Dennis Smith Jr. says he’s a unique participant than the final time he performed in New York.
The Nets are relying on it.
In components of three seasons with the Knicks following the commerce that despatched Kristaps Porzingis to the Mavericks in 2019, Smith performed in simply 58 video games earlier than he was despatched to the G-League, the place he was traded to Detroit in trade for Derrick Rose.
Now, the 25-year-old is in Brooklyn, the place the ninth-overall choose within the 2017 draft might be enjoying for his fifth totally different workforce previously 4 seasons.
His time with the Knicks, Smith mentioned, was transformative, even when it wasn’t profitable.
Based on Smith, he “checked his ego” whereas a Knick, particularly when he was despatched to the G-League, which Smith added was his choice.
He was despatched to the Pistons earlier than even enjoying a recreation within the G-League, spent a season in Portland after which was productive for Charlotte final season earlier than signing with the Nets this previous offseason.
“It was an enormous psychological shift,” Smith mentioned. “[There’s] rather a lot that goes into being knowledgeable basketball participant different than simply enjoying basketball. … The most important factor for me was checking the ego. I discovered shift my [mentality] into having the ability to match no matter position I wanted to play and discover a approach to keep in it. It’s paying off and I’m in a extremely great spot proper now.”
And as a substitute of the high-flying dunker he was when he left N.C. State, Smith now makes his presence felt on protection, which is what Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn is searching for from him.
“I like the juice, the vitality he brings,” Vaughn mentioned. “It’s contagious, the aggressive nature.”
On what figures to be a principally star-less roster, except Ben Simmons can return to his former self, Vaughn and the Nets might be a defensive-minded workforce, which is ok with Smith.
“I’m going to compete,” Smith mentioned. “I’m going to struggle and I wish to win video games. I don’t wish to lose. And I believe that’s going to rub off on guys.”
He performed with Dorian Finney-Smith in Dallas and mentioned Finney-Smith “is identical means. We each convey that to the workforce, so you may’t assist however observe go well with.”
The important thing might be maintaining Smith on the courtroom.
The 54 video games he performed with Charlotte a yr in the past was essentially the most Smith had performed since his rookie season with the Mavericks, when he began 69 video games and averaged 15.2 factors per recreation, nonetheless a career-high.
However Vaughn mentioned he received’t be asking Smith to concentrate on scoring.
“I believe he’s a tough-minded particular person, which I like,” Vaughn mentioned. “There’s some grit to him and a few nastiness. We would have liked it.”
These weren’t attributes coaches all the time would use to explain Smith’s recreation when he was a youthful participant who was recognized for his dunking prowess — regardless of being 6-foot-2.
Vaughn mentioned jokingly that a part of Smith remains to be there.
“He tried to dunk over any individual immediately [in practice], so he nonetheless has that, however he doesn’t thoughts the problem of guarding anybody on the market on the ground,” Vaughn mentioned. “That mentality bleeds into confidence in different dudes round him on the ground.”
And Smith insists he’s a extra mature participant than he was with the Knicks.
“Completely, however that comes with age,” Smith mentioned. “The older you get, you’re alleged to be taught. You’re by no means going to reach. You simply continue to learn daily and continue to grow, so it’s been paying off for me.”
His former Mavericks’ teammate, Finney-Smith, mentioned his aim is to get Smith into the postseason for the primary time.
“I’m comfortable he’s right here, however we’ve received to get wins,” Finney-Smith mentioned. “I’m comfortable my brother is right here, however it will be even higher to get him into the playoffs.”
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