Game 39: Mavs vs. Warriors

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

Dennis Smith Jr. signs with Under Armour

Mavs rookie Dennis Smith Jr. has signed with Under Armour, according to ESPN.com’s Nick DePaula.

Smith, the No. 9 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, will join his new teammate Seth Curry in representing the upstart company on the court. Seth’s brother, two-time MVP and reigning NBA champion Stephen Curry, is the most high-profile basketball player signed with UA. DePaula reported that Smith Jr. will instantly become one of the company’s featured talents.

“I am definitely excited to be a part of team Under Armour as I get ready to go into [training] camp for my rookie year,” Smith said. “Under Armour is an explosive brand in basketball right now, and I’m excited to join Stephen and Seth and the team at UA in making our mark together.”

When you think of sneaker deals, your first instinct might be to envision the Nike swoosh or Jumpman. Kris Stone, Under Armour’s pro basketball sports marketing director, embraces the underdog mentality and even attached the label to Smith, who was the fifth point guard drafted but, after a convincing performance at the Las Vegas Summer League, is already one of the favorites for Rookie of the Year.

“If you look at all the other brands we’re competing with, we’re not even a quarter of their size and we’re the underdog. Dennis was overlooked in the draft. We’re both still trying to climb a mountain,” Stone said. “He has a lot of hunger to be on top. Hopefully, we can really partner with him and not just have some transactional relationship. We’re looking to have a real partnership with him and help him get to those places that he wants to go.”

The Curry Bros., who both also hail from Smith’s native North Carolina, first became intensely familiar with the Mavs rookie’s game in 2015, when he was the talk of the SC30 camp, winning the one-on-one tournament and performing this highlight-reel play that produced a pretty hilarious reaction from Steph.

Smith and Seth Curry worked out together at the Mavs practice facility earlier in the summer, and Seth made a couple appearances at the Mavs’ Summer League games in Vegas. The two already already have a chemistry, which could serve them very well this season — especially if they become the starting backcourt. Even if they don’t start together, however, it’s always good for young players to develop relationships with the veterans around them. And given how meteoric Seth’s rise was last season, and how amazing Steph’s career has also been, Smith could do much worse than becoming close with the Currys.

“Seth was able to spend some time with him, and Seth was telling me how good of a person he is,” Stone told DePaula. “Coming from Seth, and understanding what the Curry family is all about, that really resonated with us.”

Smith dazzled in Las Vegas, drawing the attention of the league and its juggernaut footwear companies. Now all that’s left is the real games, which are approaching fast. Considering all the excitement surrounding Smith — not only locally, but nationally now — he could very well begin his rookie year as a must-watch player. The Mavs might have gotten themselves a good one.

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Dirk Nowitzki dishes on the infamous bike pic, social media, and workouts with Kristaps Porzingis

Dirk Nowitzki is having a blast this summer.

The notoriously laid-back legend has been sharing more of his personality on Twitter as the summer has worn on. Most recently, following the trend set before him by his superstar peers, the German shared an image of one of his most intense workouts yet. (Click to see each full tweet, including the responses.)

Before that, he was politely asking the NBA not to mention how old he turned on June 19…

…and telling basketball video game creators to fix his issues quickly…

…because we all know how well (or not well) he runs…

…but it’s all funny to him.

While on a conference call ahead of Saturday’s NBA Africa Game 2017, Nowitzki reminisced about his wonderful afternoon on the bike, and then revealed his unique approach to social media.

“Oh, man, that bike was awesome,” he said. “I was in Sweden with the kids and we were doing a little biking tour, and I figured I’m gonna count that as a workout and put it on Twitter. But it was just something funny. I didn’t think it was gonna blow up like that.

“I always try to have fun on social networks. I don’t try to take myself too serious. Guys who know me, they know that I always try to have fun. I always try to enjoy my time, and that’s just something fun and the fans loved it, so that was a good time.”

Of course, not everything is all fun and games on the internet. Some people become upset by what they read, some people are rude about what they say, and others still use it to send cryptic messages to or about other people. This has become an epidemic in the NBA, starting with the Clippers’ “Emoji War of 2015,” or whatever people want to call it, and has continued today with media and fans paying extremely close attention to every word and hashtag LeBron James, Isaiah Thomas, and other prominent stars post from their phones, often while on luxurious vacations around the world.

To many, social media is a means of communication, and sometimes you’ve got to be a little less than pleasant in order to get your point across. But to Nowitzki, it’s all about having fun.

