Rodrigue Beaubois returns tonight to some possibly unwieldy expectations.
After they cut his wings off and take his two tablets away from him, Rodrigue Beaubois will return to the court tonight and save the world.
He’s been called a “mythical character” by SI’s Zach Lowe, which is as close to on-the-money as you’re going to get. A couple of fans on message boards think he’s going to drop 40+ points tonight in his first game since breaking his foot in August, then re-breaking it sometime this winter. They’re saying it in earnest.
He has been deemed untradable by Mark Cuban. He has unlimited range and he’s turning 23 next week. He’s 6-1, but has a 6-10 wingspan. He has one game-changing weakside block every other game. Last year, he was the most consistent recipient of Jason Kidd’s lobs since Kenyon Martin. And, good lord, the kid can score.
The reason some think he might drop 40 tonight? Well, he did it against the Warriors in less than 30 minutes in March of last year. The last time we saw him, too, he scored 16 points in 21 minutes against the Spurs. In terms of relative footspeed, he made Tony Parker look like Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
Then he broke his foot and became a griffon or a unicorn. And I totally bought into it.
I’ve said the following to fellow NBA people, without irony, before catching myself. (These people don’t talk to me about basketball anymore.)
1) “It’ll be nice when the Mavs get their best player back from injury, whenever the hell that’s going to happen.” Forgot about Dirk entirely.
2) “Remember that up-and-under, MJ-ish move he did against the Knicks?” Heresy.
3) “Is Rodrigue Beaubois Jesus Christ? No, seriously, I’m pretty sure he’s Jesus Christ.”
Somebody should declaw this beast, right? So I went to DallasBasketball.com’s Mike Fisher, the best source for Mavericks coverage on this sometimes green Earth, and asked for him to tell me exactly what to expect out of Beaubois’ return. He goes to almost every practice. Nobody has more Mavs roster scoops than him. He’s a very smart and reasonable reporter.
I anticipated that he’d calm me down a little—maybe give me some water and tell me to take a deep breath. Instead, he may have fanned the flames.
SLAM: For those that don’t know, can you kind of give the mood of the fanbase? A lot of Mavericks fans have sort have let him represent everything that is good in the world. He’s become a cure-all for this team, even though he hasn’t played in 60 NBA games yet and he’s had a broken foot for a half-of-a-year. How do you feel about the expectations? Do you think they’re unfair?
Mike Fisher: I think it’s awesome. If you’re not going to let yourself enjoy the possibility of youth, what’s the point of being a sports fan? If you’re just going to concede that (the Finals are) just going to be the Heat and Lakers, then what’s the point? If you can’t get excited about some of the things he did last year, you might as well curdle up and die. It is a special thing. He is the only rookie ever to be a 40-50-80 (percentages from three, the field and the free-throw line respectively) guy. That’s significant.
There’s the argument: Did Rick Carlisle spoonfeed his way through his games? You can make that argument until you talk about Game 6 in Round One of the Playoffs, where he should’ve played more. He had 16 points in 21 minutes. He embodies a lot of things for a lot of fans.
But, at least, I think he’s a starting caliber player being reinserted into a rotation that’s already very good..
SLAM: I was listening to a radio show where (Dallas-based ESPN NBA columnist) Marc Stein was a guest. He had some interesting points about how Roddy seemed too loose in practice and that came off as an unwillingness to work hard, which may have contributed to a lack of playing time this year. Have you heard anything about this?
MF: Did Steiny Mo say this? I love Steiny Mo, and I think Roddy B has a certain flair. He has the same kind of flair that we all have. We both wear handkerchiefs when we wear suits. It doesn’t mean we’re not serious about our jobs.
When I first met Roddy, he had a deck of cards in his pocket. He knows some card tricks and, it turns out, he does them at parties. He did this at the D-League Party, too. So does he have a certain panache? He has panache. But I don’t think that he needs to tighten up his intensity. He’s—to use another French words—so laissez-faire in certain social situations, attitudinally. But he doesn’t play that way. He lives that way. He plays at a frenetic pace.
Yesterday at practice, Shawn Marion said, “He was out there running in circles.” This is Shawn Marion saying this.
So maybe Marc Stein is part of the movement of trying to tamp down expectations of him. I’d understand that. He’s taken so long to come back. Cuban said a couple weeks ago what you and I know he always says—about how this team is so different, about how a normal team might have brought him back two weeks ago. But, really, it’s 30 cookie cutters. He rebroke his foot. And they’re being especially careful.
SLAM: How does he look out there in practice? Has he lost any quickness?
