Mavs’ Dennis Smith Jr. will face gauntlet at point guard to start his rookie season

DALLAS — He’ll likely be handed a heavy offensive responsibility as soon as he steps onto the court to begin his rookie season with the Dallas Mavericks. But while leading the Mavericks’ offensive attack during the 2017-18 season, first-year floor general Dennis Smith Jr. will also be forced to defend a gauntlet of opposing point guards to start his rookie year.

Monday, the NBA and the Mavericks released the team’s schedule for the ’17-18 season. Beginning his NBA career against Atlanta’s Dennis Schroder at home on Oct. 18, Smith will then find himself matched up against No. 5 overall draft pick De’Aaron Fox, veteran lead guard George Hill and the Sacramento Kings two nights later. From there Smith will see some of the Western Conference’s top lead guards during his first week in the league with four straight games against perennial All-Star candidates like Houston’s Chris Paul, two-time MVP Stephen Curry of Golden State and Memphis’ Mike Conley. A date against No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz looms from there when the Mavs welcome in the Philadelphia 76ers on Oct. 28. And with early-season matchups against Washington’s John Wall, Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving, scoring champion Isaiah Thomas of Boston, San Antonio’s Tony Parker, Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon of Milwaukee and reigning MVP Russell Westbrook of Oklahoma City to come in November, Smith will immediately be thrown into the fire on the defensive end of the floor.

“This is a fact: There’s no player that comes into this that can be totally prepared to play defense in the NBA with the pace, the strength difference, the speed difference and all those kinds of things. But I think Dennis understands that staying on the court to do that means you’ve got to be strong in both areas,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said of Smith’s defensive abilities earlier this summer. “It’s important to attack the guy that’s going to be attacking you at the other end, but you’ve got to be able to guard him, too. And you’ve got to have a system in place where your teammates can help you do that, so that’s going to be one of the biggest parts of his learning curve. You know, I expect the offensive stuff to happen pretty naturally just based on what I’ve seen on film, but NBA defense is a different metabolic situation. There’s a lot to learn, and he understands that.

“You know, people are going to be coming at him hard as a rookie and as a guy that’s coming in with some accolades, some hype and things like that, and I think he understands it. I think he’s looking forward to that.”

The 19-year-old Smith’s offensive game is well publicized after becoming the first player to lead the ACC among freshmen in points and assists since Ed Cota during the ’96-97 season during his lone collegiate campaign at North Carolina State. He also filled up the stat sheet last season with the Wolfpack, averaging 18.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 6.2 assists while shooting 45.5 percent from the field and 35.9 percent from behind the three-point arc.

Perhaps more importantly, Smith collected a staggering 1.9 steals per game by showing an uncanny ability to play the passing lanes and create turnovers. Still, according to the cat-quick guard, he still has a lot to learn about playing defense at the NBA level. That learning process may be sped up during the Mavericks’ early-season schedule.

“I want to learn exactly how to play defense,” Smith confessed back in June. “You know, that’s not something that was really pressed about last year. And with the staff we had, we were more of an offense-oriented team, so we really didn’t learn too much about defense. I’m looking forward to learning a lot about it this year, and I think that will be the main thing — learning how to play.”

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.”

Yogi Ferrell looks forward to playing alongside rookie Dennis Smith Jr. in Mavs’ backcourt

DALLAS — Although the two will compete for minutes at the point guard position when the Dallas Mavericks begin training camp in late September, second-year standout Yogi Ferrell and rookie first-round draft pick Dennis Smith Jr. could also see time on the court together during the 2017-18 season.

