Handed play-calling duties in his 3rd preseason game, Dennis Smith Jr. accepts heavy responsibility

DALLAS — Although he admits that the Dallas Mavericks’ offense sputtered during Thursday’s 112-89 loss in Orlando, assistant coach Melvin Hunt believes rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. took another step forward in his progression while playing without the team’s veterans.

Traveling to Orlando without head coach Rick Carlisle (illness), 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki (rest), leading scorer Harrison Barnes (rest), backup guard J.J. Barea (rest), veteran Devin Harris (rest), starting swingman Wesley Matthews (rest), big man Josh McRoberts (rest), second-year standout Dorian Finney-Smith (left knee soreness) and center Nerlens Noel (rest), the Mavericks (2-1) found themselves severely shorthanded on the second night of a back-to-back. The outcome was the team’s first loss in exhibition play, failing to keep pace with the young and athletic Magic (1-1) on the road. However, there were positive signs of growth, according to Hunt, as Smith took charge of the play-calling duties. And despite seeing the team fall without its veteran leaders, Hunt says he left the court encouraged for the future.

“Dennis Smith can learn,” Hunt concluded after Thursday’s defeat. “We had nine assists (Thursday night). Ouch. You know, we’ve got to have more than nine assists. I mean, we scored 89 points. It wasn’t a lot of points, but with nine assists, we’ve got film to show these guys.

“You know, with (Smith’s) speed, he’s got a wonderful weapon. And he’s learning how to use it at this level,” the coach added. “We’ve got to help him manage it, and that’s a great thing. The best part of the day was I sat down and watched film with him from (Wednesday’s) game. That probably was the most rewarding part of the day, ’cause I know he got a little bit better from watching that film. Each night I think he’s got to acquire something else, and I love the fact that he’s doing it. You know, the first game it was pace and getting the ball up the court faster. He got a little bit better at that the last game. And then (Thursday night), it was a little bit better. When we had play calls, he called most of the game. I let him call most of the game himself. I helped him, obviously, but I wanted him to get the feeling of that responsibility. And he did some great things. It was subtle. You guys wouldn’t see it, but he did some subtle things that were big time. He saw a guy that hadn’t gotten a touch and hadn’t gotten a feel, and with every point guard you’re a psychologist. You do everything as a point guard, and he got that guy a touch and got that guy a feel. A guy ran the floor, and he took a gamble to throw a ball to a guy. That kind of stuff is growth for us, and it’s fun watching him develop.”

Scoring 13 points on 4-of-13 shooting in 19 minutes of work to finish as the Mavericks’ high-point man, the 19-year-old Smith added three rebounds and an assist in the loss. Meanwhile, the Magic also outshot the Mavericks for the game, 47.7 percent to 33 percent, nullifying Dallas’ 55-49 rebounding edge by forcing 17 turnovers. And after seeing his team outscored by 12 when he was on the floor, Smith took full responsibility for the offensive miscues.

“We didn’t do good, obviously. The score shows that,” Smith admitted after the loss. “We’ve got to come out and execute better. I believe that everybody competed hard. Everybody played as hard as they could, but there were a couple times we didn’t execute, and that’s on me.

“It was new and it was good for me. It’s something that I needed to do,” he added while addressing his play-calling duties. “From knowing the plays and knowing where to get guys at, it was good for me to call my own. It shows [Hunt] that I know it, so I think it’s necessary. … I’m very comfortable, ’cause at the end of the day it’s just playing basketball and making the right reads. I’ve been doing that for a long time. So, if I just come out and keep learning the game, I’ll keep getting better.”

Note: The Mavericks will now return to American Airlines Center on Monday night against the Orlando Magic. 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:

Dorian Finney-Smith (left knee soreness) — day-to-day

2017 Preseason Game 1: Mavs vs. Bucks

Highlights: Mavs vs. Bucks

Jonathan Motley hits the game-winner as the Mavs defeat the Bucks, 106-104.

