DALLAS — Although Dallas Mavericks first-round draft pick Dennis Smith Jr. admits that he still has a long way to go in order to reach the level of play he hopes to ascend to this upcoming season, the rookie point guard was more than happy to help lead the team to a win during his preseason debut Monday night.
Monday, Smith and the Mavericks (1-0) began their six-game preseason schedule with a win on their home floor, capturing a last-second 106-104 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on rookie big man Johnathan Motley’s game-winning score with 4.7 seconds remaining. The Dallas crowd also got its first look at Smith in live-game action to begin his rookie season, seeing the 19-year-old slide into the starting lineup next to combo guard Seth Curry, swingman Wesley Matthews, leading scorer Harrison Barnes and 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki. And despite finishing with just three points on 1-of-5 shooting in the win during 12 minutes of action, Smith admits that he learned very valuable lessons from his veteran teammates that he hopes to apply this season.
“We came out and got the win, and that’s the most important thing. But I think everybody had fun, and that’s always good,” Smith said following his exhibition debut. “It could always be better. There’s always room for improvement. But like I said, I had fun and the rest of the team had fun, so it’s cool.
“I learned a lot,” he added. “There’s a lot of space in the NBA. And watching people like Devin (Harris) and J.J. (Barea), I can learn exactly how to use that to my advantage. They were just giving me little pointers and things I can do better, or things that they’ve seen somebody else do and they feel like you can do this yourself. They were just trying to keep me getting better. I think it’s great. The best teacher is experience, and they’ve been through all of it. So, they’re not going to do anything but give me the best advice, and I hope that I can be a good vet like those guys are.”
Matching up against reigning Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon, Smith was immediately thrown into the fire during his first exhibition outing. He also found other ways to impact the game with his shot not consistently falling, grabbing a rebound, dishing an assist and collecting two steals to overshadow his lone turnover.
There were also several teaching points for Mavs coach Rick Carlisle to instill in Smith moving forward. That said, the coach believes the ninth pick in June’s NBA Draft more than held his own while helping the Mavs build a 29-27 edge at the end of the first quarter. And according to Carlisle, the cat-quick guard will grow from his first experience on the court against a physical NBA team.
“Well, this is really the beginning of learning an awful lot in a very short period of time,” Carlisle explained. “You know, Brogdon is an excellent defender, very big and very physical. Milwaukee is a physical team, and so it’s the first live NBA action. So, you know, I liked the way he played. He stayed aggressive. You know, our goal was to win the first quarter with that group. We won it by a couple of points, and so this gives us a 12-minute film of things for him to watch (Tuesday) and learn. He’ll keep getting better. He’s got great ability and he’s got really terrific spirit, and he loves to be a part of a team.”
Note: The Mavericks will now continue their preseason schedule Wednesday night against the Chicago Bulls. The game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest Plus and 103.3 FM ESPN. The game will also air in Spanish on KFLC AM 1270. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by visiting Mavs.com, or by calling (214) 747-MAVS.
P.J. Dozier (bruised back) — out
Josh McRoberts — out