Teaming together to lead the Mavericks during the MGM Resorts Summer League in Las Vegas last month, Ferrell and Smith pushed the Dallas team into the semifinals of the tournament while manning the starting backcourt. Ferrell averaged 13.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.2 steals during the Mavs’ six games, picking up where he left off at last season after earning a spot on the NBA’s All-Rookie Second Team. Meanwhile, Smith earned a spot on the All-NBA Summer League First Team, averaging 17.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.2 steals per outing as the Mavericks finished with a 5-1 record. The two cat-quick guards could now continue to find themselves playing together during the ’17-18 campaign. And after seeing success alongside Smith in the backcourt, Ferrell admits that he’s excited to see what the duo could accomplish during the upcoming season.

“I mean, sometimes I don’t have to do everything, so I definitely like that,” Ferrell said of playing alongside Smith during summer-league play. “I can play off the ball a little bit, and I can knock down open shots. You know, I don’t have to go out and kill myself every single play by bringing the ball up when they’re pressuring me, so it’s been good playing with Dennis.”

After going untaken in the last year’s NBA Draft, Ferrell signed as a free agent with the Brooklyn Nets on Nov. 9, 2016. The 6-footer then saw action in 10 games with Brooklyn, averaging 5.4 points, 1.2 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 15.1 minutes per contest before being waived on Dec. 8, 2016. Ferrell then starred with the Long Island Nets of the NBA G-League prior to being called up and signing a 10-day contract with the Mavericks on Jan. 28. Still, after averaging 11.3 points, 4.3 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 36 games (29 starts) with the Mavs during his rookie campaign, Ferrell doesn’t see the drafting of Smith in the first round as a demotion.

Ferrell was named Western Conference Rookie of the Month during February after scoring a career-high 32 points on 11-of-17 shooting and 9 of 11 from three-point range during a 108-104 win at Portland on Feb. 3. He also become the first undrafted rookie in NBA history to score 30-plus points and also lead his team in assists during that outing, tying the league’s rookie record for three-pointers in a single game. Ferrell now hopes to pass down his knowledge and experience to Smith as the first-year floor general embarks on his rookie season. That said, Ferrell could serve as Smith’s on-the-court mentor as the two try to help the Mavs bounce back from a 33-49 season.

“I’m just trying to tell him to play with pace,” Ferrell explained of his relationship with Smith. “He’s quick and fast just like I am, but he doesn’t have to play fast all the time. He can switch speeds, knowing when to go fast and know when to slow down. So, I’ve just been trying to help him with that so far.

“Everything that I’ve been through has helped,” he added. “That little stint with Brooklyn definitely helped me a lot, knowing the NBA lifestyle. And that made me ready for being with the Mavericks. I was able to show my full potential playing with the Mavericks. They let me play my game, so everything that I went through — the trials and tribulations — got me to this point.”

After patient waiting game for Dennis Smith Jr., Mavs get their man at No. 9 in NBA Draft

DALLAS — After playing the waiting game for their turn to select with the No. 9 overall pick in the NBA Draft, the Dallas Mavericks had their patience rewarded Thursday night with the rights to North Carolina State freshman standout Dennis Smith Jr.

The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Smith was an early-entry candidate to this year’s draft, averaging 18.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 6.2 assists while shooting 45.5 percent from the field and 35.9 percent from behind the three-point arc during his lone collegiate season. He also garnered plenty of accolades during one season in college, earning Atlantic Coast Conference Freshman of the Year and a spot on the All-ACC Second Team after leading the league in assists and finishing sixth in the conference in scoring. And according to Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, Smith could slide instantly into the starting lineup for the team next season.

“This is a huge day for us and a huge night,” Carlisle said shortly after the selection of Smith. “You know, I started studying the draft back in March, because of the way our season was going, and there were four really big-time point guards in the draft. I loved Dennis Smith, and I thought he was as good as any of them. I just never dreamed that at nine we would have an opportunity to take one of those four guys, and the stars fell the way that they fell.

