DALLAS — Much has changed for the Dallas Mavericks at point guard since they ended up with former University of Miami standout Shane Larkin late in the first round of the 2013 NBA Draft. The Mavs have added veteran point men Jose Calderon and Devin Harris to their roster since June 28 but Larkin welcomes the competition.
Instead, the former Hurricane and son of Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin relishes the chance to battle Calderon, Harris and even fellow rookie Gal Mekel, the Israeli floor general who the Mavs introduced at a Wednesday afternoon presser along with Larkin and Ricky Ledo, the club’s second-round pick who landed in Dallas thanks to several draft night deals.
“I’m still excited to be here. I’m still willing to work and just willing to go out there and compete,” Larkin said. “I don’t expect anything to be given to me. As a rookie, you’ve got to work for everything you get. That’s what I want to do and even though they signed some point guards, I still have the chance to do that and I believe I can.”
Only 20, he will forever be regarded as a legend in his former port of call, Coral Gables, Florida. That’s because he helped lead Miami to its first ACC title in school history, was a big reason why the school advanced to the Sweet 16 of the 2013 NCAA Tournament and also earned Co-ACC Player of the Year honors as a sophomore.
Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle is definitely impressed with what Larkin did in his two seasons with the Canes and the veteran coach who led Dallas to the 2011 NBA championship feels his skill set will translate over to the NBA quite well, especially his ability to thrive in the pick and roll, a staple of Mavs basketball in recent history.
“One of the things I think he can give us is penetration. We think he can get to the rim. He can break down defenses,” Carlisle said. “He’s a great athlete. His resourcefulness and his resolve to be great at basketball is one of the things that we took into consideration when we drafted him. I want him to bring his speed into the game at all times-offensively, defensively and he’s got to be aggressive.”
During Tuesday’s presser, Larkin, who stands at 6-0, was asked what current NBA point guard he has looked up to and tries to pattern his game after. He said it was Clippers point man Chris Paul because of the fact that CP3 dominates games and because they’re around the same height.
However, this ex-Cane then mentioned Denver’s Ty Lawson as someone else he can be compared to and even discussed his similarities to former Mavs backup point man J.J. Barea in terms of his ability to be effective on the pick and roll as an undersized player and to make his teammates better players whenever he was on the floor.
And even though he will be battling Calderon and Harris for minutes, he also realizes that since that veteran duo has 17 years of experience in the Association between them that it represents a great opportunity to learn as much as he can from them about what it takes not just to make the jump from college to the NBA, but more importantly to remain in the league and thrive there.
“Obviously, they do it in different styles. Devin is more of a penetrating, very quick guard who gets in the lane and Calderon has a great three-point shot and he’s more methodical with it and he’s more slow to fast, changing speeds and just using his basketball IQ to use the pick and roll,” Larkin said. “Just being able to learn from both of those guys and see how they use the pick and roll and seeing how they adjust to different coverages is going to help me become a better and better player. With those guys and the coaching staff, I have nothing but confidence of being able to come in and produce.”
The former UM standout is spending this week practicing with his teammates who will hit the floor on Saturday in Las Vegas as the Mavs begin play in the NBA Summer League, which will last run through July 22.
Larkin is clearly looking forward to hitting the hardwood for the first time as a Maverick and this talented floor general knows there will be one major difference between the pro and college games once Summer League gets rolling for him and his new teammates.
“Speed is probably going to be a lot better, more athletes. Getting in the lane is going to be easier just because there can’t be help defense as much in the NBA,” he said. “But at the same time, once you get in there the speed of everybody collapsing to you and the athleticism and the shot blocking at this level is going to be much greater than college. Just getting in there and being able to make the right reads is going to be really important. Summer league is a chance where I can show that I have that in my game.”
Acclimating to that speed of the game, playing an 82-game schedule and enduring any rookie rites of passage are just some of the adjustments a player in his situation has to make as an NBA rookie. And one thing many rookies come to realize, some very quickly while others it takes a while to sink in, is that above all else, the league is a business and that underlying principle governs if and when many personnel moves that are made.
Larkin has already realized that, especially since his name has already been linked to trade rumors involving either Vince Carter or Shawn Marion heading out of town so the Mavs can either acquire a veteran to bolster their roster or free up more space under the salary cap.
Of course, he’d love to stay in Dallas, where he wanted to end up all along but also realizes that sometimes these things are simply out of his hands. But that’s not going to change his approach of coming to practice every day willing to learn and make himself a better player every time he hits the hardwood, a mentality that any coach around the league can appreciate.
“You said it, it’s a business. If I’m here, I’m here. I would love to be here. I told everybody this is where I wanted to be during this draft,” Larkin said. “I’d love to be a Dallas Maverick. I want to grow with Coach Carlisle and just grow a relationship with everybody in the Dallas area. But it is a business and if they feel like moving me would help them be a better ballclub, then that’s just something I have to accept. At the end of the day, everybody wants to be successful. I would love to be successful as a Maverick but it is a business.”