Ou est Rodrigue Beaubois?

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nba_beaubois.jpgOne of the things that Pete Carroll did to return USC to the college football elite was open up the competition — the best player plays. Seniority be damned. Doesn’t matter if you’re a senior, if the freshman is better, he gets your spot. Seems logical, but it is shockingly rare in sports, as coaches like to go with what they know, what they trust. They fear risk.

Welcome to game six of the Dallas Mavericks San Antonio Spurs series. It’s an elimination game for the Mavericks, but they don’t react like that and come out cold and flat. They were down 22-8 after one quarter.

Rodrigue Beaubois was at the heart of what changed that. The French rookie (born in Guadeloupe) had sparked the Mavericks comeback from down 19 when he entered the game midway through the second quarter, scoring eight points in the half (just six minutes of play). It was enough to get Carlisle to start him and sit Shawn Marion to start the half. Dallas kept storming back and eventually took the lead, Beaubois kept scoring and creating chances. He was the fastest guy on the court — he is always the fastest guy on the court — and with the ball in his hand he changed the game.

Then he sat for a rest to start the fourth quarter. And sat. And sat.

Beaubois was out the first nine minutes of the fourth quarter. Jason Kidd scored one basket (his first of the game) in that time and Jason Terry was invisible.

That is when the Spurs broke a close game open again. That is when the Spurs won the game and the series.

And throughout the land, every Dallas fan asked the same thing: Où est Rodrigue Beaubois? Where is Beaubois?

Then again, Dallas fans have been asking that for months. What Carlisle did in this game mirrors what he did all season – he didn’t trust the rookie when he had All Star and Olympian Jason Kidd, sixth man of the year Jason Terry, plus veteran JJ Barera.

Those guys ran the offense better, Beaubois tended to break out of it. Those guys defend the pick and roll better. Giving the kid minutes meant taking minutes away from guys who have proven they could do it, or taking minutes away from Caron Butler or Shawn Marion. Those are some big name veterans.

Just like game six, when Beaubois did get some burn the kid just put the ball in the bucket — he trailed only Dirk Nowitizki on the team in points scored per minute when he played. But he sat and sat and sat.

In the final six weeks of the season, Beaubois started to get some chances. He played almost 20 minutes per game at he end and was scoring 13 points per game on 56 percent shooting in March.

But when the playoffs came, Carlisle went to his veterans. The guys he trusted, the guys who had done it before. Beaubois handled it like a veteran himself in quotes to the Dallas Morning News:

“Everybody told me to just try to be ready and when they called my name, I just played my game,” Beaubois said, after scoring 16 points in 20 mostly-electrifying minutes Thursday…

“You don’t think about it,” he said. “Like I said, it was coach’s decision. I think everybody tried to play very hard and did a good job. It’s OK. But when he called my name I just wanted to push myself and try to win the game. That’s it.”

I get the trust of veterans, the little things they do much better, but at some point, maybe in those early losses to the Spurs when the Mavericks were the team that looked old and lifeless, Carlisle should have gone to Beaubois. Easy to say after the fact, but we were saying it then, too.

Bottom line – it’s a coaching culture thing, and something Carlisle needs to look in the mirror about. You have to go with what works, not what should work. Beaubois worked. And Carlisle clearly trusted his veterans more. Beaubois may not have changed the outcome of the series – Dallas had a lot of other issues – but we will never know. And that is the shame.

PBT Podcast: Breaking down the MVP race, other NBA mid-season awards

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Patience is not the NBA community’s strong suit — we were talking MVP race the first week of the season.

Now, however, it’s time. Teams are more than halfway through the season and we have seen enough games, we have enough data to start discussing who is the frontrunners for all of the league’s end-of-season awards.

Is it James Harden or Giannis Antetokounmpo for MVP?

Can anyone challenge Luka Doncic for Rookie of the Year?

It’s a deep field for Coach of the Year, but is Mike Budenholzer the front-runner and can Doc Rivers, Dave Joerger or someone else catch him?

Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports talk about their picks at this point of the season and who is in the running long term.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

Thunder coach Billy Donovan: Andre Roberson ‘not anywhere near playing’

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When Andre Roberson – who ruptured his patellar tendon last January then suffered a setback in October – suffered another setback in November, the Thunder said he’d miss at least six weeks.

That was more than six weeks ago.

Maddie Lee of The Oklahoman:

What a disappointing year for Roberson. He just can’t get healthy.

