Mavs rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. participated in a Q&A with the NBA’s David Aldridge for the respected writer’s Monday Morning Tip, a weekly column on all things NBA. Check out the full article here, with some of Smith’s best answers below.
Aldridge: How have you tried to separate the mental toll of the 82-game season from the physical?
DSJ: Physically, I’m doing a really good job right now. Our training staff, they make sure I stay on top of everything, whether I feel like it or not — make sure that I do it. It’s greatly appreciated. Mentally, I think that just comes from having humbleness. I appreciate being able to play right now. I sat out a whole year already with my ACL. I’m thankful for this opportunity.
Aldridge: It’s funny that you mentioned that, because a lot of the scouts I spoke with before the Draft said one of the things they were most impressed with about you was you came back and played Adidas Nations — where you got injured — the next year. And I wonder how important it was for you to get back in time to play Nations?
DSJ: I think that was one of the biggest things to help me conquer the injury mentally. For me, I was up early, moving, way before I was supposed to. I got in trouble for it a couple of times. I was moving around so much before I was supposed to my grandma hit me with a broom a couple of times when she caught me. For me to go back to Nations where I tore it at, that was a big mountain I had to climb mentally, and I think I conquered that.
Aldridge: I asked Coach (Carlisle) this — and coaches want to win every night. But I asked him if it would be good for you to experience failure, so he can learn from it. Because that’s what this league is. Everybody gets their butt kicked; the great ones come back from it.
DSJ: Exactly. That’s mental toughness. And I think part of being a rookie, especially being a point guard, I think it’s important for me to take some of these lumps. I want to win every game, but tribulations come with being the best. That’s with everybody. So you take your lumps early, but you’ve got to look at everything as a lesson, and you’ve got to grow from it.
Smith is a super-confident player who oozes potential and has already shown flashes of greatness just 12 games into his career. The season hasn’t gone the way he and the Mavs hoped it would, of course, with Dallas sitting at just 2-12 on the year. But as Smith said early in training camp, there’s beauty in the struggle. He’s learning a heck of a lot, and even though there have been more losses than wins, he’s still experienced some high moments.
The Mavs know they got a good one on draft night, and Smith’s play so far this season — along with the attention he’s getting from national media and some of the biggest stars in the game — only confirms that he’s got a chance to become one of the special talents in this league.