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Jonathan Gibson: From Unemployed to Leading Scorer

From out of the NBA to leading the Mavericks in scoring, Jonathan Gibson has burst onto the NBA scene.



Earlier this week, Jonathan Gibson was unemployed and looking for his next opportunity to play basketball. That opportunity came on Thursday when he signed with the Dallas Mavericks. Just two nights later, he would lead his new team in scoring.

Not only would Gibson lead the Mavericks in scoring, but his 26 points last night against the Orlando Magic would end up being a game-high between the two teams. The point guard out of New Mexico State made his NBA debut the night before in Memphis and scored 11 points.

“I was ready to come out here back with a great organization and great teammates I played with in the preseason,” Gibson told Basketball Insiders. “I was trying to execute offensively and defensively and just [trying] to stay aggressive on both ends and [trying] to do the best I can to get the W. Whatever the coach needs me to do – whether it’s come off of the bench and be a spark I can do that.”

The Mavericks have been decimated by injuries this season. Players have missed a combined 33 games so far. Devin Harris (toe), Dirk Nowitzki (Achilles), Deron Williams (calf strain) and J.J. Barea (calf strain) were all out last night against the Magic.

After it was revealed that Barea will miss over a month of action due to a left calf strain, the team was forced to add another guard in Gibson. Through 12 games this season, they have rolled out nine different starting lineups.

The 29-year-old completed his senior year at New Mexico State in 2010 and has since bounced around with a number of different teams overseas. He’s had stops in Turkey, Israel, Italy, Iran and China before signing with the Mavericks this week.

During his time overseas, he’s established himself as an outstanding scorer. His most accomplished season abroad came last year in China when he averaged 42 points, 6.7 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game.

He was among the standouts this summer with Dallas at the Las Vegas Summer League, averaging 17 points, three rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.5 steals in six outings. He went through training camp with the Mavericks and was among the last roster cuts prior to opening night.

“We know Gibson can score,” Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said. “We had him in training camp and he averaged 42 points a game in China last year. I like his juice. He’s got to be a little more acquainted with what we’re doing. He’s got to eliminate a couple of the mistakes here and there just from being new. We liked him and that’s why we brought him in the first place. He certainly helped us tonight.”

After scoring 37 points combined in his first two games with the Mavericks, he appears to be as comfortable as can be for a guy that just joined the team three days ago. Playing with several of the team’s younger players in Summer League has made the transition easy for Gibson.

“It helps as far as all of the reads, the calls, the plays [and] reading teammates,” Gibson said. “Kind of knowing what they want to do and what they can do and try to put them into great positions to score and get a W helps to play with them.”

Manufacturing offense this season for the Mavericks has been a struggle. With so many of its top scorers out due to injury, it shouldn’t be shocking that the team is last in the league in offensive efficiency, points per game, field-goal percentage and is 28th in three-point percentage.

Despite losing to the Magic last night, Gibson’s 26 points offer a glimpse of hope that the offense can potentially turn it around once the team gets healthy again. He stayed aggressive for the entire game and was showed no hesitation in asserting himself. He finished the game 8-of-16 from the field, including 5-of-9 from three-point range.

“He was great; that’s [what] we brought him here for,” Harrison Barnes said of Gibson’s outing. “J.J. [Barea] goes down and he steps in. He’s that aggressive guard that just lifted the lineup. He stepped in and he was great tonight. He’s got to keep it up for us.

“We’re down bodies. Defenses are going to be keying in on a few of us so we need everyone to step up and be aggressive. This is probably one of the greenest lights that [Gibson is] going to have in [his] career.”

For Gibson, his story is a classic example of a player continually working on his craft in preparation of a big-time opportunity. Despite spending several years overseas, he said giving up on his NBA dream never really crossed his mind. His time overseas served as a chance for him to continue to learn the game and become better each day.

Playing in the Mavericks organization will surely help develop his game even more. Having players like Nowitzki, Barnes, Andrew Bogut, Wesley Matthews and Barea among others as his teammates can help him learn the game from guys that have been around the league for a long time.

“These guys are all great players and are all experienced,” Gibson said. “I think they can help me whenever I need help as far as on the court or off of the court. I know if I have any questions I can go and talk to them.”

It seems as though Gibson won’t be the type of player that will put his personal success ahead of the team’s success. Just after scoring 26 points last night, he was more disappointed in the fact that the team wasn’t able to pull out the win.

It’s players like that who can help build a winning atmosphere, which is likely part of the reason why the Mavericks signed Gibson. It remains to be seen just how long Gibson can remain with the Mavericks but if he can continue to put up numbers, he’ll give the Mavericks’ front office a lot to think about.

Cody Taylor is an NBA writer in his fourth season with Basketball Insiders, covering the NBA and NCAA out of Orlando and Miami.

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