On most occasions, starting lineups for an NBA exhibition game are like personality for a supermodel.
Neither matters much.
But the sight of Erick Dampier jumping center Tuesday night against the New Orleans Hornets was a clear sign that the battle for the starting spot in the middle of the Mavericks' lineup may be tilting in the 10-year veteran's direction.
Going into training camp, coach Avery Johnson said he thought only one starting spot – the guard position opposite Jason Terry – was up for grabs. But that has changed with Dampier moving ahead of DeSagana Diop in the preseason opener, an 84-81 loss to the Hornets at the Ford Center.
"Damp has been a monster in camp," Johnson said. "It's just one of those things where I had to start him."
Johnson said Dampier has been better than Diop, which is why he's moved ahead of Diop in the rotation – for the moment. When asked if the season began now, would Dampier be his starter, Johnson said:
"I wouldn't say that. I just know Damp, and I know what he's doing. And I love it. I love the effort and the intensity and the communication."
Dampier responded to the start with 10 rebounds before halftime. He was assertive at both ends of the court and finished with six points and 11 boards in 21 minutes.
"He wants his spot back," said Josh Howard, who had a team-best 16 points but was 5-of-14 from the field. "As far as people doubting him, I think he's trying to prove them wrong. You can tell he's worked hard over the summer."
Dampier insists the starting job isn't his motivating factor. But he was clearly the dominator on the boards Tuesday and has been the leader of a three-way competition during camp among himself, Diop and D.J. Mbenga.
"I'm just trying to do whatever I can to help us win," Dampier said. "I try to get a double-double or at least get close."
Dampier's saga took a frustrating turn midway through last season when he was replaced in the lineup by Diop. It was Diop who started throughout the playoff run to the NBA Finals, even though Dampier played more minutes.
But a strong off-season regimen by Dampier and his start in camp has proven to the coaching staff that he's serious about regaining the starting job.
So far so good. Let's see if it continues tomorrow night.
Let's also see if he can do this against someone besides Chandler. He's probably not the best gauge of talent at the center position. He should be able to get some boards against Miller Thurs. Hopefully he will continue to impress.
dampier was pretty good when he was on golden state...i figured when he came to dallas he would continue to be a double/double guy but it hasnt panned out. i dont know much about his work ethic but he seems lazy. can anyone contest this? i like diop starting because he sets the defensive tone and that is what dallas has always been lacking.
Damp may have finally woke up with his work ethic. He stayed in town and was working on his game all summer. Word is that he's been impressive in camp. And from the looks of the first two games it's true. He's been all over the boards and more aggresive on offense. But yet staying within himself. I kinda liked him coming off the bench against the other team's second string. It seemed to help his confidence. But he may make me rethink that if he keeps this up.
We noticed that last year at the games about the tip. After the first couple of Diop starts, my wife said "Damp always won the tip."
It's nice to actually have a center choice for a change.
I was wondering how much of what they were saying was just sound bites and coach speak. But after seeing him last night, I must admit there is a difference. The question is it just to get his job back, or will he keep it up once he does? I guess the one factor is Avery. If Damp does slide back into old form, Avery will not hesistate to slide him back to the bench.