In addition to starting at three, Harrison Barnes figures to shoulder bulk of backup power forward minutes again this season

DALLAS — It was a position of need for the Dallas Mavericks this offseason, leading the front office to bolster the front line with a bevy of additions at power forward. Still, after seeing leading scorer Harrison Barnes thrive at the power forward position during the 2016-17 schedule while 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki battled a nagging Achilles injury, the Mavericks figure to look to the budding star again for lengthy minutes at the four this upcoming season.

Seeing Nowitzki miss 25 of the Mavericks’ first 30 games last season due to the injury, Barnes picked up the slack while sliding from his customary small forward position. Barnes then slid back to the small forward spot after the mid-season acquisition of center Nerlens Noel in a trade with Philadelphia on Feb. 23. But after seeing Barnes produce a career-best season across the board, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle is confident that the 6-foot-8 versatile forward can once again handle a heavy workload. That said, Barnes is expected to be called upon once again this season while operating as a starting small forward and the primary backup behind Nowitzki.

“Coming into (last season), most people thought Barnes was a three that could play four. And what he’s showing now is he’s a true four and he’s a real offensive weapon at the four who can play three and who holds his own, despite being a little bit undersized at times,” Carlisle explained last season. “You know, any time Dirk is out there, it helps space the floor. And it’s going to give Barnes more room to operate.”

Emerging as the Mavericks’ No. 1 offensive weapon with Nowitzki out, Barnes finished last season averaging a team-high 19.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game while making 79 appearances. He also connected on 46.8 percent from the field and 35.1 percent from beyond the three-point arc, leading the Mavs in scoring 37 times last season after doing so with Golden State just six times in 307 games during his first four years in the NBA. Barnes set a new franchise record by reaching double figures in the first 43 games to begin his tenure in Dallas as well, showcasing his consistency on a nightly basis. However, after several offseason additions at power forward, the Mavericks will have plenty of options behind Nowitzki at the four spot.

Working out a trade this summer with Miami for the services of 30-year-old big man Josh McRoberts in exchange for former second-round pick A.J. Hammons, the Mavericks added a proven veteran to provide depth at the power forward position. The Mavs also inked German big man Maximilian Kleber, who figures to compete with McRoberts and three-year pro Dwight Powell for minutes at the four. Meanwhile, two-way contract signee Johnathan Motley and summer-league standout Brandon Ashley hope to contend for playing time this season in a loaded frontcourt. But it’s Barnes that is expected to shoulder the bulk of the minutes at the four behind Nowitzki after showing he could handle the responsibility last season. And according to the 25-year-old Barnes, he will be more than ready once again to take on the heavy burden at both positions this season.

“You know, (last year) I had to play a lot of four. Obviously, I’m capable of playing both positions. I like playing the three, but it’s whatever the team needs me to do,” Barnes proclaimed after the conclusion of the ’16-17 season. “Getting to the free-throw line more, rebounding and playmaking. There’s a lot of different things I can do to improve, and I plan to. That’s something I’ll be prepared for and ready for when that time comes.”

Mavs’ Dorian Finney-Smith looks to be vocal leader, expand his game during Las Vegas summer league

Practice Report: Dorian Finney-Smith

Mavs F Dorian Finney-Smith dishes on gearing up for the Las Vegas summer league, Dennis Smith Jr. and more.

DALLAS — Despite seeing the most time on the court of any first-year player on the Dallas Mavericks’ roster during the 2016-17 season after playing in 81 of 82 games, versatile forward Dorian Finney-Smith knew he needed to work on expanding his skillset this summer in order to return a better player in Year 2.

Finney-Smith averaged 4.3 points and 2.7 rebounds last season, clocking 20.3 minutes an outing while playing extended minutes when 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki was sidelined due to a right Achilles strain early in the schedule. However, the undrafted rookie also shot just 37.2 percent from the field and 29.3 percent from behind the three-point arc, struggling to match the lockdown defense that he supplied at the offensive end of the floor. The 24-year-old then committed to working on his overall game this offseason in the Mavericks’ summer conditioning program. And according to Mavs summer-league head coach Jamahl Mosley, fans will see the strides Finney-Smith has made during the league’s upcoming 10-day tournament, which will take place July 7-17 in Las Vegas.

