DALLAS – As he was explaining why the Dallas Mavericks welcome back and need Dennis Smith Jr., coach Rick Carlisle expressed the opinions of many throughout Mavs Nation.

“I see him as a starter, and he and Luka (Doncic) need to play together,” Carlisle said prior to Tuesday’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers. “As we move forward, these guys need to have more time on the court together.
That’s the reality.”

Smith missed six straight games with tightness in the middle of his back — along with an illness — before returning and starting in the game against the Clippers. Coupled with the season-ending torn Achilles tendon surgery J. J. Barea underwent on Jan. 14, and the Mavs were suddenly thin at point guard.

“I checked out the stats today and we’re 30th in the league in pace as of right now,” Carlisle said. “So with (Smith) and Barea out, we definitely have been missing what (Smith) brings to the game in terms of speed, athleticism and those kinds of things.

“We’re happy to have him back. Defensively, we’ve missed him, offensively, we’ve missed him. And tonight he’s back, so I’m happy and I believe he’s happy, too.”

Carlisle said there would be no discrepancy between who is the Mavs’ starting point guard.

“Technically speaking, Luka is the (shooting guard) and Dennis is the (point guard) on our numbers, but we have two point guards,” Carlisle said. “That’s the beauty of it.

“In today’s game you have to have two playmakers. This is the state of the NBA right now, and when you go down a playmaker like Barea for the year, and you miss Smith for several games, you’re going to feel it and the numbers tell you. We’ve been playing too slow and we haven’t been able to match up defensively when we need to.”

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