“We’re getting a guy that is an instant impact guy. He has great quickness, he’s explosive, he can score and he can pass. We didn’t have him in for a workout, because it just didn’t seem like he was going to fall to us. But in the last several days a couple of our guys went down to a pro day that he had in Raleigh, and they had a great visit with him down there. [Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson], myself and Mike Finley facetimed with him a couple of days ago and asked him some pointed questions that were not easy questions for a guy in his position about coming to a team with some veterans. He’s a no-nonsense guy. … He has a hit-first personality, he wants to be great, and he has the ability to have great impact on our team. And before anybody ask, I think at this point and time I would project him as a starter. But he’s going to have to earn it, and he understands that. But this is a historic night for us, and we fulfilled a great need. Playmaking is such an important part of the NBA game now that having guys, like Dennis Smith Jr., that can create simply on their own … is a great blessing for us tonight.”

Smith became the first player to lead the ACC among freshmen in points and assists since Ed Cota during the 1996-97 season. The Fayetteville, N.C., native was also the first player in ACC history to record two triple-doubles in the same season during conference play.

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. The do-it-all guard then showed that the injury was not going to slow him down at the collegiate level, ascending to the top of the Mavs’ draft board to help revitalize Dallas’ stagnant offensive attack. Smith will now be asked to join forces with 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki and leading scorer Harrison Barnes to immediately boost a Dallas attack that ranked 30th in scoring (97.9 ppg), 27th in assists (20.8 apg) and 23rd with an offensive rating of 103.7.

“I couldn’t be more excited about adding Dennis Smith to the roster,” Nelson proclaimed. “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 Rick 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.”

“It was great. They came to my pro day, and they were impressed by what they saw. And I was very impressed,” the 19-year-old Smith added in a teleconference call with the Dallas media. “I’m already impressed by the history of the organization. And then to get to speak to them personally, it didn’t do anything but further my admiration for them. So, I was thankful whenever I heard my name called by them. I’m definitely motivated by (dropping to the 9th pick). I just use it as fuel to the fire. I’ve been underrated my whole life, and that’s perfectly fine with me. I’m accustom to it. I’m going to go out and be Dennis Smith, and nothing can stop that. The Mavs can expect to get a point guard who’s trying to win every game. Not selfish at all. Not caring about stats, but I do want to make my teammates better. I think that’s very important — winning games and having a great team effort. And I can bring that to the team.”

Yogi Ferrell says his rookie season with Mavs was filled with learning experiences

2016-17 Exit Interview: Yogi Ferrell

Mavs G Yogi Ferrell addresses the media for exit interviews.

DALLAS — After going from an undrafted free agent to being waived to signing a 10-day contract with a new team and eventually garnering Western Conference Rookie of the Month honors all within his first NBA season, point guard Yogi Ferrell admits that his first-year journey certainly wasn’t conventional.

Going untaken in last June’s draft and signing as a free agent with the Brooklyn Nets on Nov. 9, Ferrell saw action in 10 games and averaged 5.4 points, 1.7 assists and 1.2 rebounds in 15.1 minutes per contest before being waived on Dec. 8. He then quickly found himself starring in the NBA Development League for 18 games with the Long Island Nets, averaging 18.7 points, 2.9 rebounds and 5.8 assists in 35.7 minutes per outing to earn D-League All-Star honors. He was called up by the Dallas Mavericks’ front office with another opportunity to make his mark in the NBA from there. But despite eventually inking a multi-year contract with the Mavericks during a stellar rookie season, Ferrell says he still has something to prove to himself and his naysayers. 

“It’s been a whirlwind, man. It’s been a crazy past year for me in my first professional season, and I just stuck with it,” Ferrell confessed. “It was a lot of hard work. I just waited till my name was called for my next opportunity, and I just tried to make the most of it.

“I learned about myself to never doubt myself and my ability. I just feel like I maybe had some doubt after I got waived by Brooklyn, and I didn’t get picked up after a workout I had with an NBA team in the middle of the season. But I never doubted my ability. I stuck to what I was doing and what has gotten me to this point. I mean, honestly, I never had any doubt. And even when I was in the D-League and Brooklyn, I was still working hard and just waiting on my next turn. That was it.”

