Two-way contract signee Johnathan Motley hopes to fill need for Mavs inside

DALLAS — Despite still working his way back to 100 percent after suffering a torn meniscus to conclude his final collegiate campaign, former Baylor standout Johnathan Motley showed the Dallas Mavericks’ front office enough during summer-league play to earn a two-way contract for this upcoming season.

Going untaken in June’s NBA Draft, the 6-foot-10 Motley will now try to carve out a niche in the league after three stellar seasons at Baylor. He will also attempt to earn a regular roster spot moving forward with the Mavericks after averaging 17.3 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.1 blocks per game during his junior season to earn consensus All-American second-team honors. And after becoming Baylor’s first-ever player to win a major individual award by garnering the 2017 Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year, Motley will look to become a mainstay on the Dallas front line for seasons to come.

“I just think my body feels better day after day,” Motley said last month after starring on the Mavs’ summer-league teams in Orlando and Las Vegas. “It’s just a testament to what they’ve got me doing off the court, running and lifting some weights on my knee, hamstrings and glute stuff. My body is just feeling better and better, so that’s to credit for the success I’ve been having.

“It was tough, but you’ve got to take everything for what it is and just find a way to bounce back,” he added. “I’m thankful the Mavs signed me. I feel wanted here. Those guys have got me doing some things to help me and leading me into the right direction, so I’ve bought in to everything they’ve got me doing.”

The ’17-18 season will mark the first year that the league’s two-way contracts will be implemented, allowing teams to have up to two players who will spend the bulk of the year in the NBA G League and not more than 45 days with their NBA squad. Two-way players are also paid a corresponding daily amount based on the number of days they play in each league. And with only players that have been in the league for four years or fewer able to sign two-way contracts, Motley says he’s been handed an opportunity to fulfill his NBA dream while working his way back to full strength.

Motley, a Houston native, played limited minutes during the Orlando summer league, averaging 7.0 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.5 block per contest. However, Motley’s most memorable highlight of the tournament came in the most critical time after his game-winning jumper in the championship game gave the Mavs the Orlando summer-league title with an 83-81 win over Detroit on July 6. He then stepped up his production and playing time during the MGM Resorts Summer League in Las Vegas, posting averages of 7.7 points and 4.3 rebounds in just 14.8 minutes an outing as the Mavs went 5-1 and advanced to the semifinals of the tournament. And after knocking down a staggering 58.8 percent from the field in Las Vegas, the athletic big man says he fully expects to fill a void inside for the team this upcoming season.

“I mean, it’s been a crazy, crazy month. It didn’t start off too good with not being drafted. That was a tough night, especially expecting for sure to get drafted. But I’m just thankful the Mavs gave me a chance even with the injury and all that stuff,” Motley admitted. “I was just thankful. … They’re really excited to have me. I think this is the perfect fit. You know, everything happens for a reason. I just feel wanted here. They only had one draft pick in Dennis (Smith), so I feel like I can come in and do some pretty good things. They’re really invested in me, so I feel wanted and I feel like we can really do some good things here.”

After impressive Summer League playing out of position, Brandon Ashley hopes to carve out niche with Mavs

DALLAS — After impressing the Dallas Mavericks’ front office while starring with the team’s summer-league squads in both Orlando and Las Vegas last month, newly-signed Brandon Ashley hopes to continue showing his versatility during training camp in late September.

Thursday, the Mavericks announced the signing of Ashley, who quickly became a standout during summer-league play last month. The 6-foot-9, 230-pounder averaged 8.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.0 steal in two games as the Mavs sprinted to the Orlando summer-league title. He then joined the team in Las Vegas, starting the Mavericks’ six games at center and averaging 11.5 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in 20.0 minutes as the squad advanced to the semifinals of the tournament. And after seeing the 23-year-old big man shoot 47.4 percent from the floor to help lead the Mavs to a 5-1 record in Las Vegas, Mavs summer-league head coach Jamahl Mosley says he expects Ashley to continue showcasing his overall skillset.

