Dereck Lively II has played a pivotal role for the Dallas Mavericks in his rookie season. He struggled during Dallas' 137-120 loss, though, scoring no points and recording just one rebound. Mavs head coach Jason Kidd shared an uplifting message after the game, however, and made a bold prediction for Lively's future with the team.

“This is D-Live's (Lively) first year, he's gonna play, you know, 15-20 years in this league,” Kidd told reporters after the game. “He's going to be able to carry that torch of being able to lead. I think he's gonna be one of the best leaders that the Mavs have had when it's all said and done.”

There is no question that the Mavericks have struggled in recent action. Dallas is 1-5 over their past six games, and they are 0-2 during their current homestand.

Jason Kidd has received some criticism from fans. But it was admirable to see the Mavs head coach answer each question with insightful responses following such a difficult defeat. And his defense of the Mavericks players cannot be questioned, especially when it comes to standing up for the 20-year-old rookie center.

With that being said, the Mavericks need to turn things around. A bounce-back effort from Lively on Thursday would go a long way toward helping Dallas jump back into the win column.

Dereck Lively II trying to recapture his momentum

Dallas Mavericks center Dereck Lively II (2) walks off the court after the Mavericks lose to the Indiana Pacers at the American Airlines Center.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Lively emerged as one of the better rookies in the NBA early in the season. He was not in the Rookie of the Year conversation with stars such as Victor Wembanyama and Chet Holmgren leading the charge, but Lively's impact on Dallas was immense.

Prior to acquiring Daniel Gafford at the trade deadline, Lively was the Mavericks primary big man who was capable of protecting the rim and helping out on the glass. The acquisition of Gafford lessened the burden for Lively, but Dallas still needs him to make a dent on the boards.

Overall, Lively is still enjoying a strong rookie campaign. He is currently averaging 8.8 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per outing. He does not shoot three-pointers in games, but Lively is efficient around the rim. He is shooting 74.4 percent from the field.

The Mavs will take any offense they can get from Lively, but they need him to help out on the defensive end of the floor. Dallas' defense was miserable against Indiana, as the Mavs simply had no answer for Tyrese Haliburton, Myles Turner, and the Pacers.

And the fact is that Lively did not have his best defensive game. But he features the talent and potential to protect the rim even when he is not blocking shots. Much of that will come down to confidence, something that could be lacking following Tuesday's difficult game.

So yes, it's easy to be negative when it comes to the Mavericks right now. However, Kidd's approach to the situation is understandable. He believes in his players and wants to remain optimistic as the final stretch run before the playoffs draws near.