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Ryan Broekhoff finding rhythm in the NBA madness

ESPN.com | Updated: 2019-01-06 16:00:24

Philadelphia -- "It's easy for Ryan! It's like turning on the faucet!"

Dwight Powell interrupts Ryan Broekhoff's pregame media availability and answers the question about how easy it is for the Australian to find his rhythm despite not playing consistent minutes during his rookie NBA campaign.

Broekhoff proved his Dallas Mavericks teammate prophetic against the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday, finishing the game with a career high 15 points and three assists in 21 minutes of court time.

"Obviously I came into this league wanting to play and wanting to compete," Broekhoff said post-game. "Having the opportunity, with a few guys sitting out tonight, it was good. The coaching staff and the players continue to show a confidence in me to shoot the ball. Tonight some of them went in which was a good feeling.

"Hopefully it builds momentum."

Broekhoff spent five years plying his trade in Turkey and Russia before coming to the NBA this season, and as is the case with a lot of rookies -- even those with his basketball pedigree -- he's found it hard to come by regular minutes in coach Rick Carlisle's rotation.

Broekhoff has appeared in just 17 of the Mavericks 39 games, and prior to Saturday, his career high of 9 points came against the Pelicans in early December. Broekhoff says he's been adjusting to the pace of the NBA season on the fly, and is growing more comfortable as the season rolls on.

"Definitely more comfortable, just adjusting to the game, as well as the travel and schedule and how many games -- and how quickly the games seem to pop up each week. But I'm definitely feeling more comfortable and more confident in myself to compete at this level," he said.

"Although opportunities have been a little up-and-down, when I have got on I feel like I can compete with anybody that I've come up against. It's been fun learning and adjusting to all that."

To go back to Powell's statement, Broekhoff, who entered the league with a reputation as a sharpshooting marksmen, admits it's been difficult to find that rhythm when entering a game given his sporadic -- at best -- minutes.

"Rhythm is the biggest thing in basketball and trying to establish that over the last couple of months -- and even the last couple of weeks -- it's tough," he says.

"That's why I'm trying to do the extra stuff to stay in game-shape. Like when I do shooting and stuff I try it keep it at game speed, just to try and keep myself in the best possible shape mentally and physically for when those [opportunities] pop up during a game situation."

Just before tip-off against the Sixers, head coach Carlisle praised Broekhoff's approach to the game this season, saying he's produced in the limited time he's had on-court.

"He's the ultimate pro," Carlise said. "He's kept himself ready and he's played well when he has gotten called upon. You can't ask for a more team oriented guy that works on his craft every single day. He's always ready. He's an NBA player.

"He hasn't played a lot of minutes, but when he's been inserted for meaningful minutes he's more than held his own. He's been a plus for us even though there haven't been a lot of minutes."

Against the Sixers, Broekhoff looked to make immediate impact on both ends of the floor. After cooly draining his first shot -- a three pointer -- he then took a charge on the defensive end, from Joel Embiid.

That was one instance, he says, where it didn't feel so good setting the tone.

"Nah, that didn't feel good at all," he joked post-game. "It hurt. He's a big man. A big fella like that with momentum? It's hard for them to move side-to-side. I just planted, prayed a little bit, and survived."

This season has been a battle for the Mavericks who sit three games out of the final playoff seeding, and the Australian understands he has landed with Dallas during a transitional phase.

Dirk Nowitzki, perennial All-Star and NBA Finals MVP in 2011 with the Mavericks, is likely drawing the curtain on his 20 year career following the conclusion of the 2018-19 season. In the meantime, Nowitzki is trying to help mold Slovenian Luka Doncic into a player who can carry the franchise into the future. Broekhoff says getting to experience the end of an era while ushering in a new one has been "fun."

"Dirk's seen it all, done it all so obviously he's a great one to talk to, just to keep things in perspective on how long the NBA season is and the ups and downs that come along with it," Broekhoff said. "Luka's just the wide-eyed young kid that comes in that loves it. He's always smiling, always happy. That sort of energy is pretty infectious."

And what's been Broekhoff's biggest takeaway from watching Nowitzki on a nightly basis?

"Just how much work you have to put in. Even though he's in the twilight of his career, he still puts in work. He's always getting treatment; lifting extra weights, getting extra shots [up]. If an all-time great is still doing that at his age, there's no excuses for young guys like me that we shouldn't be doing it."

It's still a while before any possible retirement ceremony for Nowitzki, and the team and Broekhoff will want to delay that as long as possible. The Western Conference is loaded and the team knows they have to play more consistently in the second half of the season to make a serious push. Broekhoff says he's willing to play his part.

"Playoffs is definitely something we think we can do," he states. "I'm just here to bring energy and hopefully make a little impact when I do get opportunities. Just to be a positive guy around the group and during the good times and the bad times try to pick guys up so we can make a push."

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