Dennis Smith Jr. hopes to ‘enhance basketball career’ by building bonds with Mavs assistant coaches Darrell Armstrong, God Shammgod

DALLAS — They’ll be two of the less-heralded figures on the Dallas Mavericks’ sideline during the upcoming season. However, both assistant coach Darrell Armstrong and player development coach God Shammgod will be handed a great deal of responsibility this season as they take Mavericks rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. under their wings.

Joining Dallas’ coaching staff midway through the 2008-09 campaign, Armstrong brings with him 14 years of NBA experience as a player. During his playing career, Armstrong earned both the NBA’s Sixth Man Award and Most Improved Player Award in 1999. He also participated in the Slam Dunk contest at the 1996 NBA All-Star Weekend, ending his stellar career with averages of 9.2 points, 4.0 assists and 1.34 steals in 840 total games during stints with Orlando, New Orleans, Dallas, Indiana and New Jersey. Armstrong’s duties now include assisting with the development of the Mavs’ young players, which will include Smith during his first year in the league.

Meanwhile, Shammgod enters his second season with the Mavericks after originally joining the club as a ball-handling expert last summer. He played in the league with the Washington Wizards during ’97–98 season after being drafted with the 45th overall pick in the second round. He also played in the Chinese Basketball Association for several teams. And while joining forces with the team’s strength and conditioning coaches, Shammgod and Armstrong will be asked to help bring out the best in Smith during his rookie season.

“Well, both of those guys played in the league, and both of those guys grew up playing the point guard position in different fashions,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said while praising Armstrong and Shammgod. “Both of those guys have done a great job for us and have influenced our program in a very positive way, so they’re going to help.

“You know, there’s a lot that goes into a highly successful NBA player. … Dennis coming off the (ACL) injury a year and a half ago, you know, these guys are going to be very important,” the coach added. “They’re going to find every nook and cranny of things that need to be tweaked, strengthen whatever it is, and we’ve got to build him into a guy that can stand up to the wear and tear of an NBA season. A lot of work goes into that.”

Smith has a prior relationship with Shammgod stemming from his high school days, hoping to reconnect now that the two are in Dallas.

Despite a torn ACL that cost Smith his senior year of high school, the former North Carolina State standout was praised for his athletic ability during his lone collegiate season. Smith averaged 18.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 6.2 assists last season, leading to the Mavericks taking him with the No. 9 pick in the first round of June’s draft. He now hopes Shammgod can take on the role of mentor in his career, looking to the ball-handling legend for more than just coaching on the court. The 19-year-old Smith also believes that he can enhance his skills after Shammgod mentored a young Kobe Bryant early in his career. That said, the two figure to form a bond quickly this upcoming season in the Dallas locker room.

“He had a great impact,” Smith said of Shammgod’s influence early in his basketball journey. “You know, you hear a lot of stories about him, and then you finally get to meet him and realize he’s a humble guy. He has a lot of knowledge about the game, so I’m looking to be a sponge and take in everything I can. I believe that he’ll help enhance my basketball career.”