In a night for the ages, Mavs get the player they wanted in Luka Doncic

Rick Carlisle on Luka Doncic

Head coach Rick Carlisle dishes on the trade that brought Luka Doncic to Dallas!

BROOKLYN – In a night for the ages, the Dallas Mavericks finally got their man!

In one of the biggest nights in franchise history, the Mavs created a big buzz in Thursday’s NBA Draft when they acquired highly-touted Slovenian guard Luka Doncic in a widely anticipated trade. That smooth move sets up one of the most dynamic young backcourts in the NBA in 20-year old Dennis Smith Jr. and Doncic, who turned 19 in February.

With their two second-round draft picks, the Mavs selected Villanova guard Jalen Brunson with the 33rd selection and then took SMU guard Shake Milton with the 54th pick. But the Mavs eventually were involved in yet another trade as they shipped Milton to the Philadelphia 76ers for the 56th and 60th picks.

In return, the Mavs received Louisville power forward Ray Spalding (6-10, 225), who was drafted 56th. Also in that deal, with the very last pick of the draft — 60th overall — the Sixers used it to take Dayton University center Kosta Antetokounmpo and then traded him to the Mavs.

Earlier in the night, the Mavs drafted Oklahoma guard Trae Young with the No. 5 pick. But shortly thereafter – in a pre-arranged trade – the Mavs shipped Young and a protected 2019 first-round draft choice to the Atlanta Hawks for Doncic.

After the trade was announced to the crowd at the Barclays Center, the crowd was abuzz. In essence, this was the most high powered draft-day trade the Mavs have executed since they acquired Dirk Nowitzki in a trade with the Milwaukee Bucks for Robert “Tractor’ Traylor on the day of the 1998 NBA Draft.

As if he could hear a chorus of cheers coming from folks in North Texas, Doncic was all smiles after learning the Mavs had picked him up in a trade. It was as if he and the Mavs were joined at the hip, even though he never visited Dallas prior to the draft.

“I had been talking a lot to Dallas,” a jubilant Doncic said. “They really wanted me and I’m happy to be a part of them.

“They really wanted me and they were very, very nice. They were very nice to me and I think we had a very good relationship.”

Doncic also is looking forward to having a very good relationship with Smith, who was the ninth overall pick of last year’s draft and averaged 15.2 points and 5.2 assists as a rookie. The Mavs could conceivably roll out an opening-day starting lineup that includes Smith and Doncic in the backcourt.

“Especially, I really like Dennis Smith,” Doncic said. “I saw a lot of Dennis (this past season). He’s an amazing point guard.”

Doncic, who has superstar written all over him, comes to the Mavs while carrying some absolutely amazing credentials. The 6-7, 200-pounder was the EuroLeague Most Valuable Player this season and also was the MVP of the EuroLeague Final Four after he led Real Madrid to the EuroLeague title a few days ago.

In 33 games this past season, Doncic averaged 24.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. And the reason why he was so coveted is because he put those impressive numbers on the boards in only 25.9 minutes in the second-best league in the world.

“It feels amazing just to be an NBA player,” Doncic said. “I’m just happy to attend the draft and I’m very happy to be part of the Dallas Mavericks family.”

Doncic said one reason his stock was high is because he can play point guard, shooting guard, small forward or power forward. That versatility will come in handy for a Mavs team that was 24-58 last season and are now in position to land one of the eight Western Conference playoff spots next season.

For his part, Doncic is very confident that his game was transdfer admirably to the NBA.

“I’ve been a professional since I was 15,” Doncic said. “I played against the EuroLeague stars, against ex-NBA players.

“I had four or five guys on my team that played in the NBA. They’ve been talking about the NBA to me a lot through this year so I think I’m prepared.”

After missing the playoffs the past two years, the Mavs desperately want to get their feet firmly planted back on the postseason track. And they believe the Doncic’s potential will help carry them there.

Not long after he had gotten traded to the Mavs, Doncic was on the phone talking to owner Mark Cuban, coach Rick Carlisle and president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson.

“(Cuban) was excited,” Doncic said, “and I’m so excited to meet him.”

In all, Donic had to wait before he was told he was officially a member of the Mavs. He initially was walking around wearing a Hawks cap – and had to be hidden away until the trade was announced.

After that, Doncic strolled down the walkway in the arena grinning from ear to ear while being hounded by a throng of media types from America and Europe. he even stopped to pose for a picture while carrying his country’s flag.