“He’s a worker, he’s a big-time defender, he’s a big-time glue guy, and now the one thing that he’s doing consistently throughout the summer is he’s making shots. You’re going to ask him to do that, but also the other intangibles he does well. I think he’s just adding to it,” Mosley said while praising Finney-Smith during the Mavs’ three-day minicamp before departing for Las Vegas.

“A lot of rookies walk in, and some get minutes here, sporadic there, but what he’s done is he’s played consistent minutes,” the coach added. “I think he’s one of the guys who has played 81 out of 82 games as a rookie. And for your confidence level to know that you can come to this level and play as a rookie is big.”

The 6-foot-8, 220-pounder averaged 10.7 points and 7.1 rebounds in 134 career collegiate games while leading Florida in rebounding during all three of his seasons there. He also led the Gators in scoring in each of his final two campaigns, shooting 47.2 percent from the field and 42.6 percent from behind the three-point arc during his junior season. He then upped his production to averages of 14.7 points and 8.3 rebounds while connecting on 43.7 percent from the field and 36.8 percent from beyond the arc during his senior season. But after a lackluster rookie season at the offensive end, Finney-Smith says he’s ready to show his progression as a player and as a leader during summer-league play.

“Well, first of all, I’ve been working on my shot, trying to stop putting it so far behind my head and keeping it in front,” Finney-Smith proclaimed. “I’m working on my ball-handling with [Mavs basketball development coach God Shammgod], and in summer league right now I’m playing the four and trying to expand my game. You know, I’m playing the four and the three.

“I know I have to be a little bit more vocal, playing 81 games and playing a lot of NBA minutes. Not even noticing, but guys look up to you ’cause you did play that many minutes, so I was designated to be the guy to be verbal and help this team get wins. … You know, we’ve got a lot of roster guys on this team, and I feel like we should have a successful week or however long we’re there. You know, we’ve all been here the whole summer working out, so I’ve seen them get better. It’s just going to be on us to perform. I know coach (Mosley) will put us in the right situation. We’ve just got to go out there and execute.”

Harrison Barnes’ ‘incredible year’ has carried over to summer training, Dirk Nowitzki says

DALLAS — After producing a career-best season during his first campaign with the Dallas Mavericks, versatile forward Harrison Barnes has continued to patent his game this summer.

Seeing 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki miss 25 of the Mavericks’ first 30 games this season due to a right Achilles strain, Barnes assumed the bulk of the scoring responsibilities in his absence while averaging a career-high and team-best 19.2 points per game. The 25-year-old also showed why he was so coveted by the Dallas front office last summer after inking a reported four-year deal worth $94 million. And according to Nowitzki, Barnes’ impressive play this season has carried over to a strong summer of training in preparation for taking the torch from the future Hall of Famer next year.

“Well, I think if you talk to most of the players, I think Harrison already took that this season. He took all my plays. He took all my crunch-time plays, which I’m still a little sensitive about, but I’m really happy for Harrison,” Nowitzki joked while praising Barnes during an appearance at Mavs Basketball Academy’s hoop camp on Tuesday. “He’s a great guy. He’s a young guy who has got his stuff together like no other, and he works incredibly hard. I mean, he and Dwight (Powell) are in the gym every morning. They’re there at 6 or 7 o’clock like maniacs, and Wesley (Matthews) is in the gym. It’s just fun to watch these guys work hard and try to get better. And like I said, Harrison had an incredible year really taking this team over and coming through for us in clutch situations. So, I’m happy for him.”

After competing with the 73-win Golden State Warriors during the ’15-16 campaign and falling to the eventual champion Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, Barnes captured a gold medal in the Rio Olympic Games last summer with Team USA. He then signed with the Mavericks and quickly made a strong first impression, setting a new franchise record by scoring double figures in the first 43 games to begin his tenure in Dallas.

