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Guard depth tested with Brunson questionable and Ntilikina out vs. Wizards

Brunson was able to practice Friday

Dallas Mavericks v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The Dallas Mavericks return to action Saturday night against the Washington Wizards. Dallas had three days off over the Thanksgiving holiday after a tough four-game road trip that saw the team go 1-3. The three losses came with Luka Doncic sidelined with left ankle and knee sprains.

Now back home, the Mavericks are again facing injury concerns as they prepare to face the Wizards. While Doncic is healthy and ready to go, head coach Jason Kidd said Friday, Dallas will be without at least one player and maybe another.

Frank Ntilikina is out with a right calf strain. He sustained the injury on November 21 against the Los Angeles Clippers in the first half of the game. He did not play in the second half and missed the final game of the road trip. Saturday’s game will mark the second in a row he’s missed with the injury.

Perhaps more concerning is the status of Jalen Brunson. Brunson suffered a left foot injury in the second game against the Clippers and checked out with 4:56 to play in the second quarter after L.A. center Ivica Zubac landed on him. He did not return.

He is listed as questionable for Saturday’s game, per the NBA’s morning injury report. As of Friday, Brunson said after his initial fears went away, he is making strides and that he was feeling better.

“I thought the worst, honestly,” Brunson said. “But every day has been better. I was able to move today. I pretty much practiced the entire time. I feel good.”

Given that Brunson has arguably been the team’s third best player for much of the season, Dallas is lucky that his injury isn’t more serious. This season, he’s averaging 15.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 5.3 assists. He’s also shooting the ball well, making 49.3 percent of his field goals and 33.9 percent of his three-point attempts.

The injuries are a blow to the Mavericks’ guard depth. Trey Burke is the next man up on the roster and may assume backup point guard duties behind Luka Doncic.

“We have a great group, especially with the guards,” Brunson said. “Obviously, we have one of the best in the league. We have a Hall of Fame coach that played the position. We’re learning. Even as great as he is, Luka is learning as well. Everyone is taking bits and pieces from coach Kidd and each other. We’re a resilient group.”

The Mavericks will need some resiliency on Saturday if Brunson sits and Ntilikina ruled out. Still, Kidd is optimistic that both will be back in the lineup soon thanks to several days of rest.

“To be able to hopefully get JB back—somewhere in the future get Frank back—this break comes at a good time after a four-game road trip,” Kidd said.