As Rodrigue Beaubois sat out the first 54 games recovering from a foot injury, his potential grew exponentially to Dallas Mavericks fans. The season debut of the young, energetic guard belovedly dubbed "Roddy B" was so ridiculously anticipated that team owner Mark Cuban joked Beaubois would enter wearing Superman's cape, accompanied by the Mighty Mouse theme.
Well, maybe it wasn't all that overblown.
Beaubois had 13 points, six assists, three steals and all sorts of highlights in his first 21 minutes, providing a spark that sent the Mavericks to a 116-100 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night.
"This night is a great feeling," said Beaubois, a native of the island of Guadeloupe. "I didn't have any expectations -- just to enjoy it because I've been waiting for it for a long time. I think I'm ready to go."
Beaubois' speed and athleticism were on display as soon as he entered -- to a standing ovation, of course, just 2 minutes into the game -- and again during a gamebreaking run in the third quarter. Jason Kidd actually paved the way with 17 points in that period, all on long shots, many set up by the defense backing up to prevent Beaubois from soaring to the basket.
"He's going to get us a lot of wide-open looks," said Kidd, who made his first six 3-pointers and finished with 20 points in 28 minutes. "The big thing is just for him to get more minutes and to get more comfortable."
The Mavericks won for the 12th time in 13 games, although this one was a bit weird. The starters didn't take a single free throw, Dirk Nowitzki didn't score a single point in the second half and they let a 13-point halftime lead melt away a few minutes into the third quarter.
Then Kidd and Beaubois put together a 13-0 spurt that eventually stretched to 24-4. Dallas led by 26 before settling for tying its biggest margin of victory. The Mavs had eight players score in double figures, with five of them reserves. That included Brendan Haywood having a season-high 12 points with 10 rebounds, and J.J. Barea having 11 points and 10 assists.
Still, this night was all about Beaubois.
He got things going shortly after checking in, grabbing a loose ball near the foul line and turning it into a scooping layup. Soon after, he outjumped 7-foot teammate Tyson Chandler for a rebound and zoomed ahead of everyone else for a hardly contested layup.
Fans were still oohing and aahing when he reminded everyone that he's still a raw player by throwing a pass straight to a Sacramento player on Dallas' next possession. He did it again on the next possession. Then he bounced back with a steal and another breakaway layup, only this time he added some sizzle by smartly switching the ball to his left hand when a defender cut across to his right side reaching for the steal.
He finished 6 of 13, making 1 of 4 on 3-pointers. He had only one more turnover after those back-to-back giveaways.
"I thought it was, all things considered, pretty solid," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "Predictably, there were some ups and downs, but the important thing was he was able to get involved."
As a rookie last season, Beaubois scored 16 points in 21 minutes in the playoff finale, leading to an offseason of him being hailed as the team's budding star. Then he broke his left foot during a practice with the French national team before the world championships and had a much longer than expected recovery.
With the NFL season done and baseball not yet cranked up, his return has been the talk of the town for days. He was greeted by a pregame video clip from the movie "Rudy," with his head superimposed on the lead character and chants of "Rod-dy! Rod-dy!" Then came the standing ovation.
"I just want to keep getting better and just show them that I really appreciate it," Beaubois said.
He spoke with a bucket of ice next to his left foot. Perhaps it was telling that he hadn't bothered yet to soak it.
"The foot is good," he said. "I have to get my legs into it. The cardio is kind of tough."
Jermaine Taylor scored a career-high 17 points, but Sacramento lost for the seventh time in eight games. The Kings were playing their second straight game without Tyreke Evans, their leading scorer at 18.3 points per game, because of a foot injury.
Evans' ball-handling was especially missed. Sacramento had 26 turnovers, which led to 38 points for Dallas.
"When he doesn't play, teams tend to score a lot more on us and we tend to turn the ball over a lot more," coach Paul Westphal said. "He's a big part of us being competitive."
Sacramento led by six in the opening minutes, but Dallas tied it at the end of the quarter and were up by 13 at halftime. The Kings tied it quickly, then faded just as quickly, making the entire fourth quarter garbage time.
Notes: The previous Wednesday, the Mavericks beat the Kings by only two points in Sacramento. Evans' absence and Beaubois' return certainly were part of the difference. ... With speculation about the Mavericks being involved in the Carmelo Anthony trade talks, Cuban joked that his only proposal is for him and Anthony to try buying the New York Mets. ... Fans cheered loudly when it was announced that the Cavaliers beat the Lakers. Dallas started the day percentage points ahead of Los Angeles for second in the Western Conference.