Mavs face injury concerns heading into Wednesday’s season opener

DALLAS — With the preseason now behind them after limping to just a 2-5 mark in exhibition play, the Dallas Mavericks will try to make the necessary adjustments needed before Wednesday’s regular-season opener in Indiana.

Falling to a lopsided 101-75 loss Friday night in Denver to conclude the preseason, the Mavericks admittedly weren’t able to jell with their new-look team during seven exhibition contests. The Mavs will now attempt to address their miscues on the practice court, reconvening as a team Sunday after a much-needed day off. And after trimming the roster down from 20 to 15 by requesting waivers on Kyle Collinsworth, Jaleel Cousins, Keith Hornsby, Jonathan Gibson and C.J. Williams, the Mavericks will now turn their attention to the Eastern Conference perennial power Pacers.

“Truthfully, there’s going to be a lot of questions about us, because we played poorly in preseason,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle confessed following Sunday’s team practice. “Our starters struggled, and we’ve got a lot of work to do. These three days of practice before we play Indiana are extremely important, because they’re a tough matchup. I mean, they’re an improved team. They’re faster and more athletic than us, and so we’re going to have to be much improved by Wednesday to be where we want to be.”

Looking to hit the ground running on the road Opening Night, the Mavericks will quickly try to forget about their lackluster preseason. The Mavs also hope to have the full roster at their disposal, despite injuries to a few of the projected top contributors off the bench.

The Mavericks played the final four games of the preseason without backup big man Quincy Acy, hoping he can be ready by Wednesday night after practicing Sunday with his right foot sprain. The Mavs also took the floor minus reserve guard J.J. Barea during the final three outings after he suffered a left elbow sprain during a practice last week. Now, after also seeing veteran reserve guard Devin Harris exit Friday’s loss with a right great toe injury, the Mavs could find themselves shorthanded in the backcourt and leaning heavily on newcomer Seth Curry when they take on the Pacers.

“Well, if J.J. can’t go, then Curry is going to be our backup point, and we’re just going to have to figure out something,” Carlisle explained. “I knew that coming into this that we have some veteran guys that are in their 30s, and we have some fragility at that position. But we have four guys if you count Harris as a point guard, which he can do, but he really hasn’t played it the last three years. But if we’re down a couple of guys, we’re going to have to be resourceful and figure it out. It’s not an ideal situation, for sure.”

Curry, 26, led the Mavericks in scoring during the preseason, averaging 10.7 points per outing on 40.7 percent shooting while coming off the bench in six of the seven games. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound combo guard also showed that he can do a bit of everything on the court, pulling down 2.0 rebounds, dishing out 2.0 assists and collecting 1.2 steals a game this preseason in less than 19 minutes an outing. That said, Curry vows to be ready to step up if his veteran teammates aren’t able to play Wednesday night, hoping to give the team a lift to begin the regular season.

“It doesn’t change my approach at all. I don’t know what it means for me on Wednesday, but my approach has been the same all preseason,” Curry confidently said. “Every day I’m just coming in and working hard to just be ready for my opportunities. And when I get on the floor, I’m just being aggressive and trying to make the most of my minutes.”

Note: The Mavericks will now begin the regular season on Wednesday in Indiana, traveling for an Opening Night matchup against the Pacers. The game will tip off at 6 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest and 103.3 FM ESPN.

The Mavs return to American Airlines Center for the home opener on Friday night, hosting the Houston Rockets. The game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest and 103.3 FM ESPN. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by visiting Mavs.com, or by calling (214) 747-MAVS.

Injury updates:

Quincy Acy (right foot sprain) — day-to-day

J.J. Barea (left elbow sprain) — day-to-day

Devin Harris (right great toe injury) — doubtful

Preseason 2016 Game 7: Mavs at Nuggets

Shootaround: Justin Anderson

Mavs G Justin Anderson weighs in on tonight's game against Denver.

