LAS VEGAS – Dennis Smith Jr. raised the tone in his voice a level or two when he was told following this morning’s shootaround at the Cox Pavilion that the Las Vegas oddsmakers have picked the Phoenix Suns to win the MGM Resorts NBA Summer League 2018.

“They picked them to win the summer league?,” Smith asked. “We’ll have to wait and see.”

That stark reaction by Smith sets the stage for what promises to be a high-octane wire-to-wire contest when the Mavs open summer league play against the Suns tonight at 8:30 CT at the Thomas & Mack Center. The game will be televised on ESPN.

While the Suns were picked to win the summer league championship, the Mavs were picked tied for fourth with Portland to take home top honors in Las Vegas. That in itself is all the motivation Smith and the Mavs need to put their best foot forward tonight, particularly knowing they’ll be matched against the No. 1 overall pick in last month’s NBA Draft in Suns center Deandre Ayton.

“I expect it to be a very good game,” Mavs summer league coach Jamahl Mosley said. “I expect them to come out firing, because they’ve got a lot of energy behind having the No. 1 pick.

“They’ve got guys that they’re really looking forward to change things over with where they’ve gone. Aggressive Ayton, strong, we saw what he did in college, and they have four or five guys that are on their (last year’s) roster playing with them tonight, so I think it should be a very good competitive hard-played game.”

Mosley plans to start Jalen Brunson and Smith in the backcourt, Dorian Finney-Smith and Jalen Jones at the forward sports, and Johnathan Motley at center.

In the meantime, if this was a game the Mavs were going to cruise into, that idea certainly went out the window when they discovered the Suns are favored to win the summer league title.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for these guys to understand that you’re walking into a situation where people see you as the underdog,” Mosley said. “But I also see it as an opportunity for these guys to say, ‘Hey, we’re coming out here to work and it doesn’t really matter who you put in front of us.’

“And the way we worked through this camp from a standpoint of development, from a standpoint of defensive hard work, from a standpoint of cohesion as an offensive unit, I don’t really think that these guys think that it doesn’t matter who you put in front of them. They’re going to come out and play the same way that we’ve talked about playing.”

Mavs rookie forward Ray Spalding is one player looking to impress his new employers tonight. And what better way to make an NBA debut, especially with Ayton wearing one of the opposing uniforms.

“It should be a pretty good crowd,” Spalding said. “I think the group of guys that we have here on this team playing with us in the summer league, it’s a really good group of guys who can do multiple things, guard multiple positions.

“So it’ll be very interesting and it’ll be a good game. So hopefully we’ll get the W.”

The Mavs endured four days of practices in Dallas before coming to Las Vegas, where all 30 NBA teams are assured of playing at least five games apiece.

“In this thing it’s about who competes the hardest, who plays the hardest and who’s willing to play for the guy next to him,” Mosley said. “And that’s what our organization is about.”

Smith, though, appeared to be perturbed that the Suns – and not the Mavs – are pegged as the favorites to claim the summer league championship. That should turn the competitive juices up a notch or two tonight.

“I’m looking forward to some high energy tonight from both teams,” Smith said. “We know we’re going to come out and do what we’re supposed to do and let everything else take care of itself.

“It should be a good game, though. It’s a national TV game, so I know everybody is going to be competing.”

NOTES: Mavs rookie guard Luka Doncic will not play in tonight’s game because, among others, his contract situation with his Real Madrid squad hasn’t been finalized. Doncic was able to get up some shots during this morning’s shootaround. “He has the ability to shoot on his own without any contact,” Mavs summer league coach Jamahl Mosley said. “Without anybody touching him, he can shoot on his own and get his own shots.” . .Just the thought of playing with Doncic gets point guard Dennis Smith Jr. all fired up. “Just from the tapes that I’ve seen of him, he’s a really good player and he’s really smart,” Smith told “I’ve seen it personally how good he can shoot the ball, so I believe he’ll be a really good addition.”. . .Mavs assistant coach Jamahl Mosley is one of nine coaches chosen as the coaching staff that will assist at the USA Basketball Men’s National Team minicamp in Las Vegas from July 25-27. Also, Mavs forward Harrison Barnes is one of the members of the 2018-’20 USA National Team. Jerry Colangelo, the director of the USA Basketball Men’s National Team, said in a press release: “As we prepare to conduct our first USA national team training camp in the 2017-’20 quadrennium, we’re excited abut having our available national team players participate in the July 25-27 minicamp and we have compiled a truly outstanding high-energy coaching staff that will assist national team head coach Gregg Popovich.”. . .The Mavs waived guard Kyle Collinsworth today. In 32 games for the Mavs last season, Collinsworth averaged 3.2 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 15 minutes per game.

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