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D-League Report: Shane Larkin has his best game, still making up for lost time

The Mavericks' first-round pick made another spontaneous (at least to us) trip to the D-League, his fourth of the season. It was also his best game.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

You may have totally forgot Shane Larkin ever had ankle surgery at the beginning of the season. He only missed a few games of the season, after all, and it was months ago. But Larkin hasn't forgot. He knows missing that time is still showing its effects.

"The biggest part of it was me missing training camp," he said. "That really was a big part for me, because the training camp is pretty much, 'let's roll the ball out here, let's throw a couple of plays and let's see who gels well together.' That really set me back some."

But Larkin's working and growing wherever he is. Last night, it was another game at Frisco, where he played his best game in the D-League -- 21 points, 11 assists, 7-of-12 shooting and a perfect 4-of-4 from the 3-point line.

"Down here, I feel a lot more comfortable just doing me and just shooting the ball whenever," he said. "You don't really have to worry about getting this Hall of Famer the ball, that Hall of Famer the ball. You just go out there a play. That's kind of the mentality they want me to have up there, but it's just tough as a rookie, you don't want to step on anyone's toes. It's a transition, that's why they send me down here, just to make that transition to where I can play like that up there."

Of his four trips, his field goal percentage has risen and his turnovers have fallen across the last three games.

Clearly, the D-League is much different from the NBA. Larkin doesn't have to hang around on the court for 15 minutes after a game signing autographs at the American Airlines Center ("Give me your shooting jersey!" demanded one fan as Larkin and I walked down the tunnel to the locker room for our interview).

On a more serious note, posting a 20/10 double-double is also much harder at the next level. Saying Larkin can't succeed is hypocritical for any Mavs fan who watched J.J. Barea win playoff games for the Mavericks on their way to 2011's championship. But Larkin will always be the shorter man on the court, something he has to adjust to.

In no way is Larkin down on himself this season, though. He understands these sporadic trips down to the D-League are just part of the transition.

"I came back [from injury], I was in the rotation immediately," he said. "I was playing, doing well. I had a couple of games where I didn't do so well, and coach Carlisle isn't really known for playing rookies. I didn't play well, got out of the rotation, got back into the rotation and then it's pretty much been a roller coaster ride since."

And there's a little bit that he can learn in Frisco from the Legends' coaching staff, too.

"To use my speed the whole entire game," he said. "I haven't practiced with them this year, but whenever I come, I come early and we [Najera and I] talk. He tells me to use my speed, get in the lane and create."

More from Frisco

  • I asked Larkin if playing down in Frisco makes him appreciate what Dirk does more: "Definitely. Dirk opens the floor so much more on the next level. It's a lot easier to get into the paint, and if you get into the paint and draw his man, you pass it to him and you pretty much just run back on defense, not even look at the rim. For a guy to be that tall and be able to shoot the ball the way he does is just incredible."
  • Ricky Ledo also had an okay game, as well -- 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting without taking any 3-pointers. I highly recommend you go read Bobby Karalla's profile of him because it's great.
  • Something Bobby and I decided about Ledo last night: he's got a tight, effective spin move that works really well to get past one player, but the second step takes a bit too long to develop. He'll go up off one foot, put up a floater and inevitably get blocked (we saw it happen at least twice in the game). Defenders know he has to shoot when he comes out of that move, so Ledo has to adjust and go strong right at the rim to at least draw a foul.
  • I had never heard the name James Nunnally before he was traded to Frisco a couple weeks back, but this guy has been playing fantastic. Tonight, he had 35 points on 12-of-18 shooting.