Why, specifically, is James a good example of this? Well, last weekend, it just so happened that Mavs forward Harrison Barnes got married in Rhode Island. A few of his teammates joined (Nowitzki couldn’t, as he was overseas), but also in attendance were former teammates of Barnes’, including Kyrie Irving and Steph Curry. Thousands of headlines wrote themselves the next morning when a video surfaced of Curry poking fun at James’ workout dance, all the while Irving, James’ teammate, looking on in stitches. You would’ve thought next season’s NBA Finals were about to start, given the amount of attention that funny 20-second video received. Was it a diss? Does this mean Kyrie is unhappy in Cleveland? Is Steph really a nice guy if he’s making fun of someone else like this? Is LeBron mad?

To Nowitzki, however, the medium is the message. The story isn’t about what happened. It’s only a story because we know it happened.

“I think it’s just all fun. A bunch of years ago, before all the cell phones, nobody ever would have seen it,” Nowitzki said. “It was at Harrison’s wedding. People were having fun. I think sometimes we’re over-hyping these things. We’re here to have fun in this world. I just don’t think there’s any beef there at all. I think Steph was having a good time and that was it. I just think sometimes we’re a little too serious with stuff like that.”

To be clear, this is coming from a guy who posted a picture of himself next to a river on a bicycle with a child’s seat attached to the back, so he’s on one extreme end of the spectrum, for sure. But still: The man’s got a point.

While in South Africa, Nowitzki’s been working out with Mavs assistant Jamahl Mosley as well as coaches and players from other NBA teams, including Portland’s C.J. McCollum.

“We only have four baskets there, so it’s not like all the players that want to work out get their own baskets, so that’s how that came about,” Nowitzki said. “You have to share a little bit. One day, C.J. was sitting there and he was watching, and I think he was waiting for a basket, so I was like ‘hey, just come on in, we’ll shoot together.’ That’s what players do.”

Later, the pair would add Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, and, more notably, New York’s Kristaps Porzingis, who’s drawn comparisons to the German for most of his career and has gone on record saying he’s long hoped to work out with Nowitzki and his coach Holger Geschwindner.

“To me, it’s about having fun, about getting to know some of these guys,” Nowitzki said. “During the regular season, I’m a little I would say unapproachable for other teams. I don’t talk much during games. I don’t really mingle before the games, I don’t really see anybody after games. It’s all business for me.

“So I think stuff like this or stuff like All-Star Games, where I get to know some of these players, is great for me, to share some of the stories, to get to know some of the younger guys, some of the bright new stars. It’s all so fun for me, as well as hopefully for them.”

Based on what Nowitzki shows about his personality on Twitter, how could those young guys who use it way more than him not be having a great time?

Up-close look at NBA Finals will serve as motivator for Mavs’ Seth Curry in ’17-18

DALLAS — Sitting courtside as his older brother seized a second NBA title to close the 2016-17 season, Dallas Mavericks guard Seth Curry says he now has plenty of motivation needed to help lead his team back to championship contention next year.

Signing a reported two-year deal with the Mavericks last summer worth approximately $6 million, the 26-year-old Curry put up career-high numbers across the board during the ’16-17 campaign by averaging 12.8 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.1 steals in 29.0 minutes per outing. He also made 42 starts during his 70 appearances, shooting 48.1 percent from the field and 42.5 percent from behind the arc while emerging as a key contributor for the Mavs before suffering a left shoulder injury that forced him to miss the team’s final seven games. The 6-foot-3 combo guard then began the offseason rehabbing his way back to 100 percent, taking time to keep close tabs on his brother, two-time MVP Stephen Curry, and his own championship chase with the Golden State Warriors. And after seeing the Warriors defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers in five games for a second title in the last three years, the younger Curry brother hopes to do all he can to lead the Mavericks to that elite level next season.

“It’s great motivation,” Seth Curry said while making an appearance at Mavs Basketball Academy’s hoop camp last month. “Just being able to go to those Finals games, to see the level of intensity that the Finals are played at and the atmosphere, it’s the ultimate goal of a basketball player to be able to play on that stage and in that environment. For me personally, to watch that over the past few years, it’s a great motivation for me to get to the playoffs, first and foremost, and to play at the highest level.”

Stephen Curry, 29, averaged 26.8 points, 8.0 rebounds and 9.4 assists during the Finals, connecting on 44 percent from the field and 38.8 percent from the three-point line in the series. He then capped the series off in style with 34 points, six rebounds and 10 assists in the decisive Game 5. The performance and subsequent celebration will forever stay in his younger brother’s mind. That said, the budding star is eager to lead the Mavs to the playoffs after a 33-49 season.

“I was with him during the celebration for a week. He’s still going, obviously. I had to get back to work a little bit, but he’s going to extend that celebration. It’s just fun to see him get a second championship, and just to see all the work he’s put in and all the payoff for him and his team,” Seth Curry said.

“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,” he added. “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.”

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