Mavericks' Andrew Bogut willing to accept bench role

NBA.com Staff

Andrew Bogut has come off the bench for only 14 of the 662 regular-season games he’s played. But that’s what he’ll be doing with the Dallas Mavericks going forward, at least in games that Dirk Nowitzki plays.

Bogut and Nowitzki were supposed to be the Mavericks’ starting frontline, but have played just 53 minutes together through the team’s first 34 games. Nowitzki has missed 25 games with a sore Achilles, while Bogut has missed 16 games with lower leg issues himself.

And Rick Carlisle may not need a larger sample size to know that the Bogut-Nowitzki combo doesn’t work. In those 53 minutes they’ve been on the floor together, the Mavs have been outscored by 62 points, with problems on both ends of the floor.

Last Tuesday against Houston, Carlisle took Bogut out of the game less than two minutes into the first quarter, with the Mavs down 4-2. The Rockets then went on a 14-2 run, so that didn’t exactly fix whatever problem there was. Still, Bogut doesn’t want that happening again, as ESPN’s Tim McMahon writes …

“There’s no point of starting with Dirk and then getting pulled 30 seconds into a game,” Bogut told ESPN after Tuesday’s shootaround. “So I went to coach and said, ‘If you’re going to continue to do that, just bring me off the bench. I won’t be offended. We’ll get on with life.'”

Bogut and Nowitzki have played in only one game together since Nov. 25. They both started in the Dec. 27 loss to the Houston Rockets, but Bogut subbed out at the 10:02 mark of the first quarter and didn’t play next to Nowitzki again the rest of the night.

Coach Rick Carlisle said Bogut went to him last week and volunteered to come off the bench. Bogut started in Thursday’s win over the Los Angeles Lakers with Nowitzki out sick and sat out Friday night’s loss to the Golden State Warriors due to planned rest.

Nowitzki, 38, has been limited to nine games this season as he has dealt with soreness in his right Achilles tendon. He readily acknowledges that his lack of quickness presents problems if he’s playing next to Bogut, but Nowitzki believes the Mavs must figure out how to make the duo work for at least occasional stretches.

“I still think when I’m completely healthy on my normal minutes that somehow we’ve got to play together,” said Nowitzki, who praised Bogut for his willingness to sacrifice for the good of the team. “We’ve just got to make it work some and find ways to get some good stops and offensively get some good possessions. I’m not ready to throw in the towel on our 4-5 combo there, but so far it hasn’t looked great.”

The Mavs had some success, especially offensively, with Nowitzki playing center in limited minutes last season. This season, they’ve been bad with him on the floor no matter what position he’s played. They’re a minus-70 in 112 minutes with him at the four and a minus-41 in 89 minutes with him at the five.

Meanwhile, the Dallas defense has allowed only 95.4 points per 100 possessions, a rate which would make them the best defense in the league, with Bogut on the floor. With Bogut off the floor, they’ve allowed 111.3, a number that would rank last in defensive efficiency.

But Bogut has played just 432 minutes and Dallas is 10-24, only a half game ahead of Phoenix for 14th place in the Eastern Conference. Still, with the eighth-place Sacramento Kings sitting at 14-19, the Mavs have an outside shot at making the playoffs for the 16th time in Nowitzki’s 19-year career if they can stay healthy and get it together on one end of the floor the other. And they do have a relatively easy January schedule, with seven of their next eight games against teams that are currently under .500.