“I really hope we can it to the playoffs and I think with this team that we can make it,” Doncic said

Meanwhile, Young was taken aback about being traded by the Mavs.

“Naw, I’m not very surprised,” Young told Mavs.com. “I knew if I got picked at five I would be traded to the Atlanta Hawks.”

In addition to playing alongside Smith, Doncic is anxious to play with Dirk Nowitzki, who is a legend in American and in Europe.

“He’s just a legend, he’s an amazing player,” Doncic said. “I’m really happy to be a part of this trade.”

Doncic didn’t arrive in New York until Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET and admitted to being a bit sleepy. He said he couldn’t sleep much Wednesday night, so he played some video games.

“For sure it’s been the best week of my life,” Doncic said. “When I was a little kid I always dreamed about being an NBA player, so it’s been an amazing week.”

The Mavs will have a Friday afternoon press conference in Dallas to introduce Doncic to the local media.

“First of all I want to meet the city, I want to meet the players, I want to meet the staff, the coaches and everybody,” Doncic said. “And then play some basketball.”

As far as the three second-round picks the Mavs wound up with, Brunson led Villanova to two national titles over the past three years. This past season the 6-3, 190-pounder was the consensus National College Player of the Year and first-team All-American while averaging 18.9 points and 4.6 assists and shooting a healthy 52.1 percent from the field.

Meanwhile, Spalding averaged 12.3 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks this past season. And with the very last pick of the draft, the second part of the trade the Mavs made with the Sixers helped them acquire Dayton University center Kostas Antetokounmpo, who is the younger brother of Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Considered a project, Kostas Antetokounmpo averaged just 5.2 points and 2.9 rebounds in 15 minutes per game this past season for Dayton. While Antetokounmpo obviously isn’t as polished as his older brother, the Mavs played the bloodlines game in hopes that one day that gamble will come to fruition.

But the stunning move that will allow Mavs fans to sleep comfortably tonight was the trade for Doncic, who many believe is destined for stardom.

Donnie Nelson just as excited about the Mavericks’ two picks in the second round

BROOKLYN – Donnie Nelson understands why Dallas Mavericks fans are all pumped about the team picking fifth in tonight’s NBA Draft. However, the Mavs’ president of basketball operations wants fans to be just as excited about the team’s two picks in the second round.

In addition to the No. 5 selection, the Mavs will also have picks numbers 33 and 54 when the draft is held tonight at 6 CT at the Barclays Center. And that’s when Nelson’s excitement level goes through the roof, mainly because of the exceptional across the board depth in this draft.

“This year there are really solid players all the way through the lottery,” Nelson said. “And then it’s a deep draft — call it in the 20-40 area — that’s also I think where we’re going to get something pretty good at 33 as well.

“We feel really good at five, we feel like we’re going to get another really solid swing at 33. And then besides that we’ve just got to play the 54 open.”

It’s not that Nelson is downplaying the treasure chest of potential franchise-type players the Mavs will choose from at No. 5. He simply knows that after beating the bushes while scouting for talent over the past few months, there’s some extremely quality players in the middle and lower end of the draft.

“Especially in this draft, I think there’s a lot of parity when you get into even the late teens all the way kind of through the 40’s,” Nelson said. “You never know.

“We might get doubly lucky if there’s a fall guy that gets down to 54. But there will have to be a lot of things fall perfect.”

Forward Dirk Nowitzki just wants the Mavs to use the draft to find players – especially with the fifth pick – who can have an immediate impact next season.

“When you pick at five you can kind of go in with a plan, but your plan can be overthrow by what’s going to happen right before you,” Nowitzki said. “I have no idea what’s going to happen, but I’m hoping we’re going to get a player that’s going to be exciting, that’s going to be young, that has a great upside, but can also help next year.

“A player that can play for 10-plus years and be a solid player for a long, long time, is eager to learn, is coachable. You want all these young guys to have the right intangibles, he wants to work hard and get better and learn from the coaches and some of the older players, so hopefully we’ll find the right guy.”

Whoever that “right guy” winds up being with the fifth selection, guard Wesley Matthews noted that he hopes the Mavs don’t put all of their eggs in that rookie’s basket.

“The fifth pick doesn’t guarantee us anything,” Matthews said. “We can’t be just like, ‘Oh yeah, we got the fifth pick, now we’re going to do this.’

