Late Friday night, listening to post-game audio that our own Doyle Rader recorded at the game against the Lakers on Friday, Rick Carlisle’s final comments made my ears perk up.
He was asked playfully by ESPN’s Tim MacMahon if he considered throwing his jacket while leaving the court after he got ejected late in the loss. Carlisle didn’t really provide the joke soundbite many in the room wanted; instead, he said something else. He said it with some real passion in his voice, which doesn’t happen often in Carlisle post-game pressers.
“Look, in a leadership position you’ve got to stand up for your guys,” he said. “There’s some things going on out there that are quite frankly, shocking. Our guys are going through a rough time because of it, so I gotta stand up and defend them. That’s another part of my job, and I’m gonna do it — and I’ll do it again tomorrow.”
Bless you, Rick.
You’ll be forgiven if you think this sounds weird coming from me, someone who has criticized Carlisle plenty of times — whether because of weird rotations or how he’s handled some issues with certain players over the years. Whatever you or I think of Rick Carlisle, it’s obvious the guy wants nothing more than this group of players to succeed.
This Mavericks team has a lot of inexperience. There isn’t a veteran presence outside of J.J. Barea. We forget sometimes that Luka Doncic is just 20. Kristaps Porzingis is 24 and hasn’t been on a winning NBA team. That lack of winning experience also goes for Maxi Kleber and Dorian Finney-Smith. Dallas has a lot of guys who are trying to make the leap from bad to good and that leap isn’t always smooth.
Dallas is in a bit of a funk, thankfully somewhat held at bay after a solid win against the 76ers on Saturday. They’re 3-4 in their last seven games, all with Porzingis hurt with a sore right knee. It’s one thing to go through a slump during the season, but this recent stretch has been particularity ugly. The Mavericks haven’t closed games well and they’re not getting the benefit of the whistle as much as they did earlier in the season. It’s showing. Players are visibly frustrated, no better illustrated than Doncic ripping his jersey in frustration during that first half against the Lakers.
It’s the blatant missed calls that seem to be rattle the Mavericks the most. Against the Hornets last week, they shot only 13 free throws — Doncic had six. He had another night with six attempts in the loss to the Nuggets as well. Teams are trying to rough up Doncic, who Carlisle has said teams are “beating the shit out of.” That’s why it’s so great to hear Carlisle stand up for his team after a tough loss against the Lakers.
I listened to that Carlisle quote a few times and each time after I was done I felt like running through a brick wall. The Mavericks might continue to struggle for a little bit — it’s the growing pains of a team learning how to win. That’s just life in the NBA. Thankfully, they have a coach that won’t let them dangle alone on the court.
Give Carlisle a lifetime contract, please. At the very least, I want to see if he’ll toss his jacket the next time.