“One thing Brandon did is he played with a level of experience and knows how to read defenses,” Mosley explained while praising Ashley’s summer-league performance. “Defensively, he just covered for guys. He was very good for us. I think it’s huge. He’s showing he knows how to play, he’s showing he belongs at this level, and he just does the little intangible things that I think are going to be good for us going forward.”

Ashley, a San Francisco native, was an early-entry candidate for the 2015 NBA Draft after his junior season at Arizona. He started all 38 games as a junior, averaging 12.2 points and 5.2 rebounds to help the Wildcats return to the Elite Eight for a second straight year. Ashley was also named Honorable Mention All-Pac-12 and the Most Outstanding player of the Pac-12 tournament that season, leading to his decision to declare for the draft early.

However, after going untaken in the draft, Ashley spent the preseason with the Mavericks and was eventually waived on Oct. 24, 2015. He then joined the Mavs’ G-League affiliate, the Texas Legends, starting all 33 appearances while averaging 14.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.0 steal and 1.4 blocks to garner G-League All-Star honors during the ’15-16 season. Ashley signed with Germany’s Alba Berlin from there, posting averages of 8.5 points and 5.7 rebounds in 14 outings. But after showcasing his skills on a larger stage during summer-league play, Ashley says he’s eager to prove his worth this upcoming season with the Mavericks.

“I mean, it’s definitely an opportunity,” Ashley explained. “Playing with guys that are already on the team, you definitely want to go out there and prove yourself by affecting the game the same way that they are.

“I think it’s just my versatility,” he added after scoring 21 points on 9-of-15 shooting in the Mavs’ 91-75 debut victory over Chicago in Las Vegas on July 8. “You know, I’m a smaller guy, so I’m probably not necessarily going to play a whole lot of five at the NBA level. But I’m able to play multiple positions, knock down open shots and just affect the game in different ways.”

Roster hopefuls may have impressed Mavs’ brass enough during summer-league play for training camp invites

DALLAS — Despite ending their valiant run through the MGM Resorts Summer League with a disappointing 108-98 defeat at the hands of the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers in the semifinals of the 10-day tournament last month, several roster hopefuls may have punched their ticket to training camp with the Dallas Mavericks come late September.

Capturing their first five outings before falling to the Lakers in the single-elimination tournament, the Mavericks’ Las Vegas summer squad rallied back from a 26-point deficit to creep within one late in the fourth quarter. The Mavs then ran out of steam before seeing their summer-league championship hopes shattered. Still, according to Mavs summer-league coach Jamahl Mosley, a few of the team’s unsigned players may have done enough to impress the Dallas front office.

“There’s two ways you can go. You know, you can quit. You can say, ‘It’s just not our night, and they’re hitting shots.’ But our guys never gave in, and I think that’s a testament to the way they play,” Mosley proclaimed after his team suffered its first loss during summer-league play. “That’s a testament to the organization and what we demand out of guys, and that’s why they have the Mavericks across their shirts.”

The Mavs’ Orlando summer-league team definitely lived up to the organization’s name, going undefeated en route to the title. The Las Vegas squad also more than held its own before coming up short against the Lakers. That said, with 15 players signed to the roster going into Wednesday, the Mavs could pluck from both teams to reach the maximum of 20 players that can participate in training camp.

The Las Vegas squad began its summer-league schedule in dominating fashion, sprinting to a 91-75 victory over Chicago on July 8. The Mavs kept the momentum going with an 88-77 victory over No. 4 overall draft pick Josh Jackson and the Phoenix Suns the following day, leaning on first-round pick Dennis Smith Jr.’s 25-point explosion. The Dallas team then overcame a slow start two nights later, edging out the Miami Heat to remain unbeaten after a 78-73 win. Dallas remained without a blemish after a first-round bye in the tournament, sprinting to an 83-76 win against Sacramento and No. 5 pick De’Aaron Fox. And after cruising to a 91-74 win over Boston in the quarterfinals, Mosley says the team displayed plenty of resiliency to fight for four quarters against the Lakers.

