Dallas Mavericks center Nerlens Noel didn't see the floor Saturday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers, and head coach Rick Carlisle had a simple explanation for why the springy center was left on the bench.
"Minutes are earned," he said after the Mavericks' 111-104 loss, according to ESPN.com's Tim MacMahon.
Noel's benching came one game after he saw what was then a season-low six minutes in a 113-99 win over the Washington Wizards.
Instead of rolling with Noel, Carlisle allotted backup playing time to Salah Mejri—who logged 25 minutes against the Wizards and 10 against the Cavaliers.
Through five games this month, Noel is playing an average of just 10 minutes per game, which is down from a mark of 19.5 in October.
And you don't have to look far to see why Carlisle has made the change.
According to NBA.com's lineup data, the Mavericks have been outscored by a team-worst 20.0 points per 100 possessions with Noel on the floor so far this season. When he sits, though, they've only been outscored by 3.7 points per 100 possessions.
The story differs for Mejri, who touts a net rating of plus-4.5 points per 100 possessions when he's on the floor and a mark of minus-11.9 when he's on the bench.
Given the stark disparity there, it won't be a surprise to see Carlisle roll with Mejri for the foreseeable future—especially since Noel is slated to become an unrestricted free agent at season's end after he failed to agree to terms on a long-term deal with Dallas over the summer.