DALLAS — Although Mavericks point guard Yogi Ferrell denied having any revenge motive before facing his former team Friday night at American Airlines Center, Nets coach Kenny Atkinson made a countermove to even things up in the intangible department. With center Brook Lopez sidelined by a minor sprained right ankle, Atkinson started former Mav Quincy Acy at center, making him the 15th different Net to start a game this season.
“He’s playing well,” Atkinson said of Acy, who came in shooting .500 (20-for-40) from three-point range as a Net. “I’m rewarding him for his good play, and an added bonus is that he played in Dallas. That’s pretty neat, but the real decision was that this guy is playing good basketball and we need him in the lineup.”
At 6-7, Acy is five inches shorter than Lopez, but he stretches the defense with his newfound shooting range and his defensive toughness figured to compensate for the smaller lineup even though he was matched against 7-footer Dirk Nowitzki. “Defensively, we had him on [Atlanta’s] Dwight Howard the other night, and he competes and he battles and he’s long and he’s a heck of a competitor,” Atkinson said. “He’s got a heck of a matchup tonight. Hopefully, he knows some of Dirk’s moves.”
Atkinson called the injury to Lopez a “tweak” and said, “I’m looking forward to having him back soon. I don’t think it’s a big deal.”
Yogi fits in with Mavs
Because of a raft of injuries, the Mavs were desperate for help when they signed Ferrell from the Nets’ D-League team on Jan. 28 and started him the next night at San Antonio.
“He had a pulse and he was a point guard,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle deadpanned when asked why he started Ferrell right away. “We needed a guy who could play 20 minutes a game who could hold the fort. Look, he’s out there with Nowitzki and [Harrison] Barnes, who are two really high-level players, and he’s out there with other really good players, too. He took the opportunity and jumped on it.”
The Mavs had started Pierre Jackson from their own D-League team the previous game only to see him pull a hamstring two days into a 10-day contract. Carlisle was uncertain if owner Mark Cuban would absorb the cost of cutting Jackson to sign Ferrell right away, but he figured it helped that Ferrell played at Indiana, Cuban’s alma mater.
“With Yogi being an Indiana guy, we thought it would play in his favor,” Carlisle said.
Mavs director of basketball operations Donnie Nelson brought the idea to Cuban. Carlisle said, “And he was like, ‘Sure, the Indiana guy gets the tie.’ It’s been a good story. A lot of people are looking at the fact that he’s scored the ball unexpectedly well, but Yogi has done equal damage as a defender.”