Dennis Smith Jr.’s head-to-head matchup with Stephen Curry can serve as learning lesson for Mavs’ rookie point guard

DALLAS — Although it was only first-round draft pick Dennis Smith Jr.’s second professional game with the Dallas Mavericks, according to coach Rick Carlisle and 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki, it will serve as a lesson learned for years to come.

Matching up Monday night against two-time MVP Stephen Curry and the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors, Smith returned to the lineup after missing the previous two games due to left knee effusion. The cat-quick point guard was then immediately thrown into the fire, squaring off head-to-head with a perennial All-Star at his position. And after seeing Curry explode for a game-high 29 points and eight assists to help lead the Warriors (2-2) to a runaway 133-103 victory on the Mavericks’ home floor, Carlisle says Smith learned what he can expect to face on a nightly basis in the NBA.

“Well, there’s a lot of learning that’s going to happen in a very short period of time. And this is as challenging a situation a rookie point guard is going to be put in two games into his career,” Carlisle said after Smith’s 3-of-11 shooting night for 10 points and six rebounds in Monday’s loss. “I mean, this is his second game. I thought he did a lot of good things. Stats aren’t great, but he created a lot of problems at a lot of key points in the game when we were in the game. He’s just going to keep learning, and we’re going to support him.”

Led by Curry’s 7-of-15 shooting, the Warriors’ 55.8 percent from the field as a team bettered the Mavericks’ 39.6 percent for the game. Golden State also finished the night with a 50-42 rebounding edge, overcoming 16 turnovers for 18 Dallas points. More impressively, the Warriors put their foot on the gas in the second half after Smith and the Mavericks (0-4) closed to within three, 65-62, entering the intermission. That said, Nowitzki believes Smith received a crash course on what it will take for the Mavericks to compete with the league’s upper-echelon teams.

“Well, you know, the rookie season is tough, especially if you’re the point guard. There’s a lot of great players out there, and he’s going to have a challenge every night,” Nowitzki admitted. “Hopefully he can stay healthy here, get better from week to week, month to month, learn the rules, learn about some of those players and read the game better. But like I said, the sky is the limit. The kid is only 19, and he’s going to have a great, great future. But the first year is always tough. I don’t care who you are.”

Like Smith, Curry came into the league with a lot of high expectations as the seventh overall pick in the 2009 draft. He’s since lived up to and exceeded those expectations, making three straight All-Star appearances. Curry also became the first player in league history to unanimously win the MVP award during the ’15-16 season. And after leading the Warriors to three straight trips to the NBA Finals while capturing two titles, Smith says Curry has reached heights that he hopes to ascend to during his career.

Watching from afar as the 19-year-old Smith became the youngest player in league history to debut with a double-double in points and assists last Wednesday against Atlanta, Curry also sees Smith coming into his own during the seasons to come. Meanwhile, Curry believes Smith will lead the Mavericks to plenty of team success during his time in Dallas. But with their first head-to-head matchup going the Warriors’ way, Smith says he still has a lot to learn in order to reach Curry’s elite level.

“I mean, he’s a really good player,” Smith respectfully said of Curry. “You know, he’s different. I never guarded him or Klay (Thompson) before. That’s my first time, so I’ve got some adjustments to make. But, you know, I’m learning. … Debatably, he’s the best point guard in the NBA. That’s a goal I’m trying to get to.”

“He’s super athletic. You know, he knows how to play the game, and that’s the thing that’s the most underrated aspect of his game,” Curry said Monday with high praise for Smith. “The way he sees the floor, the way he tries to get his teammates involved, and he can shoot it. A lot of people fall in love with the way that he can high fly and play above the rim at times and just his explosiveness. But the thing that’s going to help him be a long-lasting pro and probably an All-Star one day in this league is that ability to play five-man basketball and get other guys involved, using his strengths to open up looks for other teammates. That’s something that you never know how rookies are going to transition into that mindset, as a point guard especially, and he’s shown he can do that. I’m sure that will continue, and it will only get better.”

