CHICAGO — Ryan Broekhoff had one of the best seats in the house at the United Center on Monday night.
Actually, he had several of the best seats as Broekhoff kept moving up and down the Dallas bench as players checked in and out of the game. It was the only exercise Broekhoff got all night. Such is life for the former Valparaiso star who is in his first year in the NBA after five seasons in Turkey and Russia.
Broekhoff earned his seventh Did Not Play-Coach’s Decision of the season on Monday night and the 6-foot-7 wingman hasn’t played more than two minutes in a game since Oct. 24. Despite his limited playing time, Broekhoff has kept an optimistic look at his first season in the NBA.
“Throughout the different stages of my career I’ve been in this situation,” Broekhoff said. “When I first got to Valpo, I wasn’t playing huge minutes. I had to earn them and gain confidence from the coach while I was on the court playing. It was the same in Europe as my career progressed. I have to show what I can bring day in and day out.”
Broekhoff showed enough to the Mavericks organization during his time overseas and with the Australian national team to earn a two-year contract in July.
Broekhoff played well off the bench in four preseason games this year, averaging 6.5 points and 2.25 rebounds in 17 minutes.
His playing time shrank once the season began as Broekhoff played no more than five minutes in the first four games of the season. Once Harrison Barnes returned from injury on Oct. 26, Broekhoff saw his slim playing time disappear altogether.
“I know how difficult it is to get into this league and then to play significant minutes,” Broekhoff said. “I’m just trying to do everything I can every day so that when I do get an opportunity, I’m able to take it and show what I can bring for whatever the team needs in that moment.”
Broekhoff’s approach isn’t lost on head coach Rick Carlisle. The NBA schedule is a grind and Carlisle likes what he sees from his 28-year-old rookie.
“We love him,” Carlisle said. “He’s a terrific system player, a great shooter and a guy who understands how to play. He’s a guy that you know is always going to be ready.”
If there is one thing that has surprised Broekhoff in his first month in the NBA, it’s just how much work gets put in at this level. Broekhoff was long known as one of the first players to enter the Athletics-Recreation Center and surely the last to leave during his time at Valparaiso. Those long hours in the gym have become part of his NBA routine as well, but now he’s seeing the rest of the competition has caught up.
“I’ve learned about the amount of hours that gets put in each and every day,” Broekhoff said. “In Europe you’d show up about 90 minutes before the game, get taped, do a little shootaround, have a meeting and then you play. Here you get to the arena three hours before the game. You’re putting in so much extra time, lifting and shooting. There’s an increased workload that comes with it and that’s why this is the best league in the world. The players put in more time and more energy and effort into everyday work.”
Broekhoff’s work ethic has earned rave reviews from the Dallas coaching staff. Not only is his approach to the game standing out to the coaches, but Broekhoff is silently setting an example for a youthful roster that includes highly-touted Luka Doncic and former Villanova star Jalen Brunson.
“Ryan brings the same approach to the game day after day and that’s great for these young guys to see,” Dallas assistant coach Jamahl Mosley said. “He’s a worker and he just stays ready. He doesn’t waver in his approach, regardless of how many minutes he’s getting. He’s a pro.”
When Broekhoff isn’t putting in time at the arena, he’s slowly adapting to the off-court life of an NBA player.
He also got married to Katie, his longtime girlfriend dating back to his days at Valparaiso, in July. The pair moved to Dallas after their honeymoon and have spent their downtime catching up with friends from Valparaiso across the country as well as taking in the occasional NFL game or Beyonce concert.
“There’s actually quite a few Valpo people around the Dallas area, so that’s been nice to have some familiar faces,” Broekhoff said. “We’ve really enjoyed moving back to the U.S. and taking in all the experiences the NBA has to offer. We’re just trying to enjoy life. Basketball is a huge part of me and I love it, but there are other parts of life that bring happiness.”
Monday’s 103-98 win over the Bulls marked just the second time this season the Mavericks (5-8) have won back-to-back games. While Broekhoff isn’t getting much playing time, his focus in on team success instead of personal glory.
“We want to make the playoffs and that’s our goal,” Broekhoff said. “We haven’t started off the way we’ve wanted to and we’re in a really tough conference, but the playoffs and improving on our finish from last year is still our goal. Personally, I just want continued improvement in my game; to be able to get on the court and shoot the ball at a high rate and defend, kind of being that 3-and-D guy that the NBA is moving to. I want to be able to improve so that I can play that role on the highest level.”