The situation in Dallas with Dennis Smith Jr. keeps getting weirder by the day. Earlier this week, reports surfaced that the organization was fielding trade offers for the talented and athletic second-year guard amid the emergence of Luka Doncic, reinforcing the perception that the two may not be a viable long-term pairing.
The Mavs, however, immediately tried to quash those rumors, insisting that keeping Smith in Dallas is their “Plan A.” But Smith has now missed four consecutive games due to back soreness and another unspecified illness, the questions surrounding which prompted head coach Rick Carlisle to deliver an impromptu message to Smith during a media scrum Friday: he’d welcome him back to the team with open arms.
Carlisle, to his credit, has had nothing but positive things to say about Smith, calling him a team player and heralding the tremendous progress he’s made during his season and a half with the Mavericks. But he also hazarded the opinion that Smith’s camp might be leading him astray as some sort of power move to gain leverage in a possible trade scenario.
Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN:
“I don’t know exactly what’s going on, but I know one thing: This kid is a team guy, and he loves being with his teammates, and he really respects his teammates,” Carlisle said Friday on 103.3 FM ESPN in Dallas. “This is just my feeling, is that he’s being told to stay away for whatever reason. I just don’t want people out there to think he is snubbing the Mavs or anything like that. This is just my opinion, I believe there’s business stuff going on, and he’s being told to stay away. Listen, if that’s what they feel is in his best interests, he should trust his advisers. But it’s unlike him not to want to be with his teammates.
“I do feel strongly that people should not look at Dennis in this situation now and judge him harshly, that he’s doing something against his teammates or the Mavs or anything like that. I just think this is a business-type situation, and this is what he’s being advised to do.”
With Dallas still firmly in rebuild mode, it would be short-sighted to deal Smith this early in his career, even if he is forced to take a step back to Doncic. Despite his shortcomings, Smith is immensely talented and has shown enormous potential. If they can figure out the chemistry issues, they would comprise a formidable young duo in Dallas for years to come.
But trade rumors and ego issues could torpedo that plan long before it has time to flourish. It’s unclear exactly when or if Smith might rejoin the team, and while Carlisle may believe he’s doing and saying the right things by extending an olive branch, he’s also levying public accusations that might even widen the gap. It appears now the onus is on Smith to decide his next move.