DALLAS -- It took all of 19 seconds for Warriors big man Ekpe Udoh to pick up a foul attempting to box out. A second whistle followed at the 9:53 mark of the first quarter, but the rookie didn't head to the bench to ponder his early mistakes.
This is his time to learn, and what better way to learn than by playing.
"I've got to stay away from those tick-tack fouls," Udoh said after Sunday's 101-73 blowout loss to the Dallas Mavericks. "I've also got to keep playing through stuff like that and stay aggressive."
Udoh did remain aggressive and engaged during his opening stint, despite the early foul trouble. That was exactly what Warriors coach Keith Smart wanted to see out of the lottery pick, who in his sixth career start. was facing a legit Western Conference contender.
Udoh scored six before checking out near the five-minute mark of the first quarter and finished with eight points and three blocks. The Warriors (30-40) flirted with a season low for points and have lost four straight, including two against Dallas in a span of five days, going into Monday's visit to San Antonio.
Unlike the 18-point lead coughed up in Wednesday's setback at Oracle Arena, the Warriors spent most of this one playing catch-up. The Mavericks, owners of the third-best record in the West, were up as many as 17 in the first half thanks to the shooting strokes of Dirk Nowitzki and Peja Stojakovic.
Monta Ellis (18 points) and Stephen Curry (11) led
"The momentum was never on our side tonight," said Curry, who shot 4 of 12. "In order to get that back you've got to hit some shots, and we didn't hit enough to get our swagger back."
The Warriors shot 35.1 percent as a team, but Udoh did hit 4 of 7 attempts. Playing time shouldn't be an issue for the rookie over the last 12 games. The Warriors front office is leaning toward shutting down center Andris Biedrins (ankle) for the rest of season, but even if Biedrins does come back, the plan is to stay with Udoh in the starting lineup.
Smart said Udoh is developing the "gamesmanship" needed in the NBA to move past the college mentality of defending in the post.
"The rules tell you that you can't touch a guy, and a young player believes that," Smart said. "Now he's seen that he can be more physical with guys and have more contact in there."
Udoh showed nice touch around the basket against the Mavs after struggling to finish the previous two games but didn't hit the boards as hard as the coaching staff would have liked. Only one rebound for the game in 29 minutes -- none in the second half -- isn't going to cut it.
"I never had a problem rebounding in college," said Udoh, who played nearby at Baylor. "Now you've got all these athletes and everybody is so strong."
Udoh is playing out of position at center -- he's a natural power forward -- so getting into early foul trouble against bigger front lines will likely continue be an issue. But if the rookie learns to manage those situations, the better off he'll be in years to come.
"If you establish yourself in the NBA as an aggressive player," Smart said, "that label will stay with you the rest of your career."
"Nineteen thousand people there and I didn't know what I was going to say," he said. "I didn't plan it in advance, so I told everybody what I thought from my heart: That these are the greatest fans in the world and they deserve more."
"He has an impact on the game without taking a shot," Smart said.