Rick Carlisle
Mavericks center Nerlens Noel and head coach Rick Carlisle. (LM Otero/Associated Press)

It took the Dallas Mavericks and Nerlens Noel’s group two full months to reach agreement on a new contract in free agency, and the first three weeks of the 2017-18 season have been just as rocky for the two sides.

Noel has seen games this season where he’s played more than 20 minutes, and games where he’s played less than seven. On Saturday night against Cleveland, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle made the decision to sit him for the entire contest.

“I’m good, I’m good,” Noel said after the game, according to ESPN’s Tim McMahon. “I’m a very self-confident player. I know I can go in there and change games. When my number is called, I’ll do just that and help some winning efforts. That’s all my play style is about, is just winning. When I’m called on, I’ll bring my winning effort.”

Noel, 23, met with the Mavericks in Los Angeles and signed a one-year deal worth $4.1 million to return in August after weeks of failed negotiations. Dallas had originally offered him a four-year, $70 million deal on July 1, according to ESPN, but he turned it down.

The Mavs traded for him at last season’s trading deadline, but since that day, Noel has yet to prove to head coach Rick Carlisle that he can start full-time at the center position.

“Look, minutes have to be earned,” Carlisle said, according to ESPN. “At this point, if it’s between him and Salah, Salah has earned the minutes. There’s no doghouse here. There just isn’t. It’s pretty simple: You compete, and if you earn minutes, you get minutes. And you’ve got to compete to keep them, because it’s a competitive situation.”

Noel holds per-game averages of 5.5 points and 5.6 rebounds in 17 minutes this season. Rick Carlisle, who coached the Mavericks to a championship in 2011, has had Dirk Nowitzki, Salah Mejri and Dwight Powell ahead of Noel in the rotation for most of the season.

“Our guys have to have an edge. No one’s given anything,” Carlisle said, according to ESPN. “That’s how we’ve got to do things. The situation like we’re in with a tough schedule, a lot of tough opponents, record’s not good right now, competing is what it’s all about.”

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