LAS VEGAS –As their portion of the MGM Resorts NBA Summer League 2018 was winding to a close, what the Dallas Mavericks’ players saw as a weakening of their roster was in reality an opportunity in disguise.
The Mavs’ top three players – Dennis Smith Jr., Johnathan Motley and Dorian Finney-Smith – only played in the team’s first two summer league games. Plus, rookie Luka Doncic didn’t play at all, mainly because his buyout from his EuroLeague team (Real Madrid) and letter of clearance from FIBA wasn’t completed in a sufficient amount of time for him to be on the court.
In the two games Smith, Motley and Finney-Smith played, the Mavs lost to Phoenix Suns (92-85) and defeated the Milwaukee Bucks (81-78).
But with those aforementioned players not in uniform, the Mavs blew out the Golden State Warriors (91-71), lost to the Chicago Bulls (95-83), and finished summer league play with Friday’s hard-fought 96-92 triumph over the Washington Wizards. In the meantime, any coach worth the chalkboard he writes his Xs and Os on will admit that a winning record – in this case, 3-2 for the Mavs – tastes much better than a losing record.
“Finishing the right way is what mattered to me the most,” Mavs summer league coach Jamahl Mosley said. “I think our guys played and sustained the same level night-in and night-out.
“We talked about some mistakes, we talked about some things where we can improve. But I tell you what, these young men represented the Mavericks’ organization from the standpoint of hard play, coming together in that short period of time, and playing together and doing things the right way better than I couldn’t even have imagined.”
Motley certainly played exceptional for the Mavs during his short tenure on the floor. In the 49 total minutes he played in the two games, the 6-10, 230-pound second-year center scored 31 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as he continued his exceptional growth after not getting drafted last year out of Baylor.
“I played pretty good,” said Motley, who shot 59 percent from the field. “I should have done some things better, but overall I think I did pretty good and showed what I can do from the first two games.”
Another bright spots for the Mavs was Australia’s Mitch Creek. The 6-5 guard/forward averaged 6.8 points and 5.2 rebounds in just 18 minutes per game, and his put-back basket with 11.5 seconds remaining in the game was critical in the narrow win over the Wizards.
“I thought I did pretty solid with my time,” Creek said. “I thought I defended well, I communicated, offensively I was patient and we got good looks.
“Overall, I don’t try and look at myself too much. I’ve always been a team guy. But at the end of the day everyone’s out here for themselves inevitably, but I’m super proud of what I’ve done. I left no stone unturned, so I will definitely go back home to Australia with my head held high.”
Point guard Josh Adams also left Las Vegas with his head held high after scoring 21 points in just 27 minutes during the victory over Washington. In the five summer league games, a rock-solid Adams averaged 10.4 points and shot 38 percent from 3-point range while playing only 18.6 minutes per game.
“He played for (assistant) coach (Larry) Shyatt at Wyoming, so you know he’s going to defend,” Mosley said of Adams. “And offensively, he’s so fearless. He did a great job for us.”
Mosley also was pleased with the play of forward Ray Spalding, who was the 56th overall pick of last month’s NBA Draft. In 17 minutes per game, Spalding averaged eight points and 5.2 rebounds and converted 59 percent of his shots.
“I think I played pretty well,” Spalding said. “I definitely could have made some shots that I usually make, but all in all I think it was a well-played tournament.
“Overall, I really enjoyed the experience.”
Meanwhile, point guard Jalen Brunson (drafted No. 33 overall) shot just 23 percent from the field. But the Villanova product more than held his own while controlling the Mavs’ offensive tempo and averaging 6.8 points and 4.4 assists.
In addition, Jalen Jones averaged 13 points and 6.2 rebounds in the summer league. However, he was waived at the conclusion of summer league play.
The Mavs also signed center Kostas Antetokounmpo to a two-way contract after their summer league games concluded.
“I feel like I did what they asked me to do,” Antetokounmpo said. “I feel like it was a good experience for me.
“I need to just keep getting better and just keep improving as a player. I’m happy to be with the Dallas organization and I’m going to put my head down and keep working.”
The No. 60 and very last player chosen in last month’s NBA Draft, Antetokounmpo hopes to prove to everyone that he can become just as relevant of a player as his brother – Bucks two-time All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo. He also knows that coaches and fans will be looking at him and analyzing his game extra hard because of what his brother has been able to accomplish in the NBA.
“I feel a little pressure, but pressure makes diamonds,” Kostas Antetokounmpo said. “So I’m just going to put my head down and keep working.”
That’s the same recipe for success Spalding has laid out for himself to follow between now and the time training camp starts in late September.
“Every guy on the team I build a great relationship and a great bond with,” Spalding said. “So farther on through this process and whatever happens happens, I’ll continue to build great brotherhood with these guys on this team.”
Although basketball is a business and sometimes can get a bit dicey when players are battling for a roster spot, Motley – he stayed in Las Vegas and watched the final three games from the bench — acknowledged that he didn’t noticed any selfish play by the Mavs.
“They played, and played together,” Motley said. “I think that’s the main point.
“I think when everybody plays together, everybody looks good. So I think they did a good job of that.”
Motley’s assessment is shared by Mosley.
“I would say 3-2 is not bad at all,” Mosley said. “You walk away with this last win, and I think that’s really good.
“These guys played so hard. Every guy understood that it was next man up. When Dennis went out, when Motley went out, when Dorian went out, the guys knew that they were going to get their opportunity, and they all showed what they were capable of doing.”
NOTES: While the Mavs veterans, rookies, free agents, coaches and staff are scattered all across the world as they try to get in some vacation time, at least five members of the organization still has some more work to do this summer. Assistant coach Jamahl Mosley is one of nine assistant coaches who will be working the USA Basketball Men’s National Team mini-camp that will be in Las Vegas from July 25-27. Also, forward Harrison Barnes and center DeAndre Jordan are among the 35 players participating in that mini-camp. In addition, head athletic trainer Casey Smith will be part of the same mini-camp. . .Harrison Barnes will play for Team World against Team Africa in the NBA Africa Game on Aug. 4 in Pretoria, South Africa. Mavs development coach God Shammgod also will be part of the NBA Africa Game in an assignment, he said, to be determined. . .The NBA schedule will be released in mid-August and the Mavs will open training camp in late September.