The 6-foot-8, 225-pound Barnes played in the Mavericks’ first 79 games before being shut down to close the schedule. All told, he connected on 46.8 percent from the field for the season and 35.1 percent from the three-point arc, clocking a career-high 35.5 minutes per outing. He also led the Mavs in scoring 37 times after doing so with Golden State just six times in 307 games. And after producing seven 30-point games this season following just one such outing in his first four years with the Warriors, Barnes has apparently tackled the offseason with the same tenacity.

Nicolas Brussino’s development as ‘point forward’ could prove to be critical for Mavs next season

DALLAS — After having the ball placed in his hands frequently near the close of the 2016-17 regular-season schedule, Argentine swingman Nicolas Brussino’s development as a playmaker could prove to be vital to the success of the Dallas Mavericks next season.

Playing in 54 games during his rookie campaign with the Mavericks, Brussino averaged 2.8 points, 1.7 rebounds and .9 assists in 9.6 minutes an outing. He also shot just 36.9 percent from the field and 30.5 percent from three-point range, struggling to adjust to the NBA game after an extensive international career. However, the 24-year-old began to play his best basketball near the close of the regular season while getting additional playing time as the Mavericks sat their veterans. And according to Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, Brussino’s emergence as a potential point forward could be beneficial for the team going into next season.

“He really knows how to play, and we wanted to get him a stretch of minutes in real NBA games playing the point. We’ve seen his ball skills, and we’ve seen his ability to read defenses. And it was a good test, because they were pressuring fullcourt. I thought he did a lot of good things, and this is a great opportunity for us to take a look at some of this stuff,” Carlisle said of Brussino’s late-season contributions.

“You know, from an understanding of the game perspective, he can do it. You know, when athletic guys pressure him, he’s got to adjust,” the coach added. “You know, they were being physical with him early. He adjusted, he got in a more leveraged position on offense and defense, and he made them foul him a few times. … You know, he’s also showing that in a pinch you can put him out there at point, and he can run the team and get through it.”

Seeing an increase in his playing time during the final month of the season, Brussino averaged 9.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists in the last seven games. He also shot 39.3 percent from the field and 34.2 percent from behind the three-point arc during that span, taking advantage of his additional time on the court by showcasing his all-around skills.

The 6-foot-8, 215-pound Brussino headed into the offseason on a high note as well, tallying a career-high 15 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals while helping to lead the Mavericks to a 100-93 win in Memphis during the season finale on April 12. But as his veteran teammates pointed out, the versatile forward is just beginning to tap into his full potential.

“He finds guys,” Mavs leading scorer Harrison Barnes matter-of-factly said of Brussino’s playmaking skills. “He does a good job. You know, he’s confident, and I think it’s just getting him more reps just so he feels more and more comfortable. But it was great for him.”

“I mean, it’s hard. The first season is hard, I think, for anybody. The hardest thing to put in your game, I think, is consistency. To bring it every night, to play at a high level every night is hard,” 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki added. “It’s easy to have a good game here and there, and then disappear for a week and have another good game. The hardest thing in this league is work yourself up to be a consistent, great player. That’s tough, and it takes a lot of work and a lot of experience. … You know, he’s played international ball for a long time. He can play, he’s a good shooter when he has time, he’s a smart player, and he obviously works hard. You know, every day he comes in and does his work. His English needs some work, but hey, he kept playing. He’s trying to communicate out there, and he was big for us.”

Taking weekly English-speaking classes throughout this season, Brussino admittedly had to battle a league barrier while growing more comfortable with his teammates on the court. That said, Brussino’s production increased as he gained a greater grasp of the English language.

Brussino played the ’15-16 season with Penarol Mar del Plata, averaging 14.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.5 steals per outing in 59 games. He also connected on 55.6 percent from the field and 39.4 percent from three-point range that season before earning a spot alongside the likes of San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili and former Brooklyn Net Luis Scola on the Argentine national team that competed in the Rio Olympic Games last summer. But as Brussino showed throughout this season, he’s most effective when the ball is in his hands as a playmaker. And according to Mavs assistant coach Kaleb Canales, Brussino could have earned himself more opportunities to be placed in that role next season.