Mavs hope to narrow down rotation during final two preseason games

DALLAS — Although Friday’s 112-107 loss at Phoenix was just the first time the Dallas Mavericks’ five starters stepped on the floor together this preseason, the team believes it can still have its top contributors ready for the upcoming season with extended minutes during the final two exhibition contests.

Clocking exactly 19 minutes and 38 seconds together during Friday’s loss, point guard Deron Williams, swingman Wesley Matthews, versatile forward Harrison Barnes, 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki and center Andrew Bogut saw their first game action together. The starting five also showed its unfamiliarity with each other in the opening quarter of that game, combining to committing six of the team’s eight turnovers during the period. However, with opportunities for the starters to make amends for their lackluster play Wednesday night at home against Houston and Friday on the road versus Denver, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle says the group will see plenty of time together during the final two preseason outings as he begins to examine his regular-season rotation.

“Well, we’ve just got to play better, for one thing. We’ve been inconsistent. You know, our starters need to keep playing together, develop chemistry and a collective force to play with,” Carlisle explained following the team’s Monday practice.

He added: “We want to be healthy Opening Night, and we want to have a pretty good idea what our rotation is going to be. The next couple of games is going to be key for that.”

All told, the Mavericks’ starters combined to shoot 16 of 38 from the field against the Suns, committing 10 of the team’s 18 turnovers. Much of those offensive miscues came from a lack of familiarity, according to Bogut, as the unit works in two newcomers from a season ago. Now, with two exhibition matchups remaining before games begin to count in the standings, the new-look Mavs will try to utilize their experience and veteran leadership in order to jell together on the court.

“It’s a lot of guys that know how to play. It’s a lot of guys that have been in winning situations, so we have no excuse,” Bogut proclaimed. “We know what it takes, and this is a locker room that has a lot of pride. I think it will help us in the long run. We need as much time under our belt as we can get, just to get a rhythm and learn how to play together. A lot of us haven’t played with each other before, and we’ve just got to get our rotations down. I mean, it obviously puts pressure on coach [Carlisle] as well, ’cause he’s got to figure out who’s playing the bulk of the minutes, who are guys I can throw in every now and then, substitution patterns and all of that, so that’s what these preseason games are for.”

Playing 10 players in the first half of Friday’s contest, Carlisle may have already began trimming his rotation in anticipation for the regular-season opener on Oct. 26 at Indiana. That said, the Mavs were also playing without veteran reserve guard J.J. Barea (rest) and big man Quincy Acy (right foot injury), who both figure to be in the rotation when the upcoming season gets underway.

Meanwhile, the Mavericks’ roster currently sits at 20 after waiving big man Jameel Warney on Sunday and signing free-agent center Jaleel Cousins just 24 hours later. Still, despite needing to trim the roster down to at least 15 by Oct. 24, Carlisle says he will continue to focus on getting his top rotation players more minutes together on the court against a Houston team the Mavs will see four times during the regular season and twice within the first three games.

“The priority is the guys that are going to be the rotation guys,” Carlisle said. “The end of the roster, you know, we’ll figure that out. That’s not going to be a problem. We’ve just got to keep getting better each day. We had a very competitive day (Monday), which was good. And Houston presents some real tough challenges on defense, so we’ve got to get ramped up for that, ’cause we play them a couple of times early in the year.”

Note: The Mavericks will now home to host the Houston Rockets at American Airlines Center on Wednesday night. The game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on TXA 21 and 103.3 FM ESPN. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by visiting Mavs.com, or by calling (214) 747-MAVS.

Injury updates:

Quincy Acy (right foot injury) — out

Dwight Powell’s play in preseason could foreshadow breakout ’16-17 campaign

DALLAS — If the preseason is any indication of how effective he’ll be this upcoming season, then third-year big man Dwight Powell appears headed for a breakout 2016-17 campaign for the Dallas Mavericks.

