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Luka Doncic on Dennis Smith Jr.'s Absence from Mavericks: 'I'm Glad It's Over'

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorJanuary 23, 2019

Dallas Mavericks guard Dennis Smith Jr. (1) passes to Dallas Mavericks forward Luka Doncic (77) of Germany against LA Clippers guard Avery Bradley during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Dallas, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
LM Otero/Associated Press

Dallas Mavericks guard Dennis Smith Jr. returned to the court Tuesday after a six-game absence. The ninth overall pick of the 2017 NBA draft dropped 17 points, eight rebounds and four assists en route to the Mavs' 106-98 home victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.

After the game, star rookie Luka Doncic expressed relief upon Smith's return to the floor, per Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

Tim MacMahon @espn_macmahon

Luka Doncic admitted that he's relieved that the saga of Dennis Smith Jr.'s absence has ended. "I don’t like it at all," Doncic said. "It shouldn’t happen. I mean, it’s bad for the team, bad for the player, bad for everybody. So I’m glad it’s over."

As MacMahon noted, Smith and the team have not been on the same page of late, and the former NC State star was reportedly involved in some trade talk. He sat out three games with a back injury before three more with what the team deemed an illness, though that seemed to have been an alibi based on this MacMahon tweet:

Tim MacMahon @espn_macmahon

Dennis Smith Jr.’s decision to rejoin Mavs on Tuesday wasn’t about a recruiting pitch from Rick Carlisle. It’s the realization that extending his “illness” would only further damage his rep. It’s in everyone’s best interests to get him back on the court and restore his value.

The trade deadline is Thursday, February 7, so if the Mavs are looking to make a move, then the team doesn't have a long time to get one done. That also leaves Smith with just six games before the deadline to increase his value if he's looking to woo a team into making Dallas an offer it won't refuse.

Still, Smith is just 21 years old and was picked ninth overall for a reason. Although the reported relationship between team and player went south, the Mavs may be best-suited riding out the season and seeing how they do with Smith and Doncic in the backcourt. If there's reason to believe the two can co-exist and work well together, great. If not, the Mavs move on.

Simply put, there doesn't seem to be a need to rush anything at the moment, especially with the Mavs just 13th out of 15 teams in the Western Conference. It's not as if Dallas is better without Smith, either, as it has gone 7-11 in his absence.

The Mavericks hit the court next on Friday at home against the Detroit Pistons.

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