Note: The Mavericks will now return to American Airlines Center on Wednesday against the Southwest Division rival Memphis Grizzlies. The game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest 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.

Injury updates:

Devin Harris (personal reasons) — out
Seth Curry (stress reaction, left tibia) — out
Josh McRoberts (lower extremity injury) — out

After injury-riddled ’16-17 season, Mavs’ J.J. Barea hopes to produce bounce-back year

DALLAS — After being forced to miss much of the 2016-17 schedule due to a nagging left calf injury, Dallas Mavericks veteran guard J.J. Barea hopes that a summer of rest serves him well heading into the upcoming season.

Last season, Barea played in just 35 games while battling through the lingering calf injury to average 10.9 points, 2.4 rebounds and 5.5 assists during 22.0 minutes per outing. He also showed what he could do when he was available for the Mavericks last season, connecting on 41.4 percent from the field and 35.8 percent from behind the three-point arc while operating as one of the team’s top playmakers off the bench. However, after playing in the fewest games since making just 33 appearances during his rookie year, Barea says he expects to give his team much more of a lift this season.

“You know, personally it was tough,” the cat-quick guard admitted after the conclusion of the ’16-17 season. “I’ve never been through what I went through (last season), but I learned a lot. I learned a lot about my injuries and about my calves, but I was able to finish healthy. … I’m going to be able to really work more on my body than basketball. With basketball, I think I’m in a good place and in a good rhythm knowing the game. So, I’ve just got to get to work on my body and be able to have a good year next year.”

Barea averaged 16.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 5.4 assists while competing in nine of the Mavericks’ first 10 games last season, picking up where he left off at after a career-best ’15-16 campaign. He was then forced out of the lineup after straining his calf during a 90-83 defeat in Boston on Nov. 16, setting the stage for a injury-riddled season.

All told, Barea missed 24 of 26 games from Nov. 18 to Jan. 5 before going down again during a 112-107 loss to Utah on Jan. 20. He later returned after sitting out 20 consecutive games, tallying nine points and three assists in 14 minutes during a 105-96 home win over Brooklyn on March 9. The 11-year veteran played in 17 of the final 19 games from there, including a 111-104 win in Brooklyn on March 19 in which he registered 20 points and seven assists. And after averaging 12.2 points, 3.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists during five games in the month of April, Barea vows to come back stronger this season while serving as a mentor for his young teammates.

“When it happens, I’ve just got to be a little bit more patient. But hopefully I’m going to work on it, so it won’t happen again and I can go from there,” Barea said while putting his previous injuries behind him. “You know, I wanted to finish the year strong and be out there doing my thing again, so I could go into the summer a little bit more at ease. But anytime I could go out there and help the team out as much as I could, just being out there with them and finishing the year out was good for me.

“Now, for me, I always just want to be out there and produce on the court. But outside the court, just helping out and keeping (younger teammates) positive. With everything I went through early, I just want to show them things to do and stuff like that. Just helping as much as I can.”

Mavs are instilling ‘stoic’ mentality in rookie Dennis Smith Jr. before joining veteran-laden team

DALLAS — Entering his rookie season at the tender age of just 19 years old, Dallas Mavericks first-year floor general Dennis Smith Jr. knows he’ll admittedly make his fair share of mistakes during the 2017-18 campaign.

Taken with the No. 9 pick in June’s NBA Draft, Smith will have lofty expectations placed on his shoulders when training camp begins in late September. He will also be asked to immediately step in and contribute, hoping to assume the starting point-guard duties from Day 1. That said, Smith will slide into the lineup and be asked to lead a group of veterans. And with the Mavericks’ coaching preaching to remain stoic at all times, Smith will try to stay even-keeled while learning on the fly this season.

“You know, I’ve got a lot to figure out about the NBA,” Smith admitted last month after competing with the Mavs’ Las Vegas summer-league squad. “This is my first time playing in the NBA, and there’s different rules. You know, I’ve got a lot of things to learn, and the only way to learn is to go out there and make mistakes.

