Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports
Note: This post originally appeared on MavsFanatic.com
Last week, the Dallas Mavericks pulled off a blockbuster trade that landed the Mavs long-coveted point guard Rajon Rondo along with Dwight Powell and sent Jameer Nelson, Jae Crowder and Brandan Wright to Boston. While much has been made by the media about Rondo’s arrival in Dallas, the emergence of forward Charlie Villanueva has captured the hearts of MFFLs and has many fans beginning to #believeincharlie.
This summer, “Charlie V,” surprisingly chose to sign with the Mavs on a non-guaranteed, veteran’s minimum contract for about $1.3 million. It was a far cry for Villanueva, who was coming off of the final year of five-year, $37.7 million deal with the Detroit Pistons. Before signing with the Pistons, Villanueva had a breakout season with the Milwaukee Bucks where he averaged 16.2 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.8 assists. In his first year with the Pistons, Villanueva averaged a respectable 11.9 points and 4.7 rebounds, but his numbers steadily declined for the next four seasons and by the final year of his contract, Charlie V’s presence on the Pistons rotation was virtually non-existent.
A New Beginning
Enter the Dallas Mavericks: Villanueva, who was also heavily courted by the Los Angeles Clippers, signed with the Mavs on a make-good contract where he essentially had five weeks and eight games to prove his worth to Rick Carlisle and the Mavs front office or face an uncertain future. Villanueva described why he choose to sign with the Mavs over the Clippers on his blog:
This sounds a lot like Monta Ellis in July of 2013, when he left money and other offers on the table in order to become a part of an organization with a winning culture and environment that would allow him to thrive and enjoy basketball. The difference for Villanueva was that there was no guarantee he’d make the roster. However, despite a stacked Mavs roster, Charlie V ultimately defied the odds and earned himself a spot on the Mavs opening-day roster after averaging 9.0 points and 2.9 rebounds while shooting 35.3% from three in seven preseason games, while overcoming a personal tragedy along the way.
As the regular season began, Charlie V saw little to no action. Carlisle continued to preach to Villanueva to stay sharp and be ready as the coaching staff worked to figure out how to best use his services. While Villanueva was efficient in his limited opportunities, he was still unable to carve out a reoccurring role in the Mavericks’ rotation. Nevertheless, Villanueva continued to stay sharp and ready.
The saying goes: success is where preparation meets opportunity; and 29 games into the season, Charlie V fulfilled his opportunity to shine after the Mavs traded away backup power forward Brandan Wright for Rajon Rondo. Wright’s departure opened up a role behind Dirk at the backup four position and Villaneuva has seized every opporunity to snatch that role. On December 12 against the Atlanta Hawks, Villanueva scored a season-high 14 points and hasn’t looked back since.
In his past five games, Villanueva is averaging 13.2 points in just 16.3 minutes while shooting 51.1%, including 14 of 32 (43.8%) from three and 18 total rebounds. Villanueva is making a name for himself as the spark plug off the Mavs bench and quickly becoming a fan favorite that has us all rooting for him.
At this point in his career, the former University of Connecticut standout, who was originally drafted by the Toronto Raptors with the seventh overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft, is highly motivated and playing with a chip on his shoulder.
Behind the scenes, Charlie V has a certain presence and humility about the way here carries himself. He can’t be seen without a smile on his face and seems to be enjoying every moment of journey with the Mavs. In the locker room and around the team, his character translates to his performances on the court. He works hard, he plays hard and takes full advantage of the opportunities his given to him.
Off the court, Villanueva devotes his spare time to anti-bullying awareness, a cause he supports after being diagnosed with Alopecia at the age of 10, a type of hair loss that occurs when your immune systems mistakenly attacks hair follicles.
Role Going Forward
Going forward, the Mavs hope Charlie V can play the role 2011 Mavs NBA Champion Peja Stojakovic as the Marksmen. He has the ability to provide “instant offense” whenever the Mavs need it with his ability to go out on the court and knock down threes with ease and efficiency. It takes a unique individual to be able to knock down big shots in critical moments fresh off the bench, and Charlie V has shown the capability to do it. While it can’t be expected that Villanueva will continue to shoot threes at this high of a percentage, at 6-11, 240-pounds he also has the ability to help the Mavs in the rebounding department. It will be these intangibles that will solidify the role of Villanueva going forward. And while Charlie V is busy putting a ring on his fiancée’s finger, if he continues to play at a high level like this, he may be able to find a ring on his finger while hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy as a member of the Dallas Mavericks.
Photo Credit: Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports; Charlie Villanueva/SportsBlog.com