“No, we’ve all got to be a part of it – coaches — everybody with the organization, players. We’ve all got to get better — guys that are already here and coming back to make this transition seamless and smooth so we’re playing in the postseason.”

That “getting better” mantra from Matthews also applies to the three players the Mavs draft tonight. Especially those two picks on the second round.

Donnie Nelson confident the Mavs are going to “get something really good” with the No. 5 pick

BROOKLYN – For Donnie Nelson, this almost feels like an ice cream truck pulled up in front of his house and he has so many wonderful flavors to choose from.

The NBA Draft is Thursday at 6 p.m. CT at the Barclays Center, and it’ll be decision time for Nelson and the Dallas Mavericks as they’ll have a plethora of blue-chip prospects to choose from. However, with all of the choices at their disposal, Nelson is very confident that the Mavs will get their man.

In fact, Nelson — the Mavs’ president of basketball operations — all but guaranteed it. In this draft, variety truly is the spice of life as the Mavs can go big, small or in-between and still walk away with a can’t-miss prospect.

“It’s just exciting,” Nelson said. “We’re looking forward to Thursday.

“It’s some really, really good things in there (in the draft). We feel we’re going to get something really good and we can’t wait until Thursday night.”

A laundry list of the top players in this year’s draft include Arizona center Deandre Ayton, Real Madrid guard Luca Doncic, Duke center Marvin Bagley III, Texas center Mohamed Bamba, Michigan State center Jaren Jackson Jr., Duke center Wendell Carter Jr. , Missouri forward Michael Porter Jr., Villanova forward Mikal Bridges, Texas A&M center Robert Williams III, Kentucky forward Kevin Knox, Alabama point guard Collin Sexton, Michigan State forward Miles Bridges and Oklahoma point guard Trae Young.

One of those players could possibly find their way onto the Mavs’ roster next season.

Of course, like all executives across the NBA, Nelson wasn’t about to reveal the player the Mavs really want to draft. But since this is widely considered a deep draft, the Mavs – they have the No. 5 overall pick — truly are guaranteed of securing a player who should be in their rotation next fall if he puts in the necessary work.

This will be the highest draft pick the Mavs have had since they chose Hall of Fame point guard Jason Kidd with the No. 2 overall selection in the 1994 draft. Also, this is just the seventh time in the Mavs’ illustrious history that they’ve had the pleasure of owning a Top 5 draft pick.

Player Overall Pick Year
Mark Aguirre 1 1981
Bill Garnett 4 1982
Sam Perkins 4 1984
Jim Jackson 4 1992
Jamal Mashburn 4 1993
Jason Kidd 2 1994
??? 5 2018

“It’s a big draft, obviously, for the Mavs,” future Hall of Fame forward Dirk Nowitzki said. “We haven’t had such a high pick in a long, long time, so we obviously want to make it count.

“We’ve been having draft workouts here basically for three or four weeks, and scouts and Donnie and everybody in the organization have been looking forward and getting prepared for this moment for a long, long time. So it’s going to be interesting.”

Last year the Mavs used the ninth overall draft pick to select North Carolina State point guard Dennis Smith Jr. As a rookie, Smith developed into a very productive player who averaged 15.2 points and 5.2 assists and got progressively better and better the more minutes he played.

Combine Smith with forward Harrison Barnes and the No. 5 pick, and the Mavs believe they’ll have three critical cornerstones they hope will get them back in the playoffs as soon as next season.

“If you look at Dennis, he really had a really solid rookie season,” Nelson said. “He would be considered a building block. You’ve got guys like Harrison Barnes, with his maturity and versatility and ability to swing back and forth between the four positions.

“And you’ve got guys like Dwight Powell and some of our young core behind him. We’re looking at adding two really good young pieces in the draft – maybe three — and then kind of continue the youth trend.”

The Mavs also have the 33rd and 54th picks – both in the second round – of Thursday’s draft. For now, though, it’s that precious No. 5 pick that’s drawing all of the attention and is food for thought in barber shops and sports bars, and on talk radio all across the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

“We’ve got the number five pick and I believe that we’re going to do a good job of getting somebody good for our franchise and I’m looking forward to it,” Smith said. “I’m fans of a lot of guys in the draft.

“There’s a lot of versatility with the big men in the draft. They’re pretty good defensively, they’re good offensively as well. So, like I said I believe we’ll get somebody that’s good for our team.”

