, a fan favorite who helped Dallas win the 2011 NBA title. They still have to pay Mekel $1,763.758 through the 2015-16 season.
Barea reached a buyout and was waived by the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday.
A case can be made that the 2011 NBA Finals against Miami changed dramatically when Barea was inserted into the starting lineup for Game 4. At the time, the Mavericks trailed 2-1.
But after Barea started, the Mavericks didn’t lose another game.
Barea joins a crowded group of point guards that includes Jameer Nelson and Devin Harris, and the injured Raymond Felton.