Shane Larkin: From garbage time to crunch time

ATLANTA — Years from now when point guard Shane Larkin hangs up his basketball sneakers, he’ll likely remember a game-changing moment that occurred Monday against the Denver Nuggets.

The Dallas Mavericks were getting hammered at the time 108-95. And with only 1:41 remaining, coach Rick Carlisle instructed Larkin and four other reserves to go into the game for mop-up duty, aka garbage time.

Garbage time was foreign territory for Larkin — a rookie from Miami who was the co-Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the year last season and the 18th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. In college, Larkin was a polished second-team All-American who knew garbage time was reserved for the lesser-talented players.

But in the NBA, Larkin quickly learned a valuable lesson.

“That was different to me to be thrown in there when we’re down [13] points and for the other team not to be playing hard, and you really have no chance to win,” Larkin said. “I had never really played in those types of minutes before.”

He has now.

Earlier in the game against Denver, Larkin played 2 minutes, 37 seconds of uneventful basketball, scored no points, had no assists and turned the ball over once while going 0 of 1 from the field. In other words, he was a nonfactor who brought absolutely nothing to the table, and his pride took a hit afterward.

The punishment?

Garbage time.

Larkin responded to the garbage time Wednesday against the Golden State Warriors when he collected seven points, six assists, two rebounds, one steal and no turnovers in 17 minutes. He, in essence, was one of the sparks off the bench who helped the Mavericks take down the highly touted Warriors 103-99.

“He played great,” Carlisle said. “He made a lot of things happen on offense, and defensively he was a factor coming up with loose ball plays.

“He didn’t play well [Monday] night and he got pulled and Gal [Mekel] went in and he did a good job. [Wednesday,] I decided to go with Shane again and see how he would respond and he responded well.”

The speedy Larkin was motivated by his garbage-time appearance.

“It didn’t upset me, it proved a point to me,” he said, “Like, ‘If you’re not going to be aggressive, why are you here, why do we need you?’

“So I just had to go back in there and be aggressive and get back to what I was doing in college. That’s why they brought me here.”

Larkin has been playing catch-up ever since he fractured his right ankle on July 5 and underwent successful surgery on July 16. But he missed summer league, training camp and the first 10 games of the regular season before playing his first game Nov. 18 against Philadelphia.

“You’ve got to think this is kind of like a training camp for him because he missed that,” forward Vince Carter said. “So we’re bringing him along in the fire.
“It’s a lot thrown at him at one time, but I think he’s really taken the time to learn what’s asked of him. And you can just tell each and every game, each and every quarter, he’s getting comfortable at the position.”

As the Mavericks (10-6) prepare to play the Atlanta Hawks (8-8) at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Philips Arena, they do so knowing Larkin received that subtle message from Carlisle loud and clear.

“I’ve just got to get back to being the player I was in college, being aggressive all the time, looking to get into the lane, and if I have the floater, take the floater,” Larkin said. “And if I have the pass, make the pass.

“I played four minutes [against Denver] — two minutes in garbage time when we were getting blown out. That motivated me to come here [Wednesday] and just be extra aggressive.”

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