Even already possessing the NBA’s best defense, Roberson would help the Thunder. He’s a lockdown perimeter defender. Paul George has stepped up defensively, but a George-Roberson wing pairing would scare the daylights out of opposing offenses.

That said, Roberson is a tricky fit due to his dismal shooting. He’d disrupt Oklahoma City’s offensive spacing. The Thunder would need time to adjust, and if Roberson isn’t close to returning, there might not be time to establish chemistry before the playoffs.

George, Terrance Ferguson, Alex Abrines and Hamidou Diallo have been fine on the wing in Roberson’s absence. Continuing to rely on that group sans Roberson doesn’t maximize Oklahoma City’s production, but at least it’s a simple and workable solution.

Rumor: Grizzlies could trade Marc Gasol before he opts out and leaves next summer

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The Grizzlies have been unwavering in their desire to keep Marc Gasol. Likewise, Gasol has consistently pledged loyalty to Memphis.

But with the Grizzlies (19-24) slipping to 14th in the West and Gasol holding a $25,595,700 player option for next season, maybe both sides are approaching a breaking point.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

I doubt Gasol, who’ll turn 34 this month, would draw a higher salary in free agency than his $25,595,700 player option. But maybe he could get a multi-year deal that provides more overall compensation than he’d get opting in then testing free agency at age 35.

He also might value getting to a better team.

Gasol has sometimes sounded impatient with Memphis getting younger. He was clearly proud of the team’s veteran core.

The Grizzlies appeared intent on winning as much as possible with Gasol and Mike Conley rather than rebuilding. So, there seemed to be enough overlap in vision between the organization and Gasol.

But Memphis also just hit on its 2018 lottery pick, drafting Jaren Jackson Jr. No. 4. Jackson could be the Grizzlies’ next franchise player and convince them to shift gears. A core led by Jackson and whatever assets are acquired for Gasol could have a nice future. Ditto if Memphis also trades Conley, who’d make less sense on the team sans Gasol.

Remaining competitive with Gasol and Conley isn’t the worst place to be. The Grizzlies already have a major future building block in Jackson. They can groom him while winning enough to keep fans entertained. But that plan would fall apart if Gasol opts out and leaves.

So, being proactive could make sense.

The first step should be assessing Gasol’s commitment to Memphis. If he already knows he wants to leave next summer, I doubt he’d mind getting traded elsewhere now. An honest conversation about the future could serve everyone well.

Jusuf Nurkic on Iman Shumpert, who tried to confront Trail Blazers center postgame: ‘I’m not worried about a guy who’s going into retirement soon’

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Kings guard Iman Shumpert had plenty to say during Sacramento’s win over the Trail Blazers last night.

He apparently had even more to get off his chest afterward.

Shumpert looked unhappy with Jusuf Nurkic‘s hard screen early in the game:

Then, Shumpert got into it with Portland coach Terry Stotts:

Shumpert even found beef wit the Trail Blazers’ security staff.

Jamie Hudson of NBC Sports Northwest:

Shumpert admitted he fed off of Portland’s team security, which had spoken with the Kings guard as the game became tense.

“He was a little passionate and you become part of the game… I’ll take whatever energy you give me. I was having a tough time shooting the ball and you know, he talked to me enough I made the next three. That’s what we needed at the moment… After that we rolled,” Shumpert said.

After the game, Shumpert went toward – but not into – the Trail Blazers’ locker room.

James Ham of NBC Sports California:

According to Shumpert, he wasn’t looking for a fight, just a discussion with Portland’s center about a few plays that took place during the game.

“Some stuff just needs to be between me and him,” Shumpert said. “A conversation between two men. At the end of the day, this league is a bunch of men. A bunch of great men off the court. Some stuff happened that we needed to have a conversation about.”

Hudson:

Outside of the locker room after the game, the Blazers team security told Shumpert that Nurkic was still showering and he would not be able to come out of the locker room and speak to him at that moment.

Nurkic, via Ham:

“I just said what I said. I’m not worried about him,” Nurkic said of the 28-year-old Shumpert. “I’m not worried about a guy who’s going into retirement soon.”

Shumpert is too young to be hearing about retirement. That is soooo disrespectful by Nurkic.

Though I believe Shumpert was genuinely trying to end the tension (by putting his foot down, of course), Nurkic only escalated it. Good thing they didn’t meet face-to-face after the game.

But they’ll cross paths again. Maybe Shumpert was heated just last night. Like all of us, NBA players go through moods. Or maybe this will be a lasting grudge.

We might next learn more April 10, when the Kings and Trail Blazers meet in their season finales.