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?

Who’s it about? Dirk and Steph have more in common than you think

You might not think Dirk Nowitzki has much in common with Stephen Curry, but it turns out they’re not so different. Both players are superstars, both have won MVPs, and both have a ring.

More importantly, both players have changed the way we think about players at their positions. Nowitzki literally stretched the limits of what a power forward is capable of, launching three-pointers and playing a face-up game in the post the likes of which we’d never seen from a big man. Curry, meanwhile, put to rest the notion that a team whose point guard led the team in scoring could never win a championship. The Warriors star routinely takes 30-plus-foot pull-up three-pointers in transition and in the halfcourt. Neither player is conventional, and that’s good.

To prove just how similar our perception of these superstars are, here are 10 quotes — five about Curry, five about Nowitzki — that have been published between 1998-2015. Check them out and take a guess at who each one is about, then click to find out and to see who said it. (Don’t cheat!)

If anything, hopefully this exercise shows you not only that these two have more in common than you thought, but also that each player has made a huge impact on the sport, and one that we might not fully understand and appreciate for years to come.

(He) integrates volume, efficiency, and ubiquity better than anyone right now. Moreover, he is hardly ever wide open when he shoots.

Grantland’s Kirk Goldsberry ranked the NBA’s best shooters in 2014 and wrote this about Dirk. (He ranked Steph second.)

The boy is a genius.

NBA legend Charles Barkley said this about Nowitzki in 1998 after Dirk dominated an exhibition game between European up-and-comers and current NBA players — including Barkley and Scottie Pippen — on the Nike Hoop Heroes tour. That same year, Nowitzki scored 33 points at the Nike Hoop Summit, taking the basketball world by storm and setting the event’s all-time scoring record, a mark which would stand for 12 years.

…best shooter to ever play.

Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant tweeted the compliment about Curry in 2014. It’s well-known that Durant looks up to Nowitzki, even going as far as to say he’d take Nowitzki and Larry Bird as teammates on his dream (fictional) 3-on-3 team. This praise, though, went to Steph.

Plain and simple. Revolutionized his position.

ESPN insider Marc Stein dropped this Twitter nugget the night Dirk passed Shaquille O’Neal for sixth place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list in December 2015. Although Stein has spent much of this season chronicling Curry and his club’s success in Oakland, the reporter is based in Dallas and has spent years closely following the Mavericks, Nowitzki in particular. There’s perhaps no greater media authority when it comes to Dallas basketball than the ESPN man.

(He) is changing the way the game is played before our eyes. What he's doing right now, he's changing the way our game is going to be played in the future. It's really historic.

This high praise comes from none other than Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle, but it’s not directed toward his own player. He said this about Steph ahead of the two teams’ December 2015 matchup. Carlisle knows a thing or two about players who change the game, too, as he’s spent the last eight seasons coaching a player who forever changed the power forward position, ushering in an era of 4-out, wide-open basketball.

If you train hard enough, you can learn to shoot like (him). You can be that guy. You can make money playing basketball at its highest level.

The Arizona Republic’s Dan Bickley mused on Steph’s abilities and how, as a relatively small player, his monumental success has impacted the culture perhaps more than a super-sized player would. In the same 2015 article, Bickley compares Curry to Steve Nash, long a running buddy with Nowitzki in Dallas during the early-2000s.

Far below NBA standard in regard to explosiveness and athleticism.

NBADraft.net is one of the most well-respected draft sites out there, but it could not have been more off the mark when it had this to say about Steph in 2009. This runs well alongside Bickley’s column about Curry, a superstar with almost relatable qualities and shortcomings. It’s true that Curry isn’t a superathlete in the same vein as players like Russell Westbrook or John Wall, but — as has been the case with Dirk throughout his career — that hasn’t stopped him from winning an MVP and a championship.

He's a defensive liability. He's not an especially good rebounder or passer. He does not have the skills to make his whole team better, to lead by example and will them all to play like a champion.

Dirk faced his fair share of critics early in his career, and even through his physical prime. Bleacher Report published this about him in 2009 in a column which argued the Mavericks would never win a championship with Nowitzki as the best player. Two years later, Dirk would prove that idea — an opinion many national and local media shared — to be nothing but absolute hogwash, as Nowitzki went on one of the greatest individual playoff runs we’ve ever seen.

He was aware of what was being printed in all of the scouting reports. He was very conscientious of it. It just continued to motivate him to do what he did best, which was make defenders pay the price for even attempting to guard him.

Avery Johnson, Dirk’s former coach, had this to say about Nowitzki in a 2015 Bleacher Report article by DFW-based writer Jeff Caplan. Both Dirk and Steph have faced plenty of criticism throughout their careers, yet both have turned doubt — both real and perceived — into motivation to get even better. Both are members of the 50/40/90 club and both are virtually unguardable. You’d be hard-pressed to find two more efficient shooters in this era. Both have been so good that scouting reports are almost useless; there’s no way to slow down Curry now, and in Nowitzki’s prime there was nothing you could do to keep him from getting his customary 25 points.

(He) is leaving his mark on the game, but his legacy won't be seen this year. It will show up five, 10 years down the road when the younger generation who grew up watching him play imitate his style.

The Denver Post’s Joe Nguyen wrote this about Steph in 2015. This is perhaps the most interesting quote of all, because it forecasts an NBA landscape filled with players who grew up watching Curry do what Curry does. Nguyen predicts the game will change as a direct result of what the Warriors star is doing today. Sound familiar? It should. The NBA is a different league today than it was when Dirk entered the mix almost 20 years ago. Teams rely on stretch-4s now like never before, and it has a heck of a lot to do with Nowitzki. The power forward position is now arguably the most pivotal in the entire league — we see coaches gameplan around who the other team has at that spot more than we do at any other position. Nowitzki didn’t just begin the revolution. He was the revolution.