Whoever the Mavs draft with the fifth pick, he’ll come to the Metroplex with very high expectations.

“We’ve got a chance to make a very good selection – whoever that is,” guard Wesley Matthews said. “We’ve got a chance to add to our roster and to build.

“And whoever (the fifth pick) is, as soon as they get here we’re going to put him right in the fire. They’ve got to work, they’ve got to grind and they’ve got to compete.”

Johnathan Motley, who was undrafted out of Baylor last year and ultimately signed a two-way contract with the Mavs, isn’t sure who the Mavs will land with the coveted No. 5 pick.

“It can go a lot of different directions,” Motley said. “I’m going to let them handle that and see who we get.”
Whoever the Mavs draft at five will likely determine the direction the franchise pursue during free agency, which starts July 1.

“After you get your pick, I think then that’s when — for us, because we’re a lottery team — you start to pay more attention to it,” Barnes said. “You start to realize, ‘OK, with this number, what are the picks that are probably going to be in our range?’

“If you have a top five pick you have to have a lot more room. Last year at nine was a little different and we got lucky. We’ll see what happens this year.”

Whatever happens, Mavs Nation is patiently sitting on pins and needles trying to guess – depending on the first four picks ahead of the Mavs – who their favorite team will select. Nelson, for one, said the Mavs have a player in mind, but he’s sworn to secrecy.

“Like I said, this draft is pretty deep,” Nelson said. “So we’re feeling really, really good at five.”

Birthday greetings to the legendary Dirk Nowitzki, who turned 40 years old today

DALLAS – It seems like yesterday that Dirk Nowitzki left his home town of Wurzburg, Germany, and stepped off an elevator at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport and came face-to-face with a knot of reporters and a small adoring crowd.

At the time, Nowitzki was an impressionable 19-year old man who the Dallas Mavericks had pegged as the franchise’s next up-and-coming star. Well today, 13 trips to the NBA All-Star game and one league Most Valuable Player award and numerous other accolades later, Nowitzki is now a 40-year old man.

Indeed, Dirk Werner Nowitzki will celebrate his 40th birthday on June 19. And in typical Nowitzki fashion, he downplayed the milestone Monday during an exclusive interview with Mavs.com.

“Forty is a big step, but you can mentally prepare for it,” Nowitzki said. “It’s been creeping up for a lot of years now.

“I feel good still for 40. Mentally, I’m probably 30, body-wise I’m 50, so it kind of evens out at 40.”

Of course, Nowitzki’s associates, teammates and former teammates took some good-natured shots at the NBA’s No. 6 all-time leading scorer now that he’s reached the age of 40. But no one landed any heavier blows than Mike Procopio, the Mavs’ director of player development and one of Nowitzki’s best friends.

“First of all, I think for (Nowitzki’s) 40th birthday the NBA should allow us to play with a 40-second shot clock, because it takes him 22 seconds to get over the half court anyway, so I think we should at least get that,” Procopio said. “Dirk changed the game with that one-legged fade away.

“Although no one ever told you that the reason why he invented the fade away in the first place was he kept on getting his shot blocked by Bill Russell. So he had to get it over him, so he had to find a way.”

Russell, of course, is 84 years old – 44 years Nowitzki’s senior — and played in the NBA from 1956-’69, while Nowitzki’s rookie season with the Mavs was the lockout-shortened 1998-’99 season. But Procopio said why let fake news get in the way of a good story?

“Procopio is the one that roasts me probably every day,” Nowitzki said. “He always tells me that (former Boston Celtics forward John) Havlicek stole the ball from me and that I played with Bill Russell and all these things. It’s fun. That’s the cycle of life.

“When I was 20, I made fun of A.C. Green and (John) ‘Hot Rod’ Williams, who were 38, 39 at the time. You make fun and you make old man jokes, and now you’re the butt of the jokes 20 years later. That’s just how life works.”

To hear Donnie Nelson tell it, Nowitzki actually is a bit older than 40.

“Dirk came to Dallas and then there was light,” said Nelson, the Mavs’ president of basketball operations. “It’s true. He’s like 2,000 years old.”

Michael Finley, who played with Nowitzki from 1996-’05, said Nowitzki shouldn’t fret about turning 40 years old. The 45-year old Finley, who retired in 2010 at the age of 37, said he doesn’t even remember turning 40.

