Villanueva, Mavs Playing Footloose to Thunder's Dancing Act

Charlie Villanueva has been a disappointment for the Mavs.

He’s never consistently hit his outside shot and hasn’t been the backup stretch power forward to Dirk Nowitzki the team envisioned. Plus, the way he wears his headband barely hanging on to the top of his noggin’ makes me nervous.

But I give the veteran props for helping the Mavs upset the Thunder in Game 2. And he did it without playing a single minute.

After their 38-point romp in Game 1 the Thunder took the Mavs lightly Monday night in Oklahoma City. So much so that point guard Russell Westbrook and seldom-used reserve Cameron Payne took to dancing at mid-court before tip-off. And I mean, yep, dancing. Like sashaying and prancing and pointing at each other and looking like prissy children in an episode of Dance Moms.

I know the Thunder do that before every game. But this is the playoffs, not some All-Star exhibition.

If you’re a Thunder fan, it was cool. A sign of how relaxed and unified the team is. But if you’re the Mavs, it was disrespectful.

Villanueva had seen enough as soon as it started, and waltzed between the two very flamboyant and serious Thunder dancers to at least interrupt their choreography. Westbrook took exception, mildly shoving Villanueva aside. But the Mavs’ blockade was soon joined by rookie Justin Anderson.

While Villanueva merely waved a towel during the game, Anderson played a huge role – climaxed by his partial block of Kevin Durant’s potential game-winning layup in the final, frantic seconds.

After the game Durant and Westbrook attempted to dismiss Villanueva’s Footloose reenactment, calling it “fake (stuff)” and saying “that’s for the guys who don’t play.”

At first I thought Westbrook was throwing a bone to his teammate Payne, who didn’t play a second in Game 2. But then I realized it was an attempted criticism of Villanueva and … Anderson?

“If you want to go dancing and stuff like that, go to a nightclub,” Villanueva fired back yesterday via a Fox video. “Go to a club and dance. Go to Dancing With the Stars and be a dancer. You want to battle and dance, we can battle, but not in a basketball game. Plus, they were in my way, too, so I wasn't necessarily interrupting their dance.”

Villanueva, of course, is stretching the truth about veering his path. Make no mistake, his subtle action sent a direction message: The Mavs weren’t a dead team about to let the Thunder dance on their graves. Then they went out and played like a desperate, angry team, beating OKC, 85-84, in what will likely be one of the biggest upsets in the NBA Playoffs this spring.

Later on his personal blog, Villanueva continued his rant.

Now listen, I'm all for pre-game hype and rituals. I do them myself all the time. But bro, when your pre-game routine starts off with '5-6-7-8' that's just too much. I wasn't feeling all that right in front of me. Take that to the nightclub or to your side of the court. All due respect, but naaah.

As a curmudgeon who even thought Michael Jordan’s pre-game powder routine was a little much, I’m nodding in absolute approval.

The Thunder will get the laugh and win this series, and then they can dance all they want. But in pre-game? At mid-court? It’s disrespectful.

Game 3 Thursday night should be very interesting. Even before tip-off.

A native Texan who was born in Duncanville and graduated from UT-Arlington, Richie Whitt has been a mainstay in the Metroplex media since 1986. He’s held prominent roles on all media platforms including newspaper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Observer), radio (105.3 The Fan) and TV (co-host on TXA 21 and numerous guest appearances, including NBC 5). He lives in McKinney with his wife, Sybil, and two very spoiled dogs.

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