Dennis Smith Jr. 1-on-1: Mavs Ex Responds To Derek Harper Analysis

Dalton Trigg

Former Dallas Mavericks point guard and current TV analyst Derek Harper, who now has his No. 12 hanging from the American Airlines Center rafters, spoke recently about how he believes Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis will win multiple championships together. Aside from that exciting prediction, though, Harper then went on to give encouragement and continued support for another former-Mavs point guard who is currently playing for the Knicks - Dennis Smith Jr.

"He’s a kid I root for because I like the kid," said Harper, who spent a lot of time giving advice to Smith Jr. during Dennis' stint with the Mavs.

"It's major to hear that from a legend," Smith Jr. told reflecting on Harper's remarks. "(He's) a guy I have a ton of respect for on and off the court. He talked to me a lot throughout my time in Dallas, before every game and after plenty. So I'm thankful for Harp."

Smith Jr.'s third season in the league didn't exactly go as planned. His minutes were inconsistent from Day One, and he also had to deal with an unexpected death in his family and a handful of nagging injuries along the way. And just to top it all off, the Knicks fired head coach David Fizdale midseason. 

Harper recognizes the struggles - and the potential.

"He always tried to get better during the offseason,'' Harp said of DSJ. "He improved his passing, improved his ability to rebound ... The hardest position is point guard. If you don’t get better at running the team, understanding the position, understanding sometimes you got to go slower, as opposed to always being at one speed, you’re going to have a hard time. You got to know when to go, when to slow. 

"I think if DSJ learns that, he could be a pretty good pro, because he has the talent. Sometimes a guy needs a different scenery, different opportunity.”

It's been a rollercoaster ride from Smith Jr. ever since he left Dallas, to say the least, but despite all that's happened, he's not letting that get his spirits down.

"The biggest adjustment for me is getting used to the role," said Smith Jr. of the difference between his time in Dallas vs. his time in New York. "Coming from Dallas, starting every game and being in during winning time, end-of-game close situations, to having like 5-10 minute games and some games with no minutes. It was an adjustment, but it's all about the work. So that's what all my energy is going into."

At just 22 years old, Smith Jr.'s entire career is still ahead of him. Given all that's happened since that Kristaps Porzingis-centered blockbuster trade between the Mavs and Knicks last season, maybe another change of scenery and a new opportunity would do Smith Jr. some good, as Harper already suggested.

In the meantime, support from friends is helpful. Dennis remains close with his former Mavs teammates, including Luka Doncic and Dorian Finney-Smith, as he told us in our Mavs Step Back Podcast exclusive interview. And the support from a Mavs icon in Harper is helpful as well.

"The next step for me is to grow as a person, continue to make strides as a player and continue to stay humble,'' Smith Jr. said. "My work is what's important to me. So I'm on my job.''