“He can get out of the bed,” said Finley, who is the Mavs’ assistant vice-president of basketball operations. “He should be happy he can get out the bed at 40 and still play in the NBA.”

Nowitzki, who led the Mavs to the 2011 NBA title and averages 21.2 points and 7.7 rebounds for his career, acknowledged that he’s been receiving old man jokes for the past five years. And he’s come to grips with the fact that age is only a number.

“I think I’m at peace with it now,” Nowitzki said. “Forty is a big hurdle, but I’ve slowly crept up on it for years.

“It’s bittersweet. You wish your body feels like you’re 25, but you gain so much experience over these 20 years here.”

Guard Wesley Matthews said the scope of Nowitzki’s impact on the game shouldn’t be understated. That one-legged fade away jumper Procopio referred to has now been copied by luminaries such as LeBron James and Kevin Durant and many other current NBA players, and is considered as one of the most lethal shots in NBA history.

“It’s amazing to be a part of a legacy like Dirk’s,” Matthews said. “Being there for the 30,000th point, him turning 40 and still doing it at a high level and competing and loving the sport, loving the game and giving everything he has, nothing but kudos to him.

“And hats off and nothing but respect to him.”

Nowitzki eclipsed the 30,000 career point barrier during a Mar. 7, 2017 game against the Los Angeles Lakers. He now has 31,187 points for his career and is just 233 points away from passing Wilt Chamberlain for fifth on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.

Guard Erick Strickland was Nowitzki’s teammate during his first two NBA seasons and heard all the rumblings when fans thought the Mavs made a bad move by passing up Kansas All-American Paul Pierce in the 1998 draft and subsequently making a day-draft trade with the Milwaukee Bucks to secure Nowitzki. But Strickland noted that what those fans didn’t know was Nowitzki’s outlandish workaholic attitude, his desire to become one of the all-time greats, and his penchant for leaving everything out on the court.

“I was one of those guys that I knew that once Dirk got acclimated to not only the system, but was able to get into the weight room and go get his body to catch up with his physical abilities to play the game, that he would be a force to be reckoned with,” Strickland said. “He became everything that I saw he would be once he figured it out.

“His rookie year he tried to post me up and I’d have him out by the 3-point line. And as I begin to watch him throughout the playoff losses, being ousted by Golden State, how they physically handled him, to see him take that challenge and then become dominant inside and take advantage of you inside is what’s been phenomenal to watch over the years.”

Nowitzki has carved out such an iconic niche in the D/FW area that former teammates such as Eduardo Najera, Erick Dampier and Greg Buckner speak of him in glowing terms. They know the depth of Nowitzki’s game and the many battles he had with Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and others will be talked about for many, many years.

“I even told him, ‘Man, you’re my hero,’ “ said Najera, a Mavs scout who played with Nowitzki from 2000-’04 and again in 2010. “To be moving out there at that age, and not only that he’s still producing.

“But it ultimately goes back to the work that he does. That’s why I said he’s my hero. He’s got so much mileage, and it’s not like he’s taken a year off here and there.”

Nowitzki has punched the time clock in the NBA for 50,573 minutes in 1,471 regular season games, and for an additional 5,895 minutes in 145 playoff games. And every minute of his illustrious 20-year career has been with the Mavs.

“He’s a helluva player,” said Dampier, a Nowitzki teammate from 2004-’10. “He’s obviously coming down to the last couple of years, and if he can extend it another year or two that will be great for him and great for the team.”

Buckner, who played with Nowitzki from 1999-’02 and again during the 2006-’07 season, turned 41 last September and said he knows what lies ahead for Nowitzki.

“He is a (basketball) freak, so we won’t have the same problems,” said Buckner, who is an assistant coach with the Memphis Grizzlies. “But the 40s gut is coming.”

Nowitzki is now married, has three young kids and is rehabbing from left ankle surgery that he underwent on Apr. 5. He plans to play next season, and said he will evaluate things after that in determining if he’ll play during the 2019-’20 campaign.

“I’ve had an amazing, amazing ride,” said Nowitzki, who is one of the NBA’s all-time prolific 3-point shooters. “I basically grew up here (in Dallas), grew into a man on and off the floor, so I can’t complain.

“I still feel halfway decent for 40. I’m obviously rehabbing after the surgery, but that’s coming along. I hope for 40 I can still play a good season next year and contribute.”

