A month ago, if somebody had said Wayne Ellington would be a major cog in the Mavericks’ playoff push, finding any believers would have been tough.

Buried on the bench, the fifth-year guard appeared to be on his way to a lost season.
That’s why the NBA’s 82-game grind is so great.

Ellington admits now that he wasn’t sure his chance to earn his keep with the Mavericks would ever come. He sat game after game for more than half the season. The first 54 times the Mavericks took the court, Ellington was glued to the bench 26 times. When he played, it was usually token minutes or mop-up duty.

He had slipped to afterthought status when he sat four games in a row in late January.

“It’s tough,” Ellington said. “We’re all competitive. We all want to be on the floor. It’s tough. But it’s my fifth year in the league, so it’s a little easier to understand what it takes to stay ready when you aren’t playing.”

Ellington could be any coach’s poster kid for how to handle the always-frustrating situation of working hard in practice and not getting the payoff in the form of minutes during games.

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Coach Rick Carlisle has an opinion.

“Wayne Ellington is a high-character guy, and he’s a pro,” Carlisle said. “Those two things will not allow him to ever pack it in. He’s going to stay ready.

“He had a disappointing night [at Golden State]. But he came in [at Utah] ready to go, played good defense and hit a lot of timely shots. Once again, he proved he was ready. He never complained or hung his head the whole time [when he was sitting].”

That’s what the NBA is all about for players of Ellington’s ilk. He’s probably not going to be a starter for anybody. But he’s such a good 3-point shooter that he’s a valuable asset, particularly for a team such as the Mavericks that puts a premium on spacing the floor with shooters to open up lanes for Monta Ellis, Devin Harris and Vince Carter to get to the rim.