The Mavericks have a slew of ball handlers and a deep reserve of wings, so naturally their first significant injury of the season would come elsewhere at a position of relative weakness. According to a release from the team, Brandan Wright -- the 25-year-old big man slotted to play big minutes for Dallas at center this season -- suffered a "small, non-displaced fracture" in his left, dominant shoulder and will be held out of the lineup indefinitely. Wright isn't scheduled for surgery at the moment, which leaves his timetable to return as both fluid and indeterminate.
That puts Dallas in a tough spot. Maverick newcomer Samuel Dalembert has been penciled in as the team's presumptive starting center, but Rick Carlisle already has his concerns about Dalembert's conditioning, to say nothing of his limitations as a player. Dalembert claims that a preseason injury is the cause, but this isn't the first time he's shown up to camp a bit slow. As former teammate Andre Iguodala once put it: "I think Sammy enjoys his summers."
Tack on the fact that Dalembert logged a mere 16.3 minutes on average in just 47 games last season and one can see reason for the Mavs to worry. Dalembert is now five years removed from playing starter's minutes and missing his most reliable backup. Bernard James and DeJuan Blair can potentially sop up some of the playing time left by Wright's absence, but neither is equipped to influence the game on anywhere near the same level. Wright is a bouncy athlete with productive instincts, a combination which allows him to contribute consistently despite a clear lack of fundamentals. He's a bit too slight to keep opponents off the glass. His rotational timing is off at times. But Wright redeems his mistakes with length and activity, and was perhaps poised to play even more than the 18.0 minutes per game he averaged in Dallas last season. He still might, albeit with a delayed start. All indications are that Wright's injury is relatively minor, though fractures which aren't addressed via surgery run a legitimate risk of reinjury. With that, Wright will undoubtedly proceed with caution -- though it remains to be seen how it might influence the length of his absence or his effectiveness upon return.