From Nowitzki’s perspective, he blinked his eyes and his career was in its 20th season, careening towards a journey that will culminate with him becoming a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

“As you know if you stay busy time flies,” Nowitzki said. “Basically my entire 20s I played every summer for Germany (on its national team) and the next thing you know the (NBA) season is already beginning in September and October and I’m trying to train.

“The first 10 years flew by and then now I have kids. My oldest is already turning five this summer. The time has been flying. It’s insane.”

Najera marvels at the way Nowitzki does one community event after another – especially those involving children at hospitals – with amazing aplomb.

“My favorite moments are when we do community work and the way (Nowitzki) welcomes everybody and empowers everybody, because he can be intimidating,” Najera said. “He’s seven feet tall and has been the face of this city and the whole Metroplex in the NBA for so long that people tend to be a little intimidating.

“I’ve been with him in hospitals and other events. . .he’s just incredible with people. He has the skills to talk to them and make them feel comfortable, and that’s my favorite part of him. That even though he has been a superstar for so many years he’s still humble enough to do that off the basketball court.”

While still rehabbing his left ankle and keeping a close eye on basketball, Nowitzki is gearing up to bring in his 40th birthday in grand style.

“I have a bunch of Germans in town staying at the house,” Nowitzki said. “They want to party (today), so it’ll be fun.

“I’m still feeling good and looking forward hopefully to having a better season as a team next year and contribute still as a player and as a teammate and enjoy myself, and hopefully have a good time.”

While that party will be going on, Procopio is still having fun at Nowitzki’s expense. But Nowitzki is used to the back-n-forth between he and Procopio, who has an idea why Nowitzki has joined Vince Carter, Manu Ginobili and Jason Terry as the NBA’s only active 40-year old players.

“The guy that should take the most credit for Dirk’s success is (Mavs head athletic trainer) Casey Smith,” Procopio said. “That guy should get a Nobel Peace Prize for keeping that guy on the court every day.

“I mean, even Dirk’s calcium deposits has got calcium deposits.”

Larry Shyatt replaces Kaleb Canales, who takes assistant job with the New York Knicks

DALLAS – Now that Dallas Mavericks assistant coach Kaleb Canales has taken an assistant job with the New York Knicks, coach Rick Carlisle has readjusted his staff.

Assistant coach Larry Shyatt has moved from behind the bench to replace Canales. That comes less than a month after Carlisle hired Stephen Silas to replace Melvin Hunt, who recently took an assistant coaching job with the Atlanta Hawks.

The Mavs’ other assistant coach is Jamahl Mosley.

Ariq Noor just completed his fifth straight summer hoops camp with the Mavs

ALLEN – One of the main items in recent years on Ariq Noor’s summer to-do list is to make sure he attends the Mavs Basketball Academy Hoop Camp.

Check, check, check, check, check.

On Friday, Noor completed his fifth consecutive year of participating in the Mavs Basketball Academy Hoop Camp. And the fifth time was just as enjoyable as the first four for the 14-year kid from Allen.

“I love it and it’s very fun,” Noor said. “The coaches help you and teach you and make you get better.

“I want to get better at everything and improve my game, and I learned how to get better handles and shoot better.”

Ben Hunt, who is the Youth Basketball Manager of the Mavs Basketball Academy Hoop Camp, has watched Noor’s game steadily blossom over the years. And he has noticed the little nuances of basketball – things that can make the difference between winning the losing – that Noor has added to his repertoire.

“This is my fourth summer (working the Mavs camps), so over the last four years and obviously being involved in camps up North, that’s where I first saw him,” Hunt said. “Ariq has done a great job over a number of years.

“He had a chance to improve his game from his shooting and his ball-handling, and that’s two areas that had been a big focus for him.”

Being a repeat camp participant, Hunt insists, has its advantages.

“The part about Ariq is being a fifth-year veteran camper it’s wonderful to see a veteran camper grow over the years and improve their skills at Hoop Camp,” Hunt said. “I think that’s one thing that we obviously enjoy seeing is our campers improving their skills and enjoying the game a lot more as they go.

“But also, they’re getting a chance to showcase their skills and their growth and development in our programs and in our system.”

Noor used the skills he learned the previous four summers to make the eighth grade basketball team at his school. This fall he’ll be trying out for the freshman squad.

As usual, Noor will have a pretty neat story to share with his friends and classmates on what he did this summer. And that includes meeting Dallas Mavericks guard Wesley Matthews, who attended the camp at Life Time Fitness and shared some words of wisdom with Noor and the other campers before playing some games of Knockout with them.

