Dorian Finney-Smith enters summer hoping to improve his shooting going into Year 2

DALLAS — After displaying lockdown defense throughout his rookie campaign while playing in 81 of 82 games and starting 35 times during the 2016-17 season, 24-year-old forward Dorian Finney-Smith hopes to provide more at the offensive end of the floor for the Dallas Mavericks next year.

This season, the first-year forward averaged 4.3 points and 2.7 rebounds, clocking 20.3 minutes an outing while getting extended playing time when 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki was sidelined due to a right Achilles strain. In the process, Finney-Smith emerged as one of the Mavericks’ top perimeter defenders, guarding the likes of perennial All-Stars LeBron James, Kevin Durant and James Harden during his first year in the NBA. However, Finney-Smith also shot just 37.2 percent from the field and 29.3 percent from behind the three-point arc, struggling to match his defensive success at the offensive end of the floor. That said, the former Florida standout enters the summer well aware that he needs to improve his shooting in order to earn more playing time from Mavs coach Rick Carlisle in Year 2.

“It’s probably going to be the biggest summer of my life, knowing the expectations that come with it,” Finney-Smith admitted after the conclusion of the ’16-17 season. “You know, I played 81 games and I started almost 40, so coaches and everybody see the talent. Now, I’ve just got to get a little bit more consistent with my shot, start putting it down a little bit more and don’t forget what got me here, and that’s playing defense.

“I need to get my shot more consistent,” he added. “I feel like if I knock down the shot and I take a lot, it takes the pressure off guys like [Harrison Barnes] and when I’m on the court with Dirk. … I feel like I can grow a lot more on the court. I feel like I can get a lot better, and I’m going to work until I can’t.”

Finney-Smith showed signs of becoming a knockdown shooter early in his rookie season, connecting on 44.6 percent from the field and 36.8 percent from behind the arc while averaging 6.6 points during a season-high 17 games in the month of December. However, after playing the equivalent of three collegiate seasons during his first NBA campaign, Finney-Smith admittedly hit the proverbial rookie wall.

The 6-foot-8, 220-pounder averaged 10.7 points and 7.1 rebounds in 134 career collegiate games while leading Florida in rebounding during all three of his seasons there and in scoring in each of his final two campaigns. He also shot a stellar 47.2 percent from the field and 42.6 percent from behind the three-point arc during his junior season at Florida, showing that he can make an impact at both ends of the court. And after averaging 14.7 points and 8.3 rebounds while connecting on 43.7 percent from the field and 36.8 percent from beyond the arc during his senior season in college, Finney-Smith says he will have to work tirelessly this summer in order to improve his offensive repertoire.

“(Defense) was the reason why I got on the court. You know, the things I did on offense was just a plus,” he explained. “But as the season went on, the coaches believed I could do more on offense, so they wanted me to shoot the ball a little bit more. You know, it was an up-and-down year, but it was a great experience for me.”

Dorian Finney-Smith preps for ‘biggest summer’ of his life after productive rookie season

2016-17 Exit Interview: Dorian Finney-Smith

Mavs F Dorian Finney-Smith addresses the media for exit interviews.

DALLAS — Seeing of plenty of playing time during his rookie season after going untaken in last June’s NBA draft, Dallas Mavericks first-year forward Dorian Finney-Smith says he’s just beginning to scratch the surface of how effective he can be moving forward.

With 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki hobbled by a right Achilles strain early in the season, Finney-Smith was thrusted into the starting lineup quickly during his rookie campaign. Finney-Smith then started 35 times during his 81 appearances this season, making the most of his extra playing time with Nowitzki sidelined. But after admittedly hitting the proverbial rookie wall midway through the season, the former Florida standout vows to put in extra work this summer to return a better player in Year 2.

“I played 81 of 82 games, but kind of like right before the All-Star break I was banged up. I just needed a little break from the game, but a lot of my teammates told me it was normal, so they helped me through it,” Finney-Smith explained.

He added: “It’s probably going to be the biggest summer of my life, knowing the expectations that come with it. You know, I played 81 games and I started almost 40, so coaches and everybody see the talent. Now, I’ve just got to get a little bit more consistent with my shot, start putting it down a little bit more and don’t forget what got me here, and that’s defense.”

Defense was certainly the rookie forward’s calling card this season, guarding the likes of perennial All-Stars LeBron James, James Harden and Kevin Durant throughout the course of his first year in the league. But despite a sluggish start to the season at the offensive end, Finney-Smith slowly began to show glimpses of emerging as a knockdown shooter by the end of the grueling 82-game schedule.

All told, the 23-year-old averaged 4.3 points and 2.7 rebounds during his first season, clocking 20.3 minutes an outing. He also shot just 37.2 percent from the field and 29.3 percent from behind the three-point arc. But after shooting 44.6 percent from the field and 36.8 percent from behind the arc while averaging 6.6 points during a season-high 17 games in the month of December, Finney-Smith says he will work this summer to find consistency at the offensive end.

“I need to get my shot more consistent,” the 6-foot-8 rookie admitted. “I feel like if I knock down the shot and I take a lot, it takes the pressure off guys like [Harrison Barnes] and when I’m on the court with Dirk. … I feel like I can grow a lot more on the court. I feel like I can get a lot better, and I’m going to work until I can’t.

“(Defense) was the reason I got on the court. You know, the things I did on offense was just a plus. But as the season went on, the coaches believed I could do more on offense, so they wanted me to shoot the ball a little bit more. You know, it was an up-and-down year, but it was a great experience for me.”

