On Christmas eve, reports surfaced from Marc Stein of the New York Times that league executives believed the Dallas Mavericks were open to hearing pitches for second year guard Dennis Smith Jr. Monday evening, nearly three weeks later, a different report appeared from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that Dallas “escalated” talks to move Smith to either Orlando or Phoenix.
In the hours since, things have only gotten weirder. Kevin O’Connor of the Ringer reported that Orlando is no longer in the running for Smith. John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 tweeted that the Suns had “no interest” in DSJ. Yesterday, Smith did not come to practice, calling in with a stomach virus. Yesterday evening, Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News spoke with a source close to Smith, which muddied the waters even further:
“I think this is kind of figuring out what the win-win is,” the Mavericks source said, adding that it would be a major surprise if Smith is not dealt, given the escalated trade discussions and NBA-wide knowledge of Dallas’ intentions...
The source close to Smith said he was aware of multiple teams that he declined to publicly name that have called the Mavericks in recent days, adding of Smith: “He just wants to find a place and go play ... Hopefully the right team steps up and it’s a win-win for Dallas and whatever the new team is.
Townsend also reports that a pair of sources emphasized Smith’s camp never requested a trade but that they’d also be open to the idea. This is a distinction without difference with both sides attempting to play a public relations game.
This has quickly spiraled out of control and the most likely outcome is that both sides end up unhappy and worse off.
From Smith’s side of things, he and his representation have effectively cut off any leverage the Mavericks might have had in securing a return they might be content with. Teams now know that he’s clearly disgruntled in some way, no matter what he or sources will say. Somethings should remain unsaid, even if everyone knows them to be true. With all this out in the open now, there is no way Smith should come back to the team.
On the other hand, the Dallas Mavericks should know better. The Mavericks have always run a tight ship in terms of trade rumors. This has been floating in the ether for weeks with Dallas doing little to staunch the conversation surrounding their second best young asset. Smith has every right to feel frustrated, with his future constantly up in the air while being in the shadow of the future rookie of the year.
The Mavericks have an earned reputation of being a top tier organization, built mainly through years of success in the 2000’s. But following the 2011 title, it’s been mistake after compounding mistake, with the lone exception of lucking into Luka Doncic. As we’ve seen with Dirk Nowitzki, a star player can give an organization a lot of wiggle room to make errors, but this entire Dennis Smith saga seems like an unforced error.