“It felt amazing to see an NBA player here,” Noor said. “I also got to meet Devin Harris and Dwight Powell at the other camps.”

Rest assured, Noor is already making plans to attend the Mavs Basketball Academy Hoop Camp again next year. For him it’s become an annual summer ritual.

“It’s so encouraging to see veteran campers return because that means we have had a positive impact in their growth in basketball that they continue to come back to continue that improvement,” Hunt said. “And that’s what we’ve seen in all camps across the Metroplex that we run in the summer, especially in those familiar faces, and we really enjoy that.

“But we also enjoy watching them grow as a basketball player and as a person. We also focus on character building in our camps, and that also adds to that as well.”

Wesley Matthews, Mavs Foundation dedicate new basketball court for BridgeBuilders

DALLAS – Thanks to the commitment from the Mavs Foundation and sponsors like Wesley Matthews, Pro Players Foundation, Sprite/Coca-Cola and Fox Sports Southwest, the luxurious new basketball court for BridgeBuilders in the Buckeye Trail area of South Dallas has been defined as a game-changer for the folks who live in that community.

Gone is the old tile floor that was so decrepit that it caused much pain whenever a kid would fall on the court. In its place is a modern high-tech state-of-the-art floor that rivals any basketball court in the entire Dallas/Fort Worth area.

“The other court was old, dirty and was a hard tile,” said Shaun Grant, the director of kids programs at BridgeBuilders. “When the kids fell, they got hurt.”

“So this is just something, and they deserve it. It looks good, it looks professionally done and it’s not only good for the kids that come to the program, but also for the community as well. Some of these guys who are coming in here now were kids when this gym first opened, so they are super excited to see their kids get to play in a gym like this.”

Volunteers from the Dallas Mavericks, Mavs Foundation and Pro Players Foundation installed the floor, built new bleachers and painted the walls at BridgeBuilders. PPG Paints donated the paint, NexCourt is the provider of the SportsCourt floor, new goals and new wall pads for safety, and the Dallas Housing Authority maintenance crew chipped in to lend a helping hand to create the new space.

On hand for the recent court dedication included Mavs guard Wesley Matthews, Mavs front office staff members, and sponsors/representatives from Pro Players Foundation, Sprite/Coca-Cola, the Mavs Foundation and FOX Sports Southwest.

“We do a lot of work with the Dallas Mavericks,” said Rebecca Leppert, the chief operating officer for Pro Players Foundation. “And we’re extremely happy to be here and to give these kids a better place to play and have a safe space after school and during the summer.”

Seeing this court come to fruition was personal for Matthews, who ever since joining the Mavericks has wanted to put down roots in the city and believes strongly in giving back to the community.

“One of my biggest things was to be, not only leaving everything on the court, but off the court as well,” Matthews said. “The objective of BridgeBuilders pretty much is in line with our objective of Matthews motto Driven 2 Greatness, and that’s helping our youth get better in whatever way is possible, in whatever way we can. And if that’s through sports, then that’s one avenue.”

“This opportunity was too good to pass up on. It was too meaningful to these kids and to this community.”

Those associated with BridgeBuilders insist the previous court was so feeble that it was difficult to play on it. Thus, whenever the kids at BridgeBuilders played basketball in a league, they had to play all of their games on the road, often as far as 32 miles away in Plano.

“What is so significant about this is the surface that was originally on this floor was not suitable for competitive basketball,” said Michael Craven, the president of BridgeBuilders. “So it limited the children and this community’s opportunities to participate in local leagues and to host home games.”

“Their parents often never got to see them play sports because we were traveling to places like Plano. So this new court changes everything on that front and it keeps basketball in this community, it keeps competitive basketball in this community, and more importantly it provides a safe environment for these kids where they can remain active and stay out of the streets and not find themselves falling into trouble.”

Katie Edwards, the executive director of the Mavs Foundation, acknowledged that it was a no-brainer choosing BridgeBuilders as the place where the Mavs were going to build their 24th basketball court over the past 22 years.

“There are a lot of wonderful nonprofits out there who do great work with kids in the community and every year we look to see where the greatest need is in our area,” Edwards said. “And when we learned about this court here in South Dallas we really wanted be able to give them a new beautiful space where they can play and be safe and have a place to gather.”

