Dirk lobbied for DeShawn Stevenson
MIAMI -- Defensive-minded Dallas Mavericks guard DeShawn Stevenson, whose role ramped up in the Western Conference finals, owes his last-minute return to the starting lineup to a second campaign job from his two sure-fire Hall of Fame teammates.
Stevenson said Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd lobbied coach Rick Carlisle and owner Mark Cuban late in the season to re-insert the rugged, 6-foot-5 veteran into the starting lineup for the playoffs over struggling second-year guard Rodrigue Beaubois.
"We told Coach we needed him in the starting lineup," Kidd said. "We went to bat twice."
It was Kidd, Nowitzki and Jason Terry who campaigned early in the season to make Stevenson, mired at the end of the bench, the starting shooting guard while Beaubois recovered from a broken left foot. The leadership trio believed the team would be better served with Terry's offense coming off the bench and Stevenson's size and defensive chops starting games.
"They fought for me again," Stevenson said, "because I don't think I was going to be in the starting lineup [for the playoffs]."
Throughout the final month, Carlisle repeatedly said he would stick with Beaubois until finally relenting with one game to go in the regular season.
"I don't want to let them guys down," Stevenson said. "When you've got two Hall of Famers going to bat for you to be in the starting lineup, that means something. To make it to the Finals makes it more special."
Stevenson has started all 15 playoff games and he made it 16 in Tuesday night's Game 1 of the NBA Finals when he took on the Miami Heat's explosive duo of Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. He scored six points in the Mavs' 92-84 loss.
2011 NBA Finals: Champion Mavericks
Game 1: Heat 92, Mavericks 84
Game 2: Mavericks 95, Heat 93
Game 3: Heat 88, Mavericks 86
Game 4: Mavericks 86, Heat 83
Game 5: Mavericks 112, Heat 103
Game 6: Mavericks 105, Heat 95
More: Mavs Center » Mavs Blog »
Stevenson, relegated a second time to the end of the bench when Beaubois finally returned two games before the All-Star break, was stunned when Carlisle told him the morning of the regular-season finale that he would be back in the starting lineup for the rest of the way.
"That was a shocker. J-Kidd and Dirk went in there and fought for me to be in the starting lineup," Stevenson said. "It was shocking because I'm thinking the playoffs start in the next few days and I'm going in the last game. It just lets you know how professional I was and came to work every day and didn't pout."
The Mavs had high hopes for the 6-foot-2 Beaubois, a speedy slasher who offered Dallas an offensive dynamic it does not possess. Handed the starting job in his second game back, Beaubois mostly never found a rhythm offensively, shooting more errant 3-pointers than slashing and he couldn't provide the defensive tenacity of Stevenson.
The move to Stevenson has paid off. He provided strong defense against Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant in the second round and was an integral part in defending Oklahoma City's young stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Stevenson's minutes jumped from about 13 a game in the first two rounds to 20.2 against Oklahoma City in the Western Conference finals. Facing Wade and James, Stevenson will again be a key piece in the Mavs' defensive scheme.
"He's a tough individual," Kidd said. "He's a guy who didn't start for us and has started, hasn't played and now has played a lot, so he's a true teammate and professional. For him in this series, you probably look for him to be on the floor a lot more because of his defense."
Jeff Caplan covers the Mavericks for ESPNDallas.com.