PORTLAND, Ore. — Outside the Moda Center visitors' locker room, where a cheery group of Washington Wizards players huddled after their first victory of the season, Ian Mahinmi was already heading toward the bus. He was clothed impeccably yet casually in jeans and a patchwork button-down shirt, and the mod look served as a visible reminder how Mahinmi probably spent more time getting dressed than he did playing and starting in the Wizards' matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night.
Mahinmi appeared for exactly four minutes on the court. Two personal fouls sent him to the bench early in the first quarter, but back spasms concluded his night. For the third consecutive game, Mahinmi had attracted the wrath of the whistle, and despite seizing the opportunity as a starter, afforded by Dwight Howard’s absence, he has played fewer minutes than he did at this time a year ago when he was a backup.
In 33 total minutes, Mahinmi has been called for 10 personal fouls. Among all NBA players who have appeared in at least three games this season, Mahinmi ranks among the league leaders with an average of 0.3 fouls per minute.
The calls have disrupted his rotation minutes — and possibly even the way Mahinmi performs on the other end. In three games, Mahinmi has not been involved in a single pick-and-roll play that has resulted in a shot attempt or even a turnover, according to Synergy Sports. Backup big man Jason Smith has participated in three of those plays. Overall, Mahinmi has taken part in 10 possessions, the fewest within Washington’s rotation, and has connected on just one of his six shot attempts.
However, when Mahinmi has stayed on the floor and defended without fouling, he’s played his role effectively. Mahinmi, who has built his 11-year career on his interior defensive skills, has defended opponents into 10 missed shots on 14 attempts, per Synergy. Also, Mahinmi has three blocked shots, and while these numbers provide some insight into what Mahinmi can do, the shrill of a referee’s whistle comes along and sends him back to the sideline.