Smith set to rejoin Mavs for game against Clippers
The Dallas Mavericks return home against the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night, hoping the return of disenchanted guard Dennis Smith Jr. will help end a four-game slide.
It won't be easy.
The Mavs are coming off consecutive double-digit losses -- at Indiana and then at Milwaukee on Monday afternoon. Dallas, which has lost its last two home games, is 0-7 in the second game of a back-to-back set.
The banged-up Clippers will come into the matchup rested after snapping a five-game skid by knocking off the Spurs 103-95 in San Antonio on Sunday. Los Angeles is a respectable 11-11 on the road, one of just five Western Conference teams that is at least .500 away from home.
Smith has been disappointed with his role on the team as the 6-foot-7 Luka Doncic has emerged as the primary ball-handler and point guard. Doncic furthered his case for NBA Rookie of the Year on Monday by becoming the second-youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double -- 18 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists against the Bucks.
Smith is slated to play for the first time since Jan. 7.
He has missed the past six games, the first three due to a sore back and then the next three due to what the team deemed an illness.
"Dennis and I spoke at length," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle told reporters on Sunday. "He is feeling better and plans to resume workouts in preparation for his return. There will be no further updates until Tuesday."
Dallas reportedly was ready to trade the second-year guard if the right deal materialized. Carlisle said he hopes Smith and the club can work through their issues.
According to reports by ESPN, Smith's dissatisfaction has stemmed from his diminished role playing alongside Doncic, as well as friction with Carlisle, who is known for being tough on players.
Smith, who has missed 18 games this season with various minor injuries, is averaging 12.6 points, 3.9 assists and 2.6 rebounds per game, down from 15.2 points, 5.2 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game last year.
Carlisle said Smith can still be a key piece to the Mavs' rebuilding plans alongside Doncic.
"Look, that's why we drafted him," Carlisle said on his radio show on ESPN Radio in Dallas. "A lot's being made of the fact that both of these guys need the ball. We've got a lot of games left in this season. Let's play it out and see where we are. I think that's the way to go."
The Clippers and Mavs have split their first two of four matchups this season.
Los Angeles hopes to have some major scoring punch back in the lineup Tuesday.
Danilo Gallinari (19.0 points per game) did not make the trip for Sunday's game because of back spasms, but he could rejoin the team in Dallas. Sixth man of the year candidate Lou Williams (18.7 ppg) has missed the past two games with a sore right hamstring, and coach Doc Rivers said he is unsure of his status against the Mavs.
"But Lou looked good today, so he's close," Rivers said in the Los Angeles Times on Sunday. "I don't know if that means Tuesday, but I think he'll be playing before the trip is over."
The Clippers continue their four-game road trip at Chicago and then Miami.
--Field Level Media
Updated January 22, 2019