DALLAS – New Timberwolves forward Luc Mbah a Moute traveled across seven time zones in three days last week and ended up in Dallas Saturday for his first playing time with his new teammates.
From Sacramento on Tuesday to Minneapolis on Wednesday and then to California and back again so he could fetch some belongings and spend Thanksgiving with his family, Mbah a Moute found himself back in the Central time zone for a Saturday night game in which he unexpectedly played 26 minutes, including almost the entire fourth quarter.
“I think Dallas,” he said when asked if he knew where he was Saturday. “I hope Dallas.”
Mbah a Moute missed Friday’s practice in Minneapolis so he could return to Sacramento, but Wolves coaches ran him through the offense after Saturday morning’s shootaround. Coach Rick Adelman then rode him down the stretch of a 112-106 victory over the Mavericks, playing him all but 29 seconds in a fourth quarter when Adelman also relied on Dante Cunningham’s defense.
“I knew I was going to get in there and try to figure it out,” Mbah a Moute said afterward. “I didn’t know how much I was going to play. That’s a blessing when you get to guard different people. It wasn’t just me. We’ve got guys who can guard different people.”
When before the game asked how much he can pick up in a shootaround, Mbah a Moute said, “As much as I can right now. I’ve just got to try to be smart and listen to everybody and listen to everything until I figure it out.”
Mbah a Moute defended everyone from Monta Ellis to Dirk Nowitzki on Saturday. He likely will guard Nowitzki one night and Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant the next in back-to-back games this weekend, even if he doesn’t know the team’s offense well yet.
“Defense, that’s the consistent thing you can do,” Mbah a Moute said. “Offenses are going to be different, but defense always is the same, how you stop people from scoring. Obviously, the coverages are different, but not as complicated as offense. It’s just the calls that change.”
What might’ve been …
Wolves guard J.J. Barea and forward Corey Brewer returned Saturday to American Airlines Center, where their names hang on the Mavericks’ 2011 NBA championship banner.
Mavs owner Mark Cuban decided not to re-sign Barea, Tyson Chandler or Caron Butler after that title run to maintain financial flexibility under the new restrictive labor agreement reached that next fall. His team had traded Brewer to Denver that summer.
When asked if he thinks Cuban regrets not keeping that championship team together, Barea said: “I think so. You get a team like that and then you try to do something else and it doesn’t work out for you, you definitely regret it. It was a business decision he made, you know? You got to live with it. We’ll never know if we could have won another title together. I know we could have made it far again and then we would have seen what happened. But we’ll never know now.”
Turiaf getting better
Wolves center Ronny Turiaf shot before Saturday’s game, a sign of progress in a month-old elbow injury.
“He’s better than he was,” Adelman said. “He’s doing things. It’d be a big help if he was able to play because he’s so active and so vocal defensively. We’ve missed that.”