Beaubois shows what hype was about
Lightning-quick guard gives Mavs 13 points and six assists -- and reason for optimism
Unlike Opening Day, where the result has little bearing on the rest of the season, this night felt like it had plenty of meaning for the Dallas Mavericks. It didn't matter that the opponents were the lowly Sacramento Kings, made even more vulnerable by the absence of Tyreke Evans.
And the score, a 116-100 Mavs wipeout that at one point widened to 26 points, was inconsequential regarding the overflowing optimism.
The victory on this night was that 55 games into the season the Mavs finally welcomed back their budding youngster, Roddy Beaubois, and he provided all the swiftness and sizzle -- with a few hiccups and expected fatigue along the way -- the club could have hoped for with 13 points, six assists, three steals and three turnovers in 21 minutes.
With his return, Dallas got a taste of fielding a complete team -- excluding Caron Butler -- for the first time this season. It is deeper, more talented and now more dynamic in the backcourt than perhaps any team in the Dirk Nowitzki era. This one even stands a chance of making it intact beyond the approaching trade deadline.
Ah, the wonders of youth.
"He did exactly what I thought he would do," center Tyson Chandler said. "He changed the tempo of the game with that young energy from the guard standpoint. It makes a big difference. It also made a big difference in why we were able to contain that big lead. It's that young energy that you just can't teach."
The lithe, lanky and long-armed Beaubois, all of 6-feet and 170 pounds, did not start the game -- not technically, at least. Mavs coach Rick Carlisle kept DeShawn Stevenson in that spot perhaps out of respect for the fine job he's done for the club. But it took just 2 minutes, 7 seconds for Carlisle to bring in Beaubois, who laughed at the pregame video clip resurrected from last season of the movie "Rudy" that superimposed Beaubois' grimacing face on Rudy's body as he rumbles to make a tackle, all the while the crowd chants, "Roddy! Roddy!"
As for those expectations that Carlisle tried to temper all week leading up to the big day, well, no one took those pleas too seriously anyway. How could they? A few miles from American Airlines Center is a Mavs billboard featuring a shot of Beaubois floating through the air with a Carlisle quote splashed across it: "Beaubois is going to be a superstar."
"I missed that one," owner Mark Cuban joked before the game. "Otherwise it wouldn't be up."
The Mavs don't need Beaubois to be a superstar just yet. But to be a serious contender, they desperately need his athleticism and speed, his ability to beat his defender, penetrate and collapse the defense. The lack of such an offensive fire plug has been Dallas' greatest weakness since Devin Harris left town and San Antonio exploited it repeatedly throughout last season's first-round playoff loss.
"I need to use my energy, my speed," Beaubois said. "I need to use my speed to get in the paint and finish or find different guys. I need to keep working on it, but for sure I need to bring that to the game."
He wasted little time exciting the crowd. His first bucket came off his own errant pass into the paint. The tipped ball came back to him and he slipped inside and scooped it in off the glass. Then he went high for a defensive rebound (his lone board of the game), zipped upcourt and finished the coast-to-coast drive with a pretty finger roll.
After a bad pass that resulted in a turnover and faulty alley-oop attempt to Chandler, Beaubois gathered a loose ball on the defensive end, sped the other way into the paint, then deftly switched the ball to his left hand as Kings forward Omri Casspi tried to cut off his path, and scooped it in from under the basket.
The most interesting aspect of his night was how often Beaubois handled the ball while playing with Jason Kidd, who benefited from Beaubois' penetrations with wide-open 3-point looks. He knocked down 6-of-7 from beyond the arc and five in the Mavs' 35-point third quarter.
For all the angst about Beaubois' ability to play the point, he and J.J. Barea both handled the ball for large portions with Kidd on the floor. Barea (11 points, 10 assists) and Beaubois each had more assists than Kidd, who compiled probably one of the rarer and more improbable line scores of his career with 20 points and just four assists.
"Jason will probably have fewer assists now if he's going to play with Roddy more," Carlisle said, "because it allows him to play off the ball, which allows him to be a different kind of playmaker, which is a positive for us."
A 17-year career devoted to setting up others is suddenly, and tactically, going to earn a measure of payback with the help of a young, ultra-quick penetrator (and really two with Barea's recent stellar play at the point) still learning how it's done?
"Roddy and those guys found me in my new position," Kidd said. "I wanted to get the ball to Roddy to get him comfortable. The more he has the ball the sooner he can maybe get more minutes and get him a little bit more comfortable. I'm not going to beat him down the court, so get him going towards the basket and trail and spot up and stretch the defense.
"If I can do what I did tonight, hopefully that just makes it easier for him to get to the basket and then also for others guys to do what they do best. You see J.J. finding guys. It just makes the game so much fun and easy for everybody."
Youth is served, and hope springs eternal.
Jeff Caplan covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter.