DALLAS - Dennis Smith Jr. had expressed to DallasBasketball.com a desire to somehow return to the Dallas Mavericks, the team that drafted him.
But the overriding wish? A chance. And DSJ is getting that with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Via Woj on Saturday: “Guard Dennis Smith Jr., will make the Portland Trail Blazers' opening night roster, source tells ESPN.”
In a Monday night NBA preseason game in which the Trail Blazers sat their top four players, there was a vacancy for somebody to take charge.
Smith Jr. did that in Portland’s 107-93 preseason loss to the Sacramento Kings at Moda Center.
“I was happy that he was able to have the opportunity to show what he’s been doing,” said coach Chauncey Billups of Smith Jr.,who shot going 7-of-9 from the field and 2-of-3 from three for 18 points while also handing out seven assists in 26 minutes. “He’s just really tough. He gets into that paint, he can spread it around, create opportunities for everybody else, he defends at a pretty high level.
"So I was happy to see him get the opportunity to play a lot of minutes and thought he played really well.”
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The Blazers, it seems, have a pair of roster spots to be filled. At the top of Portland's rotation, of course, sit, Dame Lillard and C.J. McCollum, both of whom sat out this one for the Blazers, who are now 0-2 in preseason play with two more games, both on the road, to play in their 2021 preseason schedule.
In August, Smith Jr. - the 6-2 guard with the spectacular athleticism who recently had his rights renounced by the Detroit Pistons, making him an unrestricted free agent - told DallasBasketball.com that he was "definitely interested'' in making a Mavs comeback.
We certainly found the idea intriguing; How might DSJ succeed if he was ever on the floor with "Young Picasso'' Luka Doncic?
Instead, the No. 9 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, who departed Dallas as part of the 2019 Kristaps Porzingis trade to the Knicks, is making his comeback, maybe, in Portland.
“I thought we got accomplished what we wanted to,'' Billups said, "from the standpoint of letting a lot of players play that haven’t played.''
And now at least one of those guys, Dennis Smith Jr., gets to keep playing.