“You know, I’m taking it step by step,” he added. “I’m a guy that wears my heart on my sleeve, and that’s the way I was born. I carry that throughout my whole life, but I’m getting better with it. It’s going to take some time, but eventually I’ll have it down pat.”

Smith more than held his own after his first experience in the Mavericks’ system last month, earning a spot on the All-NBA Summer League First Team. Now, the former North Carolina State standout will try to carry that success over to the regular season and keep his emotions in check while attempting to lead Dallas’ veteran-laden team.

Smith averaged 17.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.2 steals in six games during summer-league play, leading the Mavs to the semifinals of the tournament and a 5-1 record. He also connected on 45.7 percent from the field and 34.6 percent from behind the three-point line, showcasing his ability to score in a multitude of ways. But according to Mavs summer-league head coach Jamahl Mosley, the young guard had plenty of lessons learned after making mistakes on the court as well. And it’s Smith’s ability not to be deterred by those mistakes that Mosley believes will best serve the Mavericks this season.

“He has the ability to pick up things quick,” Mosley said while praising Smith’s play in Las Vegas. “He has the ability to right away, if something is happening, he figures it out, checks it and then goes to whatever the next process is. He steps into it, which I really think that’s a big thing for a young guy. There was a game where he missed a couple of shots, he turned it over, there was a back-and-forth, and he comes down to the bench with his head down for a couple of seconds. I said something to him really quick, and next thing you know he comes out and makes three plays. Things like that, most guys are in the tank for the next five possessions. He turned it around right away, so that’s tough.

“I think going forward is going to be huge, because of that. All eyes are going to be on him, and he needs to stay the same at all times. I know there’s going to be ups and downs, missed shots and mistakes made. But at the end of the day, he only can control what he can control, and that’s the message I’m trying to get across to him. I really just think he needs to find his identity. At the end of the day, there’s going to be a ton of things we’re going to ask him to work on. But body language, demeanor, how he approaches the game and having a game plan each time he steps on the floor is going to go a long way. Whether he’s with veterans or young guys, him controlling who he is will be huge.”

Mavs expect Dennis Smith Jr., Yogi Ferrell ‘to push each other’ for minutes in ’17-18

The Film Room: Dennis Smith Jr.

Bobby Karalla breaks down Mavs rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr.'s game, and how he can use his athleticism to take the Mavericks' offense to the next level.

DALLAS — There was a revolving door at point guard for the Dallas Mavericks during the 2016-17 season, leading the front office to nab North Carolina State freshman standout Dennis Smith Jr. with the No. 9 pick in last month’s NBA Draft. Still, despite high hopes for Smith during his rookie season, the Mavericks don’t expect the cat-quick guard to be awarded the starting spot without a challenge from second-year lead guard Yogi Ferrell.

Last season, Ferrell averaged 11.3 points, 2.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.1 steals in 36 games with the Mavericks, making 29 starts after originally being signed to a 10-day contract on Jan. 28. He also shot 41.2 percent from the field and 40.3 percent from behind the three-point arc, garnering a spot on the NBA’s All-Rookie Second Team to become the first Mav to do so since Marquis Daniels and Josh Howard during the ’03-04 campaign. Ferrell was also named Western Conference Rookie of the Month during February, becoming the first Mav to receive the honor since Devin Harris in 2004. And according to Mavs owner Mark Cuban, Ferrell will certainly challenge Smith for the starting point-guard duties when training camp gets underway in late September.

“I think Yogi and Dennis are going to push each other,” Cuban said during Smith’s introductory press conference with the Dallas media last month. “You know, Yogi is super competitive. He started a lot of games as a D-League call-up and basically a 10-day, and I know that he’s just as competitive as Dennis is. They’re going to push each other. And I think that young core is what we want to continue to build on and grow with, and hopefully surprise a lot of people.”

Smith is ready for a healthy competition, according to Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson, after a stellar season at the collegiate level.

