The Dallas Mavericks hope for a bright future with Dennis Smith Jr.
Their 19-year-old, top draft pick has started every game this season, performing admirably after being thrown in the proverbial deep end of the NBA pool averaging nearly 15 points and 5 assists per contest.
Smith recently spoke with TNT analyst David Aldridge about his journey through the early portion of his rookie season. Here are some highlights:
Aldridge: What poster was above your bed when you were a kid?
DSJ: I had a Chris Paul poster hanging up in my room. I just like how he played. He did everything. He did a little bit of everything. This is when he was on the Hornets. I think I was in fifth or sixth grade. He did everything when he was on the Hornets. They had a battle with the Spurs in the playoffs, and watching that, I wanted to be like that. I wanted to be at that level when I got older. I was a superfan.
Aldridge: A lot of the scouts I spoke with before the draft said one of the things they were most impressed with about you was you came back and played Adidas Nations [a high school basketball showcase] — where you got injured — the next year. And I wonder how important it was for you to get back in time to play Nations?
DSJ: I think that was one of the biggest things to help me conquer the injury mentally. For me, I was up early, moving, way before I was supposed to. I got in trouble for it a couple of times. I was moving around so much before I was supposed to my grandma hit me with a broom a couple of times when she caught me. For me to go back to Nations where I tore it at, that was a big mountain I had to climb mentally, and I think I conquered that.
(Editor’s note: DSJ’s grandmother, Gloria, also gave her car to him following his injury. Why? “Because he was crippled,” she explained, breaking into boisterous laughter, in our feature story from over the summer about the upbringing of the Mavs’ prized rookie.)
Aldridge: Coaches want to win every night. But I asked [Carlisle] if it would be good for you to experience failure, so he can learn from it. Because that’s what this league is. Everybody gets their butt kicked; the great ones come back from it.
DSJ: Exactly. That’s mental toughness. And I think part of being a rookie, especially being a point guard, I think it’s important for me to take some of these lumps. I want to win every game, but tribulations come with being the best. That’s with everybody. So you take your lumps early, but you’ve got to look at everything as a lesson, and you’ve got to grow from it.
Read the full Q&A here.
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