Elton Brand started in Dirk Nowitzki's place as the Mavericks wrapped up their European Vacation earlier this week. While the power forward switch had to do with Dirk's swollen knee, it meant some extra work for Brand with the first unit.

That's where Brand feels the most comfortable, though he knows that won't be his role in Dallas. He's a backup now, at least for this season, behind Nowitzki and center Chris Kaman.

"I'm going in there playing just to prove that, hey, I deserve minutes, whenever those minutes come," Brand said. "I think I'll enjoy especially playing with Dirk, whenever I get that chance, because most of my career I've had the best big defender defending me."

Brand has been a focal point of the offense in Chicago and with the Los Angeles Clippers. He's carried the load down low, averaging at least 20 points per game in six different seasons and double-digit rebounds five times.

That's not his job anymore. He's ready to be a tough guy. Something the Mavericks haven't had much of in the past outside of Tyson Chandler.

"I'm definitely going to have to anchor the defense, bring toughness," Brand said. "I'm not proud of it, but I think I led the league in flagrant fouls last year. You have to bring that. In order to win, you have to do those kinds of things. Protect that paint."