For the last five-plus seasons the Dallas Mavericks have used Maxi Kleber like Flex Seal, covering the gaps in whatever leaky vessel the team finds itself in. On Monday, the big man was upgraded to “Questionable”, making his return possible for Tuesday’s game against the Indiana Pacers. Whether it’s Tuesday or later this week, the beautiful face of Maxi Flex Seal Kleber should be on a tv near you soon.
ESPN’s Tim MacMahon reported the status change of Kleber, who last played on December 12 before sustaining his leg injury in practice soon after. MacMahon highlighted Kleber’s influence on the team’s defense, emphasizing a 7.9 point improvement in their Defensive-rating when he plays.
That isn’t new for the German big man. His agility and athleticism has waned as he’s aged and sustained several injuries. But the Mavericks, both under former coach Rick Carlisle and current coach Jason Kidd, have tasked him with guarding the likes of Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, or Joel Embiid on any given night. Kleber’s return won’t save this Mavericks defense, but they badly need his reliability.
This news might mean the most to Christian Wood, who formed a solid tandem with Kleber early in the year. Prior to sustaining an injury Wood saw a boost in minutes, but since has been relegated to a smaller bench role. But as Mavs Moneyball’s own Josh Bowe points out here, Kleber’s effectiveness with the top of the roster is clear:
according to cleaning the glass, the foursome of luka, green, wood, maxi (without dorian) has played 198 possessions this season. the mavericks are plus-28.7 points per 100 possessions.— Josh Bowe (@Boweman55) February 27, 2023
maxi, wood, luka (without dorian): plus-16.7 points per 100 possessions in 267 possessions. https://t.co/6dMcuf7vVC
It will take time to get Kleber back to a comfortable place on the floor. The fact that we’re even having this discussion now and not in the postseason, or next year for that matter, is amazing in and of itself. If anything, Kleber can provide Kidd with rotational two-way optionality, pairing the offensive dynamite of Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving up with a defensive weapon who can hit shots — maybe even forming a trio with Josh Green and Reggie Bullock. The Mavericks need a win on or off the floor right now, so this encouraging news is nothing but positive.