MF: Yesterday, at practice, he was doing the Steve Nash thing, kicking the ball around like a soccer ball. I think banging your foot against a basketball is evidence that his foot’s probably OK.
SLAM: Let’s try to give a comparison to people outside of the Metroplex who haven’t seen this kid play or who have only seen highlights. The closest thing I can think of—and I know this sounds too big—is a rawer version of Allen Iverson. Is that way off?
MF: He’s so much longer than Allen Iverson. And we’re going to get in trouble comparing him to Allen Iverson.
SLAM: You’re right. Sorry. It’s a default SLAM comparison. I think I’ve compared Brian Cardinal to Allen Iverson at this point. I was going to say a tiny Josh Howard, but that seems unfair to Roddy.
MF: The initial comparison was that he’d be a more compact Leandro Barbosa. That turned out to be very conservative. He’s one of the very quickest guards in the League.
Tyson Chandler noted this week that Roddy has the same wingspan that Chandler has. That makes him a bit of a freak. He’s blocking shots. He’s blocking big guy’s shots. He’s not just a one-dimensional player. He’s all of these things. It’d be easier to find a comparison if he was 6-5. I’m 6-1, and he’s at least my height. So I’d at least give him 6-1. But he plays longer, and he has world-class sprinter speed.
Another guy (I’d compare him to) is Brandon Jennings. If you didn’t see jersey number or color, you’d get them mixed up. There are similarities there. Last year, Jennings said, “Beaubois fastest guy I’ve ever played against. This guy’s the future.” This is the future saying this about the future.
I say we let him play one game before we go nuts. But he was gonna be the starter in October before he got hurt.
Monday’s practice was the happiest pro sports practice I’ve ever been to. Guys were making fun of each other. Peja made 39 threes in a row. Players were coming back from the locker room just to watch him. They were testing each others’ vertical leap. You know how Rick Carlisle doesn’t let himself smile? Instead of smiling, he turns it vertical so it doesn’t happen. He let himself smile when he was talking about Roddy.
SLAM: I was going to ask you all of these questions about Roddy—about how we’re all projecting all of our hopes and dreams on to him because he had all of these very good flashes and this team really needs a second star scorer right away. And he fits the bill as a this totally unique, very flashy, very charming sort of player. But, from what you’re telling me, he’s already been a jolt simply because he’s around.
MF: Yep, that’s part of the mentality. It feels to them like they just made a trade. This is a 38-16 team. They’re the second best team in the west and one of the best teams in the NBA. It’s like if one of the handful of the best teams in the NBA just traded for, well, fill in the blank, but at least a very good player. And they got him for nothing.
SLAM: What do you think his role is when he returns tonight?
MF: Carlisle turns his lineup card in later than anybody in the NBA. He turns it in and he likes to play coy with it. I don’t understand what the great advantage is. He will say that this is a process. Peja shows up and he starts, for example. But I think Deshawn Stevenson’s minutes are set to suffer greatly. They’ve milked him so much that he can’t possibly have any more milk left in him. He was a defensive ace and tough guy that got turned into a starter who brought the tough guy thing to the first group. He’s playing 30 minutes some nights. Plus, Barea (was) not feeling well (yesterday). He had a flu and a groin problem. So he might step right into Barea’s minutes in the interim, at least.
SLAM: Is there still the fear that Roddy might play 20-25 productive minutes tomorrow night with Barea out—score a lot, show some flashes—then Barea returns and he’ll be begging for spot minutes, sort of like in the Playoffs last year?
MF: When JJ Barea first showed up on the scene, he was sort of like this. He was everyone’s pet. A rags-to-riches story. But then he had to adjust to expectations being raised. People started saying, “This is how high you can go. And since you can’t go higher than that, we need to get better than that.” So they’ve passed on from JJ. They’re looking for the next great young hope.
Roddy is that next great young hope, but he’s infinitely more physically talented than Barea is.
It is the only lingering criticism of Carlisle here (in Dallas). This coaching staff—they love their security blankets. Players like Devean George, for example. He doesn’t do anything. He doesn’t screw anything up. He passes the ball to dirk. It’s easy to rely on Deean George if you’re a coach. With Beaubois, you don’t know what you’re going to get. And he was justifiably criticized for that last year.
If we’re sitting here in the Playoffs this year, and Roddy has been effective but Carlisle won’t play him, that won’t fly again.
This team right now is 38-16 and they’re good. They’ll continue to be 38-16 and be good. The hope is that this kid can come in and take them to another level.