“You know, with his previous team, he played the point a lot. And with his overall game, a lot of it is dictated by him passing, finding shooters and finding slashers that slash to the basket and make plays,” Canales explained. “He loves to pass. And aside from the shooting, he’s a very good shooter, but he just loves to pass the ball to his teammates.”

Jarrod Uthoff hopes he showed Mavs’ brass what he can do late in ’16-17 season

DALLAS — Giving the Dallas Mavericks’ front office a small sample of how effective he can be when handed the opportunity to play during the final six games of the 2016-17 season, versatile forward Jarrod Uthoff now hopes he cemented a spot on next year’s team.

The 6-9, 220-pound Uthoff originally signed a 10-day contract with the Mavericks on March 9, inking a second 10-day deal with the team on March 19. He later signed a reported multi-year deal that gives both him and the Mavericks an opportunity to watch the undrafted rookie grow in coach Rick Carlisle’s system. And after averaging 6.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 17.8 minutes an outing during the last six games of the regular season, Uthoff heads into the summer ready to earn an expanded role with the team.

“You get more time, you get comfortable and you get more adjusted to the game flow,” Uthoff explained. “A lot of times the young guys, like me, they don’t get in the game for a couple of games, and maybe you don’t play for a week or two. You know, it’s tough to come back in, play four minutes and expect to be productive. But I think that’s all a part of it, being productive in the time you get.”

Seeing little time during his two 10-day contracts with the team, Uthoff had to rely on his production in the NBA Development League as an audition for the Mavericks’ front office. He also tried to showcase the skills that made him an interesting prospect coming out of college after earning First Team All-Big Ten and Second Team All-American honors while averaging 18.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 2.6 blocks as a senior at Iowa.

Uthoff went undrafted in last June’s draft before signing as a rookie free agent with the Toronto Raptors. He appeared in just one preseason game for the Raptors before being waived on Oct. 22, sending him down to the D-League. Uthoff appeared in two games for the Mavs’ D-League affiliate, the Texas Legends, averaging 16.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 32.6 minutes per outing. All told, Uthoff averaged 11.1 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 24.4 minutes during 37 D-League appearances, playing stints with the Toronto 905, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants and Legends this season. But despite starring on the D-League level, Uthoff believes he may have found a home in Dallas.

“You know, I’m excited to be a part of this organization. I was confident in my abilities, and there was a connection right from the get-go with this organization. With the feel for it, it just feels right for me,” Uthoff proclaimed.

“I understand the system,” he added. “I understand how it works. I can shoot the ball, and I play both ends of the court. I think that’s what it came down to. You know, it’s just a feel. I like the players, and there’s a good feel there with the coaching staff, all the front-office people and the trainers. Everyone is very positive.”

Uthoff finished the season averaging 4.4 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.0 assists in nine games with the Mavericks, clocking 12.8 minutes an outing. He also shot 42.1 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from behind the three-point arc, giving the Mavericks a reliable stretch power forward off the bench.

He’ll now try to build on that play with a summer of training in the Mavericks’ off-season program. That said, Uthoff’s game is expected to continue growing under Carlisle’s tutelage.

“He was playing extremely well in the D-League. We haven’t had a lot of practices. But in individual workouts, in talking to him and hearing him talk about the game, he’s got a very good aptitude,” Carlisle said while speaking highly of the 23-year-old forward.

“There aren’t a lot of high-quality stretch fours in the draft, and so this is an opportunity for us to take a close look,” the coach added. “We’ll have the opportunity to look at him this summer and potentially make a further commitment, so it’s a win-win. He’s skilled. The guy was shooting in the high 40s from three, and he may have even been shooting 50 (percent) from three in the D-League. And he’s just got a very effective mid-range game. He’s taller and longer than you think. He blocked a lot of shots in the D-League, and there’s a lot of things about his game that are very intriguing.”

