Uncle Ricky gives 'em what-for. (Rocky Widner/NBA/Getty Images)
This hasn't been the smoothest year for the Dallas Mavericks. After missing out on top-tier free agents and trade pieces this summer, putting together a short-term/short-money roster on the fly, and losing Dirk Nowitzki to a knee injury and Delonte West to, I guess, creative differences before the start of the season, Dallas struggled to find consistent rhythm and effectiveness. Once O.J. Mayo stopped making more than half of his 3-pointers, things got a little dicey on offense, and they were a bottom-10 defense for the better part of three-plus months. This is the kind of thing that leads to losses by the truckload, putting the Mavs in the unfamiliar position of being under .500 (meaning they're still beard-y) and outside of the playoff chase for the first time in quite a long time.
Through it all, coach Rick Carlisle has kept plugging away, trying to push whatever button, pull whatever lever and threaten whatever suspension he can to find an answer to the Mavs' persistent woes. With injuries stacking up, owner Mark Cuban and general manager Donnie Nelson taking fliers on D-Leaguers and 10-day contract players, and plenty not really working, Carlisle has determinedly juggled his rotation, using a league-high 19 different starting lineups through 60 games this season — six more than than the Mavs played in 66 games last year.
The constant inconstancy has been a popular topic of conversation among Mavs media this year, and while chatting with the press on Friday morning, Carlisle quipped that he's grown a bit weary of the narrative. Only, he didn't say it like that, according to Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:
"I’m tired on hearing about 19 starting lineups being a lot,'' Carlisle said while smiling after Friday morning's shoot around at The Palace of Auburn Hills. "I had 31 one year, so you guys can all go (bleep) yourself.
"And I mean that in the most endearing way.''
Well, as long as it's meant in the most endearing way.
(This is clearly a joke, and it is a lovely one. Rick Carlisle's the best.)
For the record, Carlisle's right on the money — his 2005-06 Indiana Pacers used 31 different starting lineups. Only 11 featured Sarunas Jasikevicius, though, which seems like an oversight.
No word yet, I'm afraid, on whether the Mavs' Friday night matchup with the Detroit Pistons will feature a 20th starting unit. If it does, though, we're sure Coach Carlisle will discuss it with the Dallas media as gracefully and tactfully as he has things like turnovers and, well, turnovers.