HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle looked to send a clear message and jump-start two starters Tuesday night by benching Darren Collison and Elton Brand in a game with personal meaning for both.
For Collison, it was his first chance with his new team to go head-to-head against former UCLA teammate and emerging Philadelphia 76ers star Jrue Holiday. The two were drafted four picks apart in 2009, Holiday taken 17th, and Collison 21st.
The veteran Brand played the last four seasons in Philly before the club amnestied him in the summer to wipe his $18.2 million salary this season off their books.
Early on, neither player has met expectations in Dallas. Collison has struggled with turnovers and porous defense, and Brand has struggled to do much of anything. After Saturday’s appallingly sluggish 115-89 home loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, Carlisle sought a solution with a lineup shakeup, and Collison and Brand paid the price.
Both players responded Tuesday with mostly solid efforts, although Dallas still lost 100-98, its seventh defeat in the last 10 games to fall below .500 (7-8) for the first time this season.
As the Mavs head to Chicago to face the Bulls on Wednesday night, the benchings would appear to be one-game statements, at least in the case of Collison, a young player Dallas would love to develop into its long-term point guard.
“He’s our starting point guard, but tonight he came off the bench,” Carlisle said during his post-game interview. “Jason Terry was our starting 2-guard, but he came off the bench for four years. So it’s not that big a deal. The big deal is that we’ve got to quit doing the things that are making us shoot ourselves in the foot. That’s where it’s at.”
Collison finished with 12 points, six assists and five steals in nearly 30 minutes. But he was still dogged by four turnovers, including consecutive blunders in the fourth quarter, the type of mishaps that shoot teams in the foot and drive coaches crazy. Philly went on a 12-0 run to take a 91-81 lead.
Carlisle immediately yanked Collison after the second turnover, then subbed him back in 88 seconds later.
Collison did provide an immediate jolt off the bench after the starters got down 21-13 after just six minutes. He quickly converted two backcourt steals into layups and put up eight points, five assists and four steals in his first nine minutes.
“I love the way he played, and he impacted the game immediately with quickness and energy,” Carlisle said. “So I thought he was terrific.”
However, with shooting guard O.J. Mayo struggling from the floor and scoring just 11 points, the Mavs’ backcourt was again badly beaten on the defensive end with Holiday and Evan Turner combining for 40 points on 15-for-25 shooting, and 11 assists.
Brand came through with a season-high 17 points, eight rebounds, a block, a steal and no turnovers despite logging only 19 minutes, three below his already depressed season average. Rookie forward Jae Crowder got the starting nod at small forward with Shawn Marion moving to power forward.
Dominique Jones, mostly a bench-warmer in Dallas during his first two seasons, made the second start of his career in place of Collison. Jones has become Collison’s primary backup mostly by default because Rodrigue Beaubois has failed to step up.
The Mavs reportedly tried to trade Jones before the start of the season, but found no takers. The unpolished combo guard is a non-threat to unseat Collison and proved it Tuesday by missing all five of his shot attempts and committing four turnovers in less than 18 minutes.