- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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DALLAS -- It took one preseason game for the Dallas Mavericks’ new starting center to feel the wrath of coach Rick Carlisle.
Carlisle doesn’t believe Samuel Dalembert is in the shape necessary for him to be a quality starting center and told the big man as much after the Mavs’ 94-92 loss Monday night to the New Orleans Pelicans. Dalembert, who signed a two-year, $7.6 million deal this summer, picked up four fouls and committed four turnovers along with four points and two rebounds in less than 11 minutes of playing time.
“I just told him in front of the whole team that he’s got to keep working,” said Carlisle, who mentioned Dalembert’s conditioning issues to the media without a question being asked about the center. “We need his minutes. They’re going to be very important to us. He’s a factor. When he’s in shape, he’s a factor as a rim protector and rebounder, and he gives you a big, active, athletic body in there.”
Dalembert, an 11-year veteran playing for his fifth team in five seasons, didn’t agree with his coach’s assessment of his conditioning.
“It’s not that,” said Dalembert, who was fighting a relatively serious case of the sniffles. “The main thing that happened to me is I got hurt. I got hurt in the first practice of camp. Stupid me, my pride takes over and I wanted to practice. I didn’t want to take off, so that kind of slowed me down a little bit.”
Dalembert said he bruised his back during Tuesday’s morning practice when he fell to the floor and had a teammate come crashing down on him. He said he missed some of that evening’s practice, received treatment, including anti-inflammatory medication, and is “feeling much better” now.
Dalembert, who drifted in and out of the Milwaukee Bucks’ rotation last season, attributed his rough preseason debut in Dallas to being “one of those games.”
“I mean, I feel fine,” Dalembert said. “I didn’t get a chance to play today. I got myself in foul trouble early on, so just have to get ready for the next game.”
Whether or not the message got through, Carlisle issued a clear challenge to Dalembert.
“Dalembert’s got to continue to work to get in shape,” Carlisle said. “He’s just not in the condition that he needs to be in. We need him, and tonight he struggled out there, and I think a lot of it is conditioning. In the next 21, 22 days, he’s got to get to a higher level.”
Added Dirk Nowitzki: “He’s got to get better. We all do. The good news is, it’s Oct. 7 and not Feb. 7. That’s at least a good thing, but we need him to be a force.”