The 23-year-old Ferrell signed a 10-day contract with the Mavericks on Jan. 28, and he immediately stepped into the starting lineup to help the team combat injuries in the backcourt. But after he led the Mavs to a four-game winning streak in his first four outings with the team, Ferrell admittedly suffered through growing pains throughout his rookie season that he says will prove to be beneficial for years to come.

Ferrell took full advantage of his opportunity once he got it with the Mavericks, helping the team sweep a pivotal back-to-back in San Antonio and at home against the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers the following night in his first two games. After the Mavs’ dominant 113-95 win at home over Philadelphia on Feb. 1, Ferrell then scored a career-high 32 points on 11-of-17 shooting and 9 of 11 from three-point range during a 108-104 win in Portland two nights later. In the process, he tied the league’s rookie record for three-pointers in a single game that was originally set by ex-Mav Roddy Beaubois.

Ferrell’s 32 points were the most by an NBA player within his first 15 games since Blake Griffin scored 44 during his 14th career game back in 2010. Ferrell also became the first undrafted rookie in league history to score 30-plus points in a game in which he also led his team in assists after dishing out five during the win. He became just the third undrafted player in league history to score 30-plus points within his first 15 career NBA games as well, joining Connie Hawkins and Anthony Morrow. But after also joining All-Stars Stephen Curry, James Harden, Isaiah Thomas and Damian Lillard as one of only four players to hit nine three-pointers in a single game this season, Ferrell was more so proud of holding his own against former Finals MVP Tony Parker, All-Star guard Kyrie Irving and Lillard while leading his team to wins during three of his first four games.

“You know, I didn’t try to look at them as All-Star guys. Of course, I’m going to give them that respect off the court, because they’ve done great things. But on the court, you know, I’m just trying to do what they’ve done for many years, and trying to make a name for myself as well,” Ferrell explained.

He added: “I was just trying to take it in and just trying to do everything to try to keep my consistency up to par. I think I had some rough spots, but I think that’s just all a part of it. I just know one thing: I can never doubt myself and my ability. I just always have to stick with it.”

Named Western Conference Rookie of the Month for February to become the first Mav since Devin Harris to win the award since 2004, Ferrell averaged 12.0 points, 3.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists while leading his team to a 6-5 record in 11 games. He then finished the season averaging 11.3 points, 2.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists in 36 appearances for the Mavericks, making 29 starts during that span.

Ferrell also earned the trust of Mavs coach Rick Carlisle during his short time with the team. And after becoming an extension of the coach on the floor, Ferrell says he hopes to build on that trust next season.

“He’s demanding, but I feel like I like that, especially for myself, ’cause that just brings more out of myself and more for our team,” Ferrell said while highlighting his relationship with Carlisle. “I just try to do everything coach (Carlisle) wants and what he asks, ’cause he’s seen success. He’s developed great guards in J.J. (Barea) and Devin (Harris), and I’ve seen the success that they’ve had. So, I’m definitely going to just keep listening to him.

“[Carlisle] gave me a lot of confidence. Even when I first got here, I had a lot of confidence going in here by just doing what he wanted. I tried not to think too much, and I just went out there and played free willingly.”

Moved to the bench after receiving his Rookie of the Month award on March 23 in a 97-95 home win over the Los Angeles Clippers, Ferrell showed that he can continue to make an impact in a reserve role. The undersized lead guard also demonstrated that he could easily slide back into the starting lineup after seeing sharpshooter Seth Curry go down with a left shoulder injury that forced him out of the final seven games. And after averaging 11.9 points, 2.9 rebounds and 4.7 assists during the month of April with Curry out, Ferrell hopes he showcased the skills that will make him the Mavs’ starting point guard going into next season.