“I can’t say enough about each guy on this team,” Mosley said. “They showed tremendous heart. They showed the ability to fight through no matter what’s going on. Like I said, we’ve been down in games. … I think we were down 10-1, and came back and fought our way back. Not saying we should start off games like that, but each guy has shown their ability to fight, and that’s exactly what we represent with the Mavericks. That’s what they’ve shown, so I think it’s going to be tough decisions.”

After impressive Summer League, Dennis Smith Jr. turns his attention to prepping for rookie season

DALLAS — After dazzling fans with highlight-reel plays throughout the MGM Resorts Summer League in Las Vegas earlier this month, Dallas Mavericks rookie Dennis Smith Jr. has immediately turned his attention to preparing for the upcoming 2017-18 season.

Garnering at spot on the All-NBA Summer League First Team, Smith filled up the stat sheet during the Mavericks’ six games in Las Vegas by averaging 17.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.2 steals per outing. He also showed the ability to score in a multitude of ways, shooting 45.7 percent from the field and 34.6 percent from beyond the three-point arc. Still, after success against some of the league’s up-and-coming stars, Smith feels that his game will continue to grow during his rookie season. That said, the ninth pick in June’s NBA Draft is admittedly eager to join forces with veterans like 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki, leading scorer Harrison Barnes and sharpshooter Wesley Matthews during the Mavs’ training camp in late September.

“I grew a lot. I learned a lot about the NBA game,” Smith said after leading the Mavs’ summer-league squad to the semifinals of the 10-day tournament.

“Individual things don’t matter,” he added. “You know, I’m just moving on from summer league now and getting ready for training camp. I wouldn’t say it gives me an upper hand on anything. There’s no vets out there. You know, it helped me with conditioning. I got used to playing the NBA game, and that’s the biggest thing.”

The 19-year-old Smith is no stranger to individual accolades, earning Atlantic Coast Conference Freshman of the Year and All-ACC Second Team honors during his lone collegiate season at North Carolina State. He also was the first player in ACC history to record two triple-doubles in the same season during conference play, becoming the first player to lead the ACC among freshmen in points and assists since Ed Cota during the ’96-97 season. But despite averaging 18.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 6.2 assists during his freshman season, Smith may have just begun to tap into his full potential in the Mavs’ system.

Scoring 14 points, grabbing seven rebounds and dishing six assists in 25 minutes, Smith had an impressive summer-league debut as the Mavericks captured a 91-75 victory over Chicago. He followed that performance up with a 25-point explosion the next day, leading the Mavs to an 88-77 victory over No. 4 overall draft pick Josh Jackson and the Phoenix Suns. Two days later, Smith picked up where he left off at with 16 points, three rebounds, five assists and three steals in a 78-73 victory against Miami to remain unbeaten. Another 25-point effort would come against No. 5 overall draft pick De’Aaron Fox and the Sacramento Kings during an 83-76 win. But despite scoring just three points on 1-of-6 shooting in Dallas’ 91-74 win over Boston in the quarterfinals, Smith bounced back to post 21 points, three rebounds, six assists and two steals in a losing effort as the Mavericks fell to the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers. And according to Mavs summer-league coach Jamahl Mosley, it’s that growth that will serve Smith well during the ’17-18 season.

“I keep saying this, and I’ll say it time and time again: He’s grown,” Mosley said while speaking highly of the first-year floor general. “He has the ability to learn on the fly, and he has the ability to process things in-game. As he gets going more and more, and as the season goes along, he’s going to grow for each game. It’s a continuous process, and he’s shown that he can continue to grow.”

2017 Las Vegas Summer League Game 6: Mavs vs. Lakers

Dennis Smith Jr. Drops 21 Pts

Dennis Smith Jr. goes for 21 points and six assist in the Mavericks outing against the Lakers.

2017 Las Vegas Summer League Game 5: Mavs vs. Celtics

GAME RECAP: Mavericks 91, Celtics 74

Mavs win 91-74 behind 20 from Yogi and 18 from Nico!

2017 Las Vegas Summer League Game 4: Mavs vs. Kings

GAME RECAP: Mavericks 83, Kings 76

Dennis Smith Jr. Scores 25 points as the Mavericks defeat the Kings, 83-76 at the 2017 Summer League in Las Vegas.