Finney-Smith signed as a free agent with Dallas on July 8, joining the Mavericks’ summer-league squad as it competed in Las Vegas. He then showed throughout the season what made him a coveted player for the Dallas front office after playing his final three collegiate seasons at Florida following a transfer from Virginia Tech at the conclusion of his freshman year.

In 134 career collegiate games, the 220-pounder averaged 10.7 points and 7.1 rebounds while leading Florida in rebounding during all three of his seasons there and in scoring in each of his final two campaigns. But after earning the trust of Mavs coach Rick Carlisle and his veteran teammates, Finney-Smith says he’s eager to prove his worth next year with one professional season and a summer of training under his belt.

“It helped me,” Finney-Smith said of his rookie season. “You know, I got the chance to guard some great players, and coach (Carlisle) challenged me to guard a lot of great talent. I just went out there and tried to do my best.

“I’ve still got that chip on my shoulder, along with several guys in the locker room with me. But this is a great place for me. You know, it’s a great organization, and we’ve got great teammates. A lot of them really helped me out this year.”

Jae Crowder looks to fill void of Mavs’ departing veterans

DALLAS — Although he’s yet to fully carve his own niche in the NBA since entering the league as the 34th overall pick in the 2012 draft, Dallas Mavericks third-year pro Jae Crowder has gradually began to tap into his potential.

The 6-foot-6 versatile swingman has been used in a multitude of ways by Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle through his first two seasons, playing in 78 games in both campaigns while providing production off the Dallas bench. This season, however, the 24-year-old appears ready to step into his own role and out of the shadows of his departing mentors, attempting to fill the void left by Shawn Marion and Vince Carter in free agency.

“It’s a grand opportunity,” Crowder confessed while acknowledging he figures to see the most playing time in his young career this upcoming season. “It’s the best opportunity I’ve had. You know, those guys [Carter and Marion] really taught me a lot coming into it, and I just try to learn from that and build on each year I’ve been here. I think the opportunity is there, and I just have to take it.  Just being a pro on and off the court. You know, those guys are real professionals and they’ve been in the league for a long time. And just seeing how they work and how they operate day in and day out, I’ll never forget it. And I’ll take it from here until the day I retire.”

Backing up Marion at small forward the past two seasons, Crowder was often asked to defend the top perimeter scorers in the league when the four-time All-Star headed to the bench. The former Marquette standout also played alongside Carter in the second unit, learning what it takes to provide instant offense off the bench.

Now, after losing 10 pounds during the offseason while working on his conditioning, Crowder will try to step into a valuable role for the Mavericks this season.

“Physically, I feel great. Coming into camp, I felt 100 percent. You know, physically, I came into camp ready and I lost a little weight. I came in with a good mindset — free and with a free mind. And we’ve been playing hard and getting after it,” Crowder explained.

With Carter vacating the sixth man role in Dallas to join the Memphis Grizzlies this summer, the Mavs may look in Crowder’s direction for production with the reserves. In order to be relied upon in that role, however, Crowder knows he’ll have to step up after admittedly hitting a wall in his first two seasons.

After starting 16 games during his rookie season, Crowder saw a slight dip in his production in Year 2 while finishing ’13-14 averaging 4.6 points, 2.5 rebounds, .8 assists and .8 steals. And despite raising his shooting percent from 38.4 percent to 43.9 percent in a year’s span, Crowder continued to struggle with his outside shot while connecting on only 33.1 percent from behind the three-point arc.

“By Game 50 or 60 my first two years, I had a little drought and I think that kind of was fatigue. That’s why I changed my body a little bit, trying to fight through that as the season goes along,” Crowder explained. “(I lost) 10 more pounds, and that’s right where I want to be. I feel great, I’m flying around, I’m moving well and I’m right where I want to be.”

Still, it’s at the defensive end that Crowder figures to provide the Mavs with the most support while emerging as a lockdown defender that Carlisle can turn to down the stretch of games. And after impressing his head coach with his intensity early in training camp, don’t be surprised if Crowder is called upon to operate as the team’s defensive closer this season.

“He’s in by far the best shape he’s been in, in three years, and he’s been in good shape in other years,” Carlisle said while praising Crowder’s offseason conditioning. “But he’s trimmed down, he’s gotten leaner, he’s committed to a diet that’s really gotten his body composition where it needs to be to be at his best, and he’s just a tireless worker. I mean, he just keeps working on everything with shooting, running and movement stuff. He knows both the three and the four, and he knows the two. And he’s guarded ones, so that versatility is a key factor for us.”

“I feel like it’s a collective effort for all of us and all of us wing players,” Crowder added. “We have to hold our ground with the best scorers in the league. And it’s a collective effort, as we all know. But I just want to make it hard on guys when I match up on Kobe Bryant or LeBron James. Just make it tough on them the whole fourth quarter, and maybe in the fourth quarter those shots aren’t falling for them. You know, it’s a collective effort, but I want to feel like I’m doing my part.”

Note: The Mavericks will return to the practice court before making their first road trip of the preseason, taking on four-time MVP LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday. The game will air at 6:30 p.m. CT on TXA 21.

The Mavs return to Dallas to host the Memphis Grizzlies at American Airlines Center on Oct. 20 at 7:30 p.m. CT. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS (6287) or by visiting Mavs.com.

Injury updates presented by Baylor Emergency Medical Centers:
-Monta Ellis, sprained left knee, day-to-day
-Raymond Felton, high right ankle sprain, out at least 10 days