As he signed posters and showed kids how to set a proper screen on the pick-and-roll, Dorian Finney-Smith smiled through it all because of the message that he wanted to convey.

“It feels good,” Finney-Smith said. “I’m the first guy to let everybody know that it’s safe to come out now.”

It had been nearly two years since the Mavericks had a camp for kids that included an in-person appearance by one of the players.

Finney-Smith was thrilled to be the first one back on the court with the kids, making appearances Wednesday at Rowlett and Grand Prairie. The number of campers was smaller than in the past. But the energy and enthusiasm was the same as it’s always been when Mavs Academy hosts its summer camps.

Because of the coronavirus, the Mavericks had been limited to virtual camps last summer and into the fall and winter. That changed on Wednesday as campers of all skill levels worked with the staff of coaches and Finney-Smith.

“When you do things over the Zoom calls virtually, you don’t get the same impact and you know, deep down, you’re not affecting the kids the same as if you have your physical presence there and they can see you, talk to you, see your body language,” the 6-7 forward said.

“This feels good just to be able to leave the house and know I’m not going to get in trouble – especially after hearing about the Chris Paul situation. It feels good to be able to do a little bit of normal stuff.”

Chris Paul, the Phoenix point guard, was placed in quarantine earlier this week and will have to isolate for an unspecified time to clear the COVID-19 protocols before returning to the playoffs when the Suns begin the Western Conference finals.

There were two highlights of the camps for Finney-Smith. He took questions from the kids and was impressed with one camper who asked: “Where does your shooting range end?”

Said Finney-Smith: “Man, I can shoot as soon as I get out of the car.”

After this past season, nobody would argue with him. Finney-Smith extended the trend of improving his 3-point percentage every year he’s been in the league, finishing at 39.4 percent this season. He also shot 43.2 percent in the playoffs.

But that shooting couldn’t save him during the other highlight of the camps – the competitive games of Knockout.

It’s a game in which all players line up and try to make a free throw, one at a time. Once a player shoots, the person behind him shoots. If the first person misses, he must get his rebound and make a layup before the person behind him makes his shot.

It did not go well for Finney-Smith at the Grand Prairie camp.

“I was 0-and-4,” he said. “The one I was going to win, the person behind me hit my ball and knocked me out. My ball is bouncing on the rim and they throw it at the backboard to knock it off.”

Clearly, it gets competitive.

“I lost fair and square one time,” Finney-Smith said. “That little small dude, he just made shots. I couldn’t do nothing about that. It’s viral now. I done got a text message: how did you lose?”

Indeed, social media sees everything.

The Mavericks will be hosting summer camps through July and information, including sign-ups, can be found here: Mavs Academy – The Official Home of the Dallas Mavericks .

This week’s camp is about as close as Finney-Smith has gotten to a basketball court since the season ended on June 6. He said his main work has been lifting weights and concentrating on yoga, which helps his flexibility and to help keep his hip problems from previous seasons from flaring back up.

But when he is ready to get back on the court, he knows what must be done.

“The trainers told me I needed a break because of the short offseason (last year),” Finney-Smith said. “But I just want to add another piece to my game. Now I got to put it on the floor because they’re closing out on me so much harder from the corner.”

That’s because of his improved shooting, which opponents must respect now.

For now, however, basketball can wait.

Getting back to living life, including spending time with kids – his own and those at camp – represents a return to normalcy that we all can appreciate.

Twitter: @ESefko

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