DALLAS – Harrison Barnes has a deal for teammates like Dallas Mavericks point guard Dennis Smith Jr. that he believes they can sink their teeth into.
Smith underwent root canal surgery on Monday. That came one day after the second-year veteran was accidently elbowed in the mouth Sunday night by Los Angeles Clippers guard Patrick Beverley.
Barnes has been there, done that in regards to elbows flying in his face. It’s not a pretty picture that he wants to re-hash.
So a few years ago Barnes got involved in a partnership with the Shock Doctor, a company that is one of the leaders in athletic protection to promote protective gear among basketball players. Barnes believes had Smith been wearing one of the Shock Doctor’s mouthpieces, his tooth wouldn’t have fallen out of his mouth when it collided with Beverley’s elbow.
“I think my second year in the league I had some teeth knocked out,” Barnes said. “And ever since then I usually wear a mouth guard.
“I haven’t lately, but I’m definitely going to wear one next game.”
Coach Rick Carlisle expects Smith to play Tuesday when the Mavs host the Portland Trail at 7:30 p.m. at American Airlines Center. Then again, the Mavs were very fortunate Smith was able to return and finish out Sunday’s game.
After Smith picked up his broken tooth late in the third quarter, the Mavs were trying to get him out of the game. But he was in a jump ball situation with Beverley and had to go through the jump ball process, otherwise he wouldn’t have been able to play anymore that night, by NBA rules.
By the time Smith returned with 10:45 left in the game, he was so hyped that nothing could stop him. Even when he was at a six-inch height disadvantage when he was defending Clippers forward Tobias Harris and the Mavs leading 112-110 with 12 seconds left, Smith felt like he was in prime position to make a game-deciding play.
And as it turned out, he was.
Not only did Smith block Harris’ shot. But he grabbed the rebound, was fouled and buried a pair of free throws with 9.2 seconds remaining to tie a neat little bow on this extremely physical and very chippy game.
“He wanted to go back in,” Carlisle said. “It was so fortuitous for us, because he played great down the stretch. He bailed us out of a tough situation, because late-game you’re going to end up in switching situations and often times smaller guys end up on bigger guys.
“A guy like Dennis has the ability to elevate, and he ended up blocking the shot and getting a rebound on the same play. That’s an amazing play to make.”
So amazing that it left Barnes nearly speechless.
“That speaks to his toughness,” Barnes said of Smith. “When you have a play like that where Patrick Beverley goes and knocks your tooth out and the play is not even reviewed, and then come back and continue to run the team, continue to push the tempo, and like I say, get that game-winning block – Tobias Harris on the block — that was huge.
“I think that just represents the winner that he is and the competitor that he is.”
Indeed, the competitor in Smith was at the forefront of the Mavs padding their record to 11-10 with the win over the Clippers.
“(Smith’s blocked shot on Harris) was a game-saver, and he goes in and bangs in two free throws,” Carlisle said. “A hard-fought game for 47 minutes and 51 seconds comes down to that.
“A guy’s ability to rise up, get a block, get a rebound, get fouled and make two free throws. That was a very, very big play.”
As far as Smith and other Mavs players wearing a mouth guard from here on out are concerned, Barnes said: “I think after last night we might have a few more guys sign up with (the Shock Doctor). It may be an early Christmas gift.”