The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Smith averaged 18.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 6.2 assists last season, shooting 45.5 percent from the field and 35.9 percent from behind the three-point arc. He also earned Atlantic Coast Conference Freshman of the Year and a spot on the All-ACC Second Team after becoming the first player in ACC history to record two triple-doubles in the same season during conference play. Likewise, Smith became the first player to lead the ACC among freshmen in points and assists since Ed Cota during the ’96-97 season. Now, Nelson says Smith is ready to thrive in Mavs coach Rick Carlisle’s system as he tries to revitalize a Dallas attack that ranked 30th in scoring (97.9 ppg), 27th in assists (20.8 pg) and 23rd with an offensive rating of 103.7.

“Those keys are earned. You know, it’s going to be an interesting training camp,” Nelson explained. “I think Dennis is going to play for one of the best coaches in the NBA. That being said, I think internally you can’t help but be excited by the potential, but he wouldn’t want it any other way. Just knowing the character of Dennis and knowing his family and surrounding structure, he’s going to want to earn those minutes. He’s truly a winner in every sense of the word.”

Dennis Smith Jr.’s raw athleticism helps Mavs keep pace with NBA’s new trend at point guard

DALLAS — After seeing newly-named MVP Russell Westbrook dominate the NBA en route to a record number of triple-doubles in a season, the Dallas Mavericks are hoping that a player with similar athletic ability can also take the league by storm next year.

This season, Westbrook averaged 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists, becoming the first player since Oscar Robertson during the ’61–62 campaign to average a triple-double for an entire season. He also broke Robertson’s record for most triple-doubles in a single season with 42, lifting the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 33-9 record in those games. Westbrook’s dominance speaks to a growing trend in the league of athletic and explosive lead guards to welcome in a new era. That said, the Mavericks hope the selection of former North Carolina State freshman standout Dennis Smith Jr. with the No. 9 pick in last week’s NBA Draft has a similar impact on their team next season.

“I believe it translates well,” the 19-year-old Smith proclaimed during his introductory press conference with the Dallas media last week. “Russell Westbrook is super athletic, and that’s a guy I watch a lot of. And he dominated this year. He had a great year, and I think that’s largely due to how athletic he is compared to other point guards. I believe I can be similar to that, in terms of above-average athleticism. … Russell Westbrook is just relentless. He attacks at every opportunity, and he competes every possession.”

Possessing a 48-inch vertical, Smith’s athleticism was well publicized after one season at the collegiate level. His ability to impact the game in a multitude of ways is also something that figures to elevate the play of the Mavericks after a 33-49 season.

The 6-foot-3, 195-pounder averaged 18.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 6.2 assists last season, shooting 45.5 percent from the field and 35.9 percent from behind the three-point arc. In the process, Smith earned Atlantic Coast Conference Freshman of the Year and a spot on the All-ACC Second Team after becoming the first player in ACC history to record two triple-doubles in the same season during conference play. The Mavs now hope Smith’s athleticism and do-it-all play translates to the next level. And according to Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson, Smith’s pure athleticism should complement 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki at the offensive end.

“I couldn’t be more excited about adding Dennis Smith to the roster,” Nelson said. “He’s an electric young player with tons of potential. Obviously, he’s young and minutes are earned in this league, but his skillset is rare. I think he’ll be a terrific fit. He’s a pick-and-roll player with big-time athleticism and tons of potential. And I think with [Mavs coach Rick Carlisle] and specifically the system that we play, it’s a really, really good fit. This was the guy that we were after. And if we had drafted a lot higher, he was the guy that we had circled. A strange set of circumstances panned out, a surprise pick or two, and we got our guy. So, again, positionally it fits. Really, the big hole was at point guard. He fits in really well with our guys, our chemistry and where we’re going. We think he can be a nice building block in our retool. And with Dirk specifically, he and Dirk in the pick-and-roll is exciting to think about. So, we think it’s really good in the here and now. It gives us a building block to move forward with, and we are just excited.”