“I feel like I am a starting point guard in this league, but I’m going to play whatever role coach (Carlisle) decides to put me in,” Ferrell proclaimed after the Mavs went 3-1 this season when he dished out at least seven assists. “I’m definitely just blessed to be here and glad to be here, and I definitely want to be here for a very long time.”

Rick Carlisle has given Yogi Ferrell opportunity, freedom to play his game

PORTLAND — While Friday night’s breakout performance by 10-day contract signee Yogi Ferrell featured plenty of statistical significance during the Dallas Mavericks’ 108-104 road win in Portland, according to coach Rick Carlisle, it was just the latest installment of the 23-year-old guard taking advantage of his opportunity with the team.

Scoring 32 points on 11-of-17 shooting, Ferrell tied Rodrigue Beaubois’ rookie franchise record for made three-pointers in a game by knocking down nine of 11 from deep. He also became just the third undrafted player in NBA history to score at least 30 points within his first 15 career games during the win, joining the likes of Phoenix’s Connie Hawkins and Golden State’s Anthony Morrow. More importantly, Ferrell continued to keep the Mavericks (20-30) trending in the right direction by leading the team to a season-best four-game winning streak. And with veterans Deron Williams (left great toe sprain) and J.J. Barea (left calf strain) still on the mend, Ferrell once again stepped up as the team’s starting point guard.

“I love the way he’s playing,” Carlisle said after capturing his 400th win with the Mavs thanks to Ferrell’s stellar performance Friday night. “He’s got a great team vibe to him, he’s got great energy, and he’s taking advantage of the way that they’re playing him, Dirk (Nowitzki) and others in pick-and-rolls. He’s an opportunistic guy, and it’s pretty clear that he’s out to prove a point.”

Matching up against three of the NBA’s top point guards in San Antonio’s Tony Parker, Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving and Portland’s Damian Lillard during his first four games, Ferrell has more than held his own as the Mavericks have gone 4-0 during that stretch. The former Indiana standout’s play has also led the Mavs back into postseason contention, inching just 2 1/2 games behind Denver and 1 1/2 games back of Portland in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference standings.

Since joining the Mavericks, Ferrell is averaging 17.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game, clocking 37.5 minutes an outing in the first unit. He’s also shooting 44.4 percent from the field and a staggering 52 percent from beyond the three-point arc, committing just 1.5 turnovers a game. That said, Ferrell is seeing plenty of personal success within Carlisle’s offensive system. And with the coach giving him plenty of freedom, Ferrell says he’s simply playing within himself and trying to help the team as best he can.

“It was a groove where every shot I took felt like it was going in,” Ferrell said after Friday’s win. “You know, I was just being aggressive just like coach [Carlisle] wants. I work, and it just showed tonight.

“I’m just trying to play with no fear right now, go out and give it my all for my teammates,” he added. “You know, I’m not trying to worry if I miss or make, or if I get a turnover. I’m just letting all the chips fall. [Carlisle] let’s me play free-flowingly, and I don’t have to go out there and think about the offense. I just go out there and just make the right play. That’s it.”

Note: The Mavericks will now head to Denver to conclude their two-game road trip Monday night against the Nuggets. The season series is tied at 1-1. 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.

The Mavs return to American Airlines Center on Tuesday, hosting the Trail Blazers at home. That 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:

Deron Williams (left great toe sprain) — out

Devin Harris (illness) — out

Andrew Bogut (right hamstring strain) — out

J.J. Barea (left calf strain) — out

Mavs credit Yogi Ferrell’s edge for back-to-back wins over Spurs, Cavaliers

DALLAS — Claiming back-to-back wins over two of the best four teams in the NBA record-wise, the Dallas Mavericks credit the play of their latest addition to the lineup for the recent resurgence.

