On Saturday night against the Sacramento Kings, the Mavericks opened the game with a familiar set.
Bringing the ball up court, Jose Calderon dumped the ball off to Shawn Marion in the high post. Monta Ellis started up from the baseline, then cut across the lane. One big screened down and the other popped up, freeing up space for a wide open elbow jumper. He shot without any hesitation.
Standing on the bench, Vince Carter raised one of his arm with the shot still halfway to its destination, and then the second in celebration when it rattled in to give the Mavericks their first two points. Clearly, he wasn't surprised.
Samuel Dalembert has screened down to free Dirk Nowitzki on that play a hundred times this season, but in this moment, it was Dirk with the down pick and Sam nailing an 18-foot jump shot.
"You should have seen that smile on my face when I was shooting," he laughed. "Have you ever seen the Kool-Aid smile? That was me."
It was a flawless Nowitzki impression, but that was only one part of his 15 point (7-of-8 shooting), six rebound, three block performance on the night. Over the past couple of weeks, his Tyson Chandler impression has been much more impressive.
Since the All-Star Break, Dalembert has averaged 7.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks a game while shooting 55 percent. In his last eight games, he's played even better and is nearing a double-double -- 8.8 points on 67 percent shooting, 9.1 boards and 2.4 blocks in 23 minutes.
After some erratic minutes and a rotation role that was clearly defined yet, Dalembert had some early season struggles and looked often looked uncomfortable on the floor. But his consistency has helped eliminate his worries.
"I know I'm playing the first five, six minutes in the first quarter," Dalembert said, describing his strategy each game. "Don't worry about fouls, just go out there, study the team your playing against ... knowing the tendencies, and really try to contribute defensively and offensively."
We saw what happened last time Dirk got the chance to play beside an All-Star center. I know Sam isn't that close to 2011 Tyson, but during this stretch, his consistency on both ends of the floor has been absolutely vital because no other big on the Mavericks roster can match up with some of the Western Conference monsters like he does.
I asked Dirk whether this was the best the center rotation has been since Tyson, and while he didn't directly answer my question, he provided excellent insight on what Dalembert does bring (after a joke, of course).
"I said it before the season that Sammy can bring some of the stuff Tyson brought because he's so athletic and so long, and if he uses his length he's a factor in there. He's fast, he can run, he can jump. He's an athlete, and that's definitely a plus next to me.
"You got to represent, because you might never have another play [called for you] again."