Smith played at Trinity Christian School and averaged 22.2 points per game as a junior before being named North Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year. However, after tearing his ACL, Smith was forced to miss his senior season in high school and rehab his way back onto the court. The Fayetteville, N.C., native then showed no signs of the injury during his only season in college, dazzling fans with explosive plays on a regular basis. But according to Mavs owner Mark Cuban, Smith won’t be able to rely on simply his athleticism in order to be effective in the league.

“Dennis is someone we’ve had our eye on since we started scouting this class,” Cuban explained. “Dennis is a money player. He’s here to produce, and the results will speak for themselves. You know, we can project, we can hope and we can talk about a lot of different things, but it’s all just talk until he walks out to the court. But the good news is, as you heard him say, he works hard, he prepares and he watches tape. There’s a lot of kids that will come in, and just because they’ve been so much better physically and athletically than everybody at the different levels they’ve competed at they don’t really take the cerebral approach. Knowing that Dennis likes to watch film, knowing that he likes to learn, I think that’s going to be the difference maker. … Like I said earlier, we can watch him athletically, but it’s how he approaches the game, it’s his cerebral approach to the game and his willingness and desire to learn that makes the difference between a guy with All-Star potential and somebody that actually reaches that potential. So, we’re hoping when he walks on the court, I’m not going to say who he compared himself to with a jump shot, but hopefully he has that kind of rookie year.”

Despite Mavs’ drafting of Dennis Smith Jr., Seth Curry doesn’t see his role changing

DALLAS — Despite seeing the Dallas Mavericks take North Carolina State freshman point guard Dennis Smith Jr. with the ninth overall selection in last week’s NBA Draft, 26-year-old combo guard Seth Curry says he doesn’t expect his role with the team to change next year after a breakout 2016-17 season.

Last season, Curry put up career-high numbers across the board, averaging 12.8 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.1 steals in 29.0 minutes per outing while starting 42 times during his 70 games. He then saw his season come to an abrupt end due to a left shoulder injury that forced him to miss the team’s final seven games. But after his summer began with rehabbing the shoulder back to 100 percent, Curry immediately returned to the gym in preparation for next season. The young sharpshooter now says he’s eager to come back stronger and better during the ’17-18 campaign.

“I mean, the first month and a half or two months (of the offseason) it was basically just rehabbing my shoulder, getting that healthy and getting that right. Since then, I’ve just been getting back on the court, started lifting a little bit more and working out. So, I’m trying to get back in the flow and getting in shape, and I’m just trying to get better for next year,” Curry explained last week while making a surprise appearance at Mavs Basketball Academy hoop camp.

“For the past three weeks, I’ve been able to get on the court and go full contact with long workouts,” he added. “I did everything basketball-wise I want to do. I’m good. I think I’ve gotten past that problem for the most part, and I feel good.”

Showing that he can play with and without the ball in his hands, Curry emerged as a key member of the Mavericks’ backcourt moving forward after completing the first season of a reported two-year deal worth approximately $6 million. That said, Curry doesn’t see his role diminishing with the addition of Smith, hoping to see time at both guard positions again next season.

This season, Curry produced 11 games with at least 20 points, leading the team to an 8-3 record in those occasions and taking some of the offensive burden off the shoulders of leading scorer Harrison Barnes and 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki. He also ranked sixth in the entire NBA in three-point field goal percentage while connecting on 42.5 percent from behind the arc, shooting 48.1 percent from the field to boot. He’ll now try to build on that production with a second year in Mavs coach Rick Carlisle’s system. And despite likely sharing the primary ball-handling duties with Smith, Curry expects to be given more offensive responsibilities to help lead the Mavericks back to the playoffs.

“I just want to continue to be consistent with my play, so I can get better and just be reliable every single night and carve out my role even more on this team,” Curry explained. “I mean, we’re trying to get to the playoffs, so we’ve got to be better individually and as a team to get back to the playoffs and to make a dent in the league. So, it starts individually in the summer, getting better and everybody else having that chip on their shoulder as an individual and collectively as a team.