Capturing a 105-101 victory Sunday over the Southwest Division-leading San Antonio Spurs, the Mavericks (18-30) seized their first regular-season win at AT&T Center since Nov. 26, 2010. The Mavs then completed a difficult back-to-back Monday night against the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers, using a total team effort to leave their home hardwood with a 104-97 victory. And after signing former NBA Development League standout Yogi Ferrell to a 10-day contract on Saturday, the Mavs say it’s the undersized guard’s competitiveness and unselfishness that has led to their improved play.

“We’ve got to give a lot of credit to Yogi. You know, he’s come in and he’s really turned up the tempo of this team,” swingman Wesley Matthews said after Monday’s win. “He plays with a confidence and a fearlessness. He gets in the paint, and he’s really helping everybody. He’s picked up the offense tremendously, and coach [Rick Carlisle] is encouraging us to run. We’re really embracing that, and we’re executing.

“You know, [Ferrell] has got an edge to him. He’s a product of [Indiana coach Tom Crean]. So, partially being a product of Tom Crean myself, I know he’s been battle tested. … You know, he’s not going to be scared.”

Sliding right into the starting lineup Sunday in place of injured three-time All-Star point guard Deron Williams (left great toe sprain), Ferrell found himself matched up against former Finals MVP Tony Parker just 24 hours after joining the team. The former Indiana standout then held his own against one of the best lead guards in the league, scoring nine points and dishing out seven assists in his debut while knocking down two clutch free throws to seal the game with 7.3 seconds remaining.

Ferrell, 23, continued his impressive play the following night against All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, filling up the stat sheet with 19 points on 7-of-15 shooting, five rebounds, three assists and four steals versus the reigning titleholders. And after taking the challenge on consecutive nights, Ferrell has made a lasting impression on his teammates and his head coach.

“He’s on pace to have one of the greatest 10-days of all time,” Mavs leading scorer Harrison Barnes said while praising Ferrell’s play. “I mean, he is playing with so much heart both offensively and defensively. He has had some tough matchups, but he has brought it every single night and he’s giving us a chance.”

“It shows the importance of point guards in this league with playmaking and positive energy,” Carlisle added. “He had two great nights, and he deserves this. He’s a kid who has worked extremely hard. He went undrafted, which we were surprised by. This is great for him. And it’s a great opportunity for the next seven or eight days, or whatever it is.”

Ferrell went undrafted in last June’s draft after starring for four years at Indiana, finishing his collegiate career as a three-time All-Big Ten performer. In four seasons, Ferrell averaged 13.5 points, 4.3 assists and 3.0 rebounds for the Hoosiers while starting in each of his 137 collegiate games. He also left college as the school’s all-time leader in assists, making him attractive to front offices around the league as a free agent.

The Indianapolis native signed as a free agent with the Brooklyn Nets on Nov. 9, seeing action in 10 games and averaging 5.4 points, 1.7 assists and 1.2 rebounds in 15.1 minutes per contest before being waived on Dec. 8. But after averaging 18.7 points, 5.8 assists and 2.9 rebounds in 18 games for the Long Island Nets of the D-League, Ferrell says he’s been eager to take advantage of his opportunity with the Mavericks.

“When I got the call from my agent, I was about to play a D-league game that night,” Ferrell explained. “About five or six hours before, my agent calls me and said, ‘The Mavericks are going to sign you to a 10-day.’ They flew me right to Dallas immediately. I got here that same night and had to prep for the game the next night in San Antonio. I had to flip mindsets quickly, and I feel like coach Carlisle and the guys on the team have been preparing me well. I get the confidence from those guys to go out there. And when that happens, the sky is the limit.

“I am on Cloud Nine right now,” he added. “We just got two very great back-to-back wins, so I am feeling pretty good. I am living the dream right now. I couldn’t be doing it with a better group of guys right here. It is a great organization, and I love this place.”

Note: The Mavericks will now return to American Airlines Center on Wednesday, hosting the Philadelphia 76ers. 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:

Andrew Bogut (right hamstring strain) — out

Deron Williams (left great toe sprain) — out

J.J. Barea (left calf strain) — out