Dallas • With Derrick Favors taking the night off due to knee soreness, and Thabo Sefolosha eligible to return following a five-game suspension, it was assumed that the Swiss forward would absorb some of the team’s minutes at the four, perhaps at the expense of former G League standout Georges Niang.
But Sefolosha didn’t get off the bench in Sunday’s 113-104 win. And Niang was clutch early, going 3 for 3 from the field, 1 for 1 from deep, and 2 for 2 from the line to score nine key first-half points. He totaled 13 for the game.
The former Iowa State standout said before the game he knew the opportunities he’s been getting early might dry up with Sefolosha’s return, but that he’d remain prepared regardless.
“I’m not worried at all. If I’m called upon, I’m gonna be ready, and if I’m not, I’m still gonna be a great teammate. That’s not my job, that’s the coaches’ job to figure out who’s gonna play. All I can control is my attitude and my effort and how I treat the people around me. So that’s what I’m gonna continue to do,” Niang said. “I’m gonna continue to work, and whatever opportunities I’m given, I’m gonna continue to make the best of those.”
The 6-foot-8 forward — often lovingly teased by his teammates for his lack of athletic ability — said he has had to be more cerebral to carve out a spot in the rotation.
“The biggest thing is making the smart plays and reading things before they happen, always just trying to be in the right spot. If you’re in the right spot, you never really have to rely on your athleticism — or lack thereof!” he said with a laugh. “So I always try to be a step ahead of what’s happening and watch a ton of film, see where guys are, what their tendencies are. I’m using my brain instead of my feet.”
Sefolosha, meanwhile, was simply thrilled just to be able to even join the team in the arena, even if he didn’t get onto the court.
His suspension for a violation of the NBA’s anti-drug policy meant that while he could accompany the team on this trip, he wasn’t allowed in the building while the games were happening.
“I couldn’t be in the arena, so that was kinda awkward, just being at the hotel or whatever and watching the game from afar,” he said. “I’m glad it’s over!”
Now, he’s eager for some action.
“Even though it was only five games,” he said with a wry grin, “it felt like a month and half.”
Welcome back, Part 2
Jazz forward Jae Crowder, who got the start Sunday with Favors out, actually began his career with the Mavericks.
His former coach in Dallas, Rick Carlisle, said he wasn’t at all surprised to see Crowder having success.
“Well, we loved him. He’s the kind of guy you never wanna get rid of or let go or trade, but things happen in this league,” Carlisle said. “He’s been a winning, productive player at every stop that he’s been. … He’s the kind of player that you love to watch, because he goes hard and he’s a winner.”