“I’m going to do what I do,” he added. “I’m going to continue to show things that I did last year and improve on them, continuing to try to be the versatile guy that I am and play the one and the two. Like I said, we’re trying to win games, so I’m going to do what I do. Come back better, hopefully, next year, and continue to carve out my role and have a bigger role for myself.”

Devin Harris says Mavs must draft well to keep pace with champion Warriors, upper echelon teams

DALLAS — He was the fifth overall selection by Washington in the 2004 NBA Draft before being dealt to Dallas and spending his first four seasons with the Mavericks, returning for a second stint with the team prior to the ’13-14 campaign.

Now, with this year’s draft just a week away, 13-year veteran Devin Harris says it’s essential that the Mavs select a building block for the future in order to keep pace with the NBA champion Golden State Warriors and the league’s upper echelon teams in the coming seasons.

Prior to signing NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant last summer in free agency, the Warriors built the core of their team through the draft. Golden State selected two-time MVP Stephen Curry with the No. 7 overall pick in the first round back in 2009, landing what would eventually become the cornerstone of their franchise. The Warriors then drafted perennial All-Star Klay Thompson with the 11th pick two years later, forming one of the league’s top backcourt duos. Golden State later selected versatile forward and defensive specialist Draymond Green in the second round of the 2012 draft, adding what became their third All-Star on a team that has now made three straight trips to the NBA Finals. Now, according to Harris, it’s imperative that the Mavericks hit a home run with the No. 9 pick in this year’s draft in order to both challenge the Warriors and lighten the load on 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki’s broad shoulders.

“I mean, it’s kind of hard to say, ‘cause the way the Warriors kind of constructed their team was that they had great drafts and then a few free agents here and there. You’ve got to draft well, especially with guys sticking around, players leaving and money being out there. If you draft a guy that you know can be a good player, that’s kind of where you start,” Harris said while making an appearance earlier this week at Mavs Basketball Academy’s overnight camp. “Free agents are kind of second tier, ‘cause that’s kind of like you’re going against 29 other teams. It’s kind of hard to say, ‘cause we have an aging star in Dirk, and he’s still playing. We do a lot still through him. You know, he’s moved more to a five position now, so we’re spread out. But then again we’re in a defensive scheme where we kind of struggle a little bit, because he struggles to move sometimes. It’s tough to see what we need exactly to get to a high level like that, ‘cause [the Warriors] have got pretty much four hybrids out there pretty much at all times, and not many teams have that. That’s kind of where they’ve cornered the market, so we start with just drafting great players and just try to put it all together, and we’ve just got to see what happens.”

The franchise has a great history of drafting with the ninth overall pick, grabbing Mavs great Rolando Blackman in 1981 and acquiring the rights to Nowitzki from Milwaukee with that selection in 1998. The Mavs now hope to strike it rich with the No. 9 pick once again when next Thursday’s draft rolls around.

The Mavericks ranked 30th by producing just 97.9 points an outing this season and 27th while dishing 20.8 assists a game as a team. Dallas also finished with an offensive rating of 103.7, ranking 23rd in the league in that department. That said, the Mavs could receive a boost at the offensive end with an addition to the backcourt. However, the Dallas front office may be forced to select the player that’s highest on its draft board should a lead guard not fall the Mavericks’ way. And according to Harris, it’s what the Mavs accomplish in the draft that will move the franchise forward after a 33-49 season.

“I mean, nine is a tough spot, especially with kind of the draft spots that we need. But it’s still the lottery, and we’re still going to get a good player,” Harris explained. “You know, from what I know and the history of the Mavs, they’re probably going to take the best player available at that time. I’ve kind of watched a little bit of workouts here and there, but I think it’s going to benefit us in the long term and in the short term. You know, point-guard play is tremendous in this league. And I play a little two, I play a little one and I play a little three, so obviously, my position doesn’t change. But having a point guard just really sets up your team to be successful.”