Harrison Barnes continues to grow into role as Mavs’ go-to scorer down stretch

DALLAS — What does it take to be a go-to scorer? Harrison Barnes is learning the answer to that question on the fly.

Leading the Dallas Mavericks to a comeback 112-105 overtime win over the Utah Jazz after trailing by as many as 21, the 24-year-old Barnes seemingly put his team on his back down the stretch Thursday night while scoring eight of his 31 points during the extra period. It was just the latest installment of Barnes’ growth into his go-to role with the Mavericks (21-32) this season, assuming the added responsibility in clutch moments from 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki. But despite showing once again that he’s ready to take the keys from Nowitzki with the game on the line after steering the Mavs to a win, Barnes admits that becoming the team’s focal point has still been a learning process.

“You know, it’s a work in progress. You know, each situation is different. That’s something you’ve got to work through, but I’m thankful that coach [Rick Carlisle] trust me in that situation late in the game, and my teammates trust me and have confidence in me. I’ve just got to produce,” Barnes candidly said after leading the Mavericks to their largest comeback win since trailing by as many as 23 in Denver on Feb. 26, 2016.

“You have to be aggressive,” he added. “There’s some times when you can trust the flow and trust the team. But as the game starts winding down and you start getting down the stretch, you have to realize if you haven’t touched the ball in eight minutes, you can’t just be expected to just grab it and just be able to make a game-winning shot. You have to get in a rhythm and get yourself into the game. It’s not necessarily being selfish. It’s just more so being aggressive.”

On the season, Barnes has certainly been aggressive while averaging a team-best 20.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists a game, clocking a career-high 35.9 minutes a game during his fifth season. He’s also connecting on 47.8 percent from the field and 34.2 percent beyond the three-point arc, starting all 53 games for the Mavericks this season.

Barnes has a team-high 26.5 percent usage rate and 104.1 offensive rating as well, tying with the likes of two-time MVP Stephen Curry while averaging 4.6 points in the fourth quarter this season on 47.6 percent shooting. That said, the 6-foot-8 versatile forward has shown that he wants the ball in his hands down the stretch, earning the trust of his head coach and teammates in clutch situations. And with Barnes’ hard work on the practice court paying off, Carlisle says the Mavs’ prized offseason signing is just beginning to tap into his full potential.

“He’s been great. There’s no other word to describe it,” Carlisle said while praising Barnes’ play this season. “He’s totally committed to being a great player. His work ethic is second to none of any player I’ve ever been around as a player or a coach. He is really a relentless worker, he loves the game, and he came here because he relished the opportunity to take on a bigger responsibility. There are some painful parts of it. Early in the year it was a bit of a struggle, but he pushed through. We’ve put the ball in his hands a lot, and he’s delivered time after time.”

Seeing the Jazz’s primary shot blocker, center Rudy Gobert, exit the game after fouling out with 21.2 seconds left in regulation Thursday night, Barnes then began to relentlessly attack the rim. Barnes also took advantage of having a larger defender on him late in Thursday’s game, attacking big man Derrick Favors repeatedly to help the Mavericks separate on the scoreboard.

Barnes’ driving and-one score capped a 7-0 Dallas start to overtime as the Mavs attempted to pull away. He then answered Gordon Hayward’s timely three-pointer with another driving score to put the Mavericks up 109-103 with 1:53 remaining in the extra period. The versatile forward delivered again with an athletic finish in traffic to put the Mavs ahead 111-105 with 34.2 seconds left. And after seeing Barnes split a pair of free throws with 17.3 seconds left to cap the scoring, Nowitzki praised the emergence of his young teammate this season.

“Gobert was out, and that was big with his length not being there. And [Barnes] really took his time,” Nowitzki said. “He wasn’t rushing, and he looked like he wasn’t in a rush. He likes to go off the dribble, so he got a good rhythm and really got to the basket a couple of times. When we were down four, we ran a quick drive for him. He was able to go and cut it to two with a dunk, so he had some big drives for us and some big layups.

