In the summer of 2010, a quiet, young, unknown point guard prospect worked out at the American Airlines Center gym. The only team that really believed in him was the Dallas Mavericks, who sent him to their summer-league team in Las Vegas hoping that someday, he'd have an international following and an electric presence and would be ready as ready for a high-profile game as he was Tuesday when the Knicks visited the Mavs.
No, not Jeremy Lin, though the Mavs prospect-turned-Knicks standout was in that very same gym at the very same time.
The electric young guard of record in this 95-85 Mavs win is Roddy Beaubois.
"We were kind of sad and mad at the way we lost last night,'' said Roddy B, reflecting on a Monday night disappointment in Oklahoma City. "So today we wanted to do everything to win this game. And we did everything we could to win it. … So that's good.''
We are three years into the Roddy B era (or two, depending on how much emphasis you put on last year's injury-blighted campaign) and most think the jury is still out on what the Mavs have in him. Maybe he turns into the dynamic, game-changing guard that Dallas GM Donnie Nelson thought he could be when he acquired him at the end of the first round of the 2009 draft. It's also possible that a spotty BBIQ or physical fragility or a laissez-faire approach to life (fittingly, maybe, as Roddy is French-speaking and hails from the island of Guadeloupe) prevents him from ever being more than a thrilling-yet-erratic contributor.
But this is the kind of night that shows why Roddy B is an asset to this team in the here and now, irrespective of his ultimate trajectory down the line. The Mavs, despite the all-world presence of Dirk Nowitzki, are a group that has often struggled to generate easy baskets and one that goes through stretches with a heavy dependence on the jump shot.
Jet getting clogged up trying to create, as was the case in OKC? Vince making just one bucket, as he did here? Kidd serving as a Hall-of-Famer who refuses to attempt a layup?
One cure for that? Rodrigue Beaubois.
Beaubois totaled 6-of-11 for 18 points. His spark – off the bench as both Jason Kidd's backup at the point and then alongside him at the 2 as well -- was needed throughout for a Dallas team on the second night of a back-to-back, in the midst of a five-losses-in-six-games skid, and prepping for this weekend's three-games-in-three-nights challenge. Oh, and as Beaubois noted, a team still miffed about not getting calls in a 95-91 loss at OKC.
"We had a tough game last night which we felt we should have won,'' Kidd said.
In the first half of this one, the Mavs offense was clanking to the tune of 41-percent team shooting, including a ghastly 2-of-13 for seven total points between Dirk and Vince Carter. Roddy B was the ballast during that offensive malaise in the half, tallying 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting and attacking the rim with athletic abandon.
Beaubois, 6-2 and slender, has a different gear than anyone else on the defending champs' roster and it's evident in the way he glides down the floor; it's the type of athleticism that can play anywhere, and might play somewhere else depending on how Dallas manipulates its cap flexibility next summer.
But for now? Even as he mourns the recent death of his father, he sprints through practice drills and zips through defenses as a penetrator. … He's so dynamic that when he's on, he deserves to be somewhere on that offensive totem pole … behind Dirk, of course. … but somewhere.
Nowitzki eventually got himself untracked, scoring 24 in the second half to total 28. Jason Kidd filled the boxscore, too, with 15 points and six assists. And the Mavs, once up 19 (in part due to Beaubois' play), did fall behind for a moment late before mounting a 14-0 run to take charge.
Dallas' ability to control Linsanity was part of the success. Lin, the rookie sensation who was once a Mavs Summer Leaguer, managed to contribute 14 points and seven assists. But he was just 4-of-13 shooting.
Lin's return to the AAC – where he used to work out with Beaubois and fellow young Mavs guard Dominique Jones during those very same aforementioned pre-Summer League sessions – was notable in part because of the following he's developed. The game was also notable and emotional due to the return of ex-Mav Tyson Chandler, the Knicks center who was so pivotal to Dallas' world title last season.
Chandler, said Carlisle in a pregame ceremony to present him his championship ring, "is a guy that will go down as one of the all-time legendary Maverick players."
The gym was full with roars of appreciation.
Vastly different from what it sounded like in the summer of 2010, when few eyes bothered to watch as an unheralded Mavs point guard from nowhere worked to get to the point where he might make it on the big stage. … and on an important Tuesday night in the NBA, did just that.
No, not Jeremy Lin.