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Spurs Vs. Mavericks: WIth Dirk Down, Yi Emerges As A Role Player

With Dirk Nowitzki taking some time off to let his body heal and regain his physical strength, the Dallas Mavericks have had to lean on their reserves to pick up the slack. Lamar Odom has begun to play to his ability, Brandan Wright has shown some spring off the bench and Yi Jianlian has proven to have some "Dirk" in his game.

Facing up, elavating, shooting the spot-up jumper and even getting to the rim when necessary have all been displayed in Yi's arsenal when given the playing time to show off.

"The first couple weeks I was learning the team and running the plays, offensive and defensive things," said Yi, whose English is not half bad. "The players and coaches have really been helping me. This season with the schedule you don’t have real practice time, so for me it’s just watching and watching."

With Nowitzki's return to the lineup, Odom will go back to the bench as the first forward off the bench. However, it'll remain to be seen if head coach Rick Carlisle will have faith in his reserve bigs to play when needed.

For more on this game Mavericks fans should check out Mavs Moneyball and Spurs fans should visit Pounding The Rock. For more news and analysis on the NBA head on over to SB Nation's NBA Basketball page.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.