“I mean, he’s come a long way from the games in preseason and at the beginning of the season,” Nowitzki added. “He’s playing really well, and I think he’s confident in that role now. He grew. I was out for a long time, and the ball kept coming to him. He made some unbelievable plays, kept us in games, and he won us some games over the last two months. You know, he’s a hard worker, and he wants to be in that position. It’s been fun to watch his progress.”

Note: The Mavericks will now continue their current homestand on Saturday night, hosting the Orlando Magic. Orlando leads the season series 1-0 after a 95-87 home win on Nov. 19. The game will tip off at 8 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:

Deron Williams (left great toe sprain) — out

Andrew Bogut (right hamstring strain) — out

J.J. Barea (left calf strain) — out

Mavs coach Rick Carlisle hopes to see Justin Anderson ‘keep building’ entering Year 2

DALLAS — After coming on strong to close his rookie season with the Dallas Mavericks near the end of the 2015-16 schedule, much will be asked of versatile swingman Justin Anderson entering Year 2.

Selected with the 21st overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft, Anderson found it hard to immediately crack Mavs coach Rick Carlisle’s rotation early in the season while sliding behind veterans Wesley Matthews and Chandler Parsons on the depth chart. Anderson finished his rookie season having appeared in 55 games, averaging 3.8 points and 2.4 rebounds during his 11.8 minutes per outing. However, after seeing Parsons go down with a season-ending right knee injury, Anderson was inserted into the starting lineup and quickly provided a spark on March 28 in Denver, scoring 11 points, grabbing four rebounds, dishing two assists, grabbing a steal and registering two blocks in 24 minutes of action during a 97-88 victory. Carlisle now hopes Anderson continues to trend upward with his play, entering the upcoming season with high expectations for the promising young pro.

“Just to keep building,” Carlisle said in a recent interview with NBA TV when asked what his hopes for Anderson are entering the ’16-17 season. “You know, a young player needs experience to get better. When he first came here last summer, you know, he was a talented guy that was a good athlete and good defender, and he could make shots. But we were a flow-and-make-plays type of team, and not a big call-plays type of team. He had to learn our system, and he worked hard to keep things simple as the season went along. And towards the end, when we got banged up a little bit, he became a full-time starter. And he was one of the big reasons we got to the playoffs, so I like what he’s doing this summer. He’s a hard worker, he loves to play, he loves to be a part of a team, and so he’s another important guy as we look towards the future.”

Seeing little time on the court before having his minutes increased during the month of April to 26.3 an outing, the 22-year-old Anderson averaged 7.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.1 blocks during the final seven games of the regular season. He then upped his scoring average during the Mavericks’ first-round playoff series against Oklahoma City, posting 9.4 points, 4.0 boards and 1.4 assists in 18.8 minutes an outing as his team eventually fell in five games. Anderson also showed his full potential in the series-clinching Game 5 loss to the Thunder by filling up the stat sheet with 14 points, four rebounds, an assist, a block and three steals. Still, Anderson says he’s not satisfied as he tries to make his mark in the league.

The former Virginia standout continued to impress by averaging 16.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.6 assists in five games during the Las Vegas Summer League back in July. But despite now finding himself once again behind veterans in Matthews and new addition Harrison Barnes on the depth chart heading into training camp, Anderson says he’ll attempt to build on that personal success. He now hopes to learn from valuable playing time in his first season, looking to become a trusted contributor that Carlisle can turn to on a nightly basis.

“The reality of it is, at the end of the day, you’re going to come back to training camp in September and you’re going to see Wesley Matthews on one wing, Harrison Barnes on another wing, and Dirk Nowitzki, a Hall of Famer, getting his shots in his spots,” Anderson admitted this summer. “I think the best thing for me is to kind of be mature about this process and figure out what this team needs me to do this year, and go out there and try to practice it and try to put some of these things into play. With that being said, also having a high level of aggressiveness. But at the same time, just doing it the right way. Just playing the game the right way is what I’m focused on.”