DALLAS – Shane Larkin believes he has a debt to pay to the Dallas Mavericks.
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle “told me himself that he had a big part in them drafting me,” says the rookie, selected No. 18 out of the University of Miami. “He thought I was the best point guard in the draft and that’s why he took me. That’s why they brought me here. And now, it’s just that weight on my shoulders of now I’ve got to show them why he thinks that of me and now I’ve got to go prove that when I get on the court.”
Before Larkin handles the weight on his shoulders, he’s got to handle the problem with his ankle. He broke it during a summer League practice back in July and isn’t yet participating in Dallas’ training camp. But he’s learning via observation as the Mavs continue to believe that his skills as a perimeter player dovetail nicely with the direction of the NBA.
“Shane is as fast and quick as they come,” Mavs president Donnie Nelson says. “And ‘fast-and-quick’ is more and more the way to win in the NBA. We think Shane can help us do that.”
Adds Larkin: “Nowadays in the NBA everybody is going small. If you look at the Finals, the Heat were going small with LeBron playing the 4, and the Spurs were going small. You see (Golden State’s) Stephen Curry, he’s only like 6-1”… (Denver’s) Ty Lawson, (the Clippers’) Chris Paul.
“The game is big, but it’s getting smaller.”
Larkin, the son of baseball Hall-of-Famer Barry Larkin, will have to overcome the fact he stands just 5-11. Once healthy – “I should be good to go for the first (regular-season) game,” he says – he’ll also have to overcome the Mavs’ depth at the position. Dallas will start Jose Calderon (who has a hamstring problem and will likely sit out Monday’s preseason opener at the AAC against New Orleans). Devin Harris (recovering from toe surgery) will eventually be in the mix. Monta Ellis will start at the 2 but can play some 1. Fellow rookie Gal Mekel is also available, with credentials that include two MVP trophies from the Israeli league.
“I’m a team guy,” Larkin says. “We have Gal Mekel who’s a veteran from overseas. We have Jose, who’s a veteran. Devin’s a veteran. Those are all point guards. When I look at what I’ve got to do, we just have to win. It’s a team game and there’s no “I” in team. I don’t have to get 20 points or 10 assists. We just have to win. …Whatever Coach Carlisle tells me to do to win, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Larkin’s relationship with the coach may already be special. Carlisle’s endorsement of him as being in the same class with the other point guards taken high in the draft comes from some inside knowledge: Larkin’s coach at Miami, Jim Larranaga, was on the University of Virginia staff when Carlisle played college basketball there.
“I think it’s been very beneficial that my coach actually coached him,” Larkin says. “It’s a great relationship there. Me and him are in constant contact, and I can tell that he really has a vested interest in me.”
Carlisle is invested in Shane Larkin. The rookie is planning on helping that investment pay dividends.