“It’s also a community hub, so it gives them a way to have something here, right in their area where they can be together. It’s a beautiful floor, but it’s also durable, it’s safe and it’s not concrete or tile where someone might fall and hurt themselves. It’s a place they can be proud of and it’s a place they can call home.”

And that – taking pride in something they can call home –is priceless for these kids. Just ask 11-year Terrence Kimbrough, who, along with his friends, had been trying to make due on a dilapidated court for a few years.

“The basketball court had cement floors and it used to hurt every time you fall,” Kimbrough said. “And the goals were damaged a little bit.”

That long 64-mile round-trip to play in Plano wasn’t too soothing, either.

“It didn’t feel right,” Kimbrough said about the journey to the North Dallas suburb. “We could barely play on our court. We always had to use their court.”

“Now we can use and stay on our court. It looks better than the last basketball court.”

From Grant’s perspective, the new basketball court represents more than just a new floor where the kids can bounce a few basketballs. It’s the satisfaction the kids received from accomplishing something very meaningful.

“We played in a basketball league in Plano and they have beautiful gyms up there, and then they come back and they see this old tile floor and dirty dingy walls,” Grant said. “So this really will give them a sense of pride in their gym and in the community, and I believe it’ll boost their self-confidence and their skill as they learn basketball and other things in here.”

Craven is appreciative of the role the Mavs Foundation and Wesley Matthews played in BridgeBuilders being the recipients of the new basketball court.

“First and foremost, thank you,” he said. “We’re just incredibly grateful.”

“This is such a gigantic leap forward in our ability to serve and impact this community. And without their help we just wouldn’t be where we are.”

Grant acknowledged that the basketball court will be used for more than just playing basketball.

“We are going to use it for basketball camps, multi-purpose things,” Grant said. “Especially with the heat outside during the summer, for our summer camps we’ll come in here and do the lacrosse camp, they’ll do soccer, and they’ll participate in a bunch of things, dance.”

“The kids really needed this new court. And the kids, the community, they are just super excited for it. It’s been long overdue.”

Wesley Matthews ready to put the Mavs’ first-round draft pick “right in the fire”

ALLEN – Whoever the Dallas Mavericks select with the fifth overall pick in next week’s NBA Draft, guard Wesley Matthews has a stern message for him.

“We’ve got a chance to make a very good selection – whoever that is.” Matthews told Mavs.com. “We’ve got a chance to add to our roster and to build.

“And whoever it is, as soon as they get here we’re going to put him right in the fire. They’ve got to work, they’ve got to grind and they’ve got to compete.”

The NBA Draft is June 21 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Speaking on Wednesday morning at the Mavs Hoop Camp at Life Time Fitness, Matthews spoke eloquently about the Mavs’ highest draft pick since they chose point guard Jason Kidd No. 2 overall in the 1994 draft. Matthews, however, was also cautious.

“The fifth pick doesn’t guarantee us anything,” Matthews said. “We can’t be just like, ‘Oh yeah, we got the fifth pick, now we’re going to do this.’

“No, we’ve all got to be a part of it – coaches — everybody with the organization, players. We’ve all got to get better — guys that are already here and coming back to make this transition seamless and smooth so we’re playing in the postseason.”

The Mavs were 24-58 this past season and missed the playoffs for the second straight year after advancing to postseason play in 15 of the previous 16 years.

Mavs open summer league play in Las Vegas against Phoenix on July 6

DALLAS – The Dallas Mavericks will play their first game at the MGM Resorts Summer League in Las Vegas against the Phoenix Suns on July 6 at 8:30 pm CT at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Game 2 for the Mavs will be on July 8 against the Milwaukee Bucks at 6 p.m. CT at Cox Pavilion. The Mavs’ third game is against the Golden State Warriors on July 9 at 6:30 p.m. CT at the Thomas & Mack Center.

For the first time ever, all 30 NBA franchises will have a team in this year’s summer league. And every team is guaranteed to play at least five games.

After the Mavs-Warriors game, (double-elimination) tournament play will begin on July 11 until a champion is crowned on July 17.

Last year a record 127,843 fans attended the Vegas summer league, and this year all 82 summer league games will be televised either on ESPN or NBA-TV.

Mavs point guard Dennis Smith Jr. told Mavs.com last week that he plans to play in the summer league, but not in all of the team’s games. Smith averaged 15.2 points and 5.2 assists during his rookie year this past season.