Making two starts during his 69 appearances last season, the 25-year-old Powell averaged 5.8 points and 4.0 rebounds in 14.4 minutes a game. He then increased his production during the Mavericks’ first-round playoff series against Oklahoma City, posting 6.0 points and 4.3 boards an outing while appearing in four of the five games. Now, after signing a reported four-year deal worth $37 million this summer to return to the Mavs during free agency, the 6-foot-11 big man hopes to unleash his full potential on the rest of the league this season.

“Just really doing whatever I can to help us win,” Powell modestly said after the Mavericks’ 114-109 victory Tuesday over Oklahoma City. “I’m being more active on defense, trying to disrupt things and just be a spark plug off the bench.

“I’ve worked on my shot, handling the ball, and defensively I’ve just continued to evolve, concentrating on position defense and being able to help out weak side. Just continuing to try to help our team win however I can.”

Scoring nine points, grabbing seven rebounds, dishing an assist and collecting two steals in the Mavericks’ 116-102 loss against New Orleans during the preseason opener on Oct. 1, Powell showed glimpses of how much he can impact the game in 19 minutes of work. He followed that up with eight points, three boards, two assists and a block two nights later, helping to lead the Mavs to a 95-88 victory at home over Charlotte. However, Powell has made even more of an impact during the team’s last two exhibition outings while showcasing his all-around skills.

Clocking 24 minutes against Milwaukee last Saturday night during an 88-74 road defeat, Powell scored a team-best 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting in a losing effort, securing seven rebounds and recording a steal to boot. He replicated that performance Tuesday night against the Thunder’s physical front line by scoring 16 points, grabbing seven boards and collecting a steal in just 19 minutes. More importantly, according to Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, the energetic Powell played without finding himself in foul trouble. And while seeing time at both the center and power forward positions this preseason, Powell showed his value to the team.

“Well, he’s always been aggressive going for rebounds, but what he’s doing better this year is playing without fouling,” Carlisle said while praising Powell’s play this preseason. “It’s going to be so important, because he’s a physical player. He’s athletic, he has length, but he’s got to be able stay on the floor.”

Powell, a former Stanford standout, was originally drafted by Charlotte with the 45th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, but he quickly had his rights traded along with former Mav Brendan Haywood to Cleveland in exchange for Scotty Hopson and cash considerations. He was then dealt again to Boston along with Malcolm Thomas, Erik Murphy, John Lucas III, two future second-round picks and a trade exception in exchange for Keith Bogans and two future second-round picks. Powell made one more stop during his rookie season after that, heading to Dallas along with four-time All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo on Dec. 18, 2014, in a deal that sent Jae Crowder, Brandan Wright, Jameer Nelson, a 2015 first-round pick and a 2016 second-round pick back to the Celtics. Now, after finding a home with the Mavericks, Powell says he hopes to make an impact on a nightly basis simply by being active on the court.

“I’m trying to just be active and give us as many opportunities as I can, especially on offense. I try to crash and mess things up,” Powell explained. “I mean, to be honest, [the preseason] has really been a learning experience. I think defensively I can improve a lot, and there’s a lot of tape that I can sit down and analyze about positioning, especially in the post. And I can develop from there.”

Note: The Mavericks will now travel to Phoenix for their fifth preseason matchup on Friday night. The game will tip off at 9 p.m. CT, airing locally on 103.3 FM ESPN.

The Mavs return home to host the Houston Rockets at American Airlines Center next Wednesday night. The game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on TXA 21 and 103.3 FM ESPN. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by visiting Mavs.com, or by calling (214) 747-MAVS.

Injury updates:

Salah Mejri (right knee surgery) — out

Quincy Acy (right foot injury) — out

Wesley Matthews (rest) — out

Seth Curry (rest) — out

Preseason 2016 Game 4: Mavs vs. Thunder

Highlights: Mavs vs. Thunder

Dwight led the team with 16 points and Dirk made his preseason debut as the Mavs defeat the Thunder 114-109 Tuesday night.