The Dallas Mavericks had two franchise cornerstones, Dennis Smith Jr. and Luka Doncic. But as everyone knows, you can’t have two cornerstones. There’s only one basketball, after all. So Dennis went to Mark Cuban and said, “I want my share of the touches. I need the ball in my hands.”
So Mark Cuban agreed to trade Dennis to the largest city in the NBA, New York. There, playing for the Knicks, the ball was in his hands plenty. His usage was the same as before Luka arrived in Dallas. He took all the shots he wanted — 3-pointers, midrange J’s, and reckless drives to the basket. And for a time life was good.
But the shots didn’t fall. The turnovers piled up, and the minutes started dwindling. Soon Dennis found himself at the end of the bench, languishing, wasting away. His already frozen shot got colder.
Shipped to Detroit, his situation worsened. Basketball purgatory is no place to resurrect your career, after all. It was then that Dennis looked south to the Mavericks and remembered playing with Luka. He said to himself, “In Dallas, even the bench players get easy baskets, and here I am glued to my seat every game. If I’m released, I will go back to Dallas, and tell them, ‘I will accept whatever role fits me best.’”
And so when his contract ended, he went back to Dallas. Mark Cuban greeted him at the AAC, and embraced him. They walked inside, where the whole team was waiting. Luka smiled and tossed him a basketball. Jalen Brunson put his arm around Dennis and said, “The vibes are even more immaculate now that you’re back.”
Someone turned on music, and the walls of the AAC echoed with the particular melody of basketball. Shoes squeaking on the court, the thud of dribbling, and the laughter of the entire team.
Meanwhile, Kristaps Porzingis had been at the gym, doing bench presses and hugging exercise balls. When he arrived at the AAC and heard all the commotion, he asked an usher what was happening. “Dennis Smith Jr. has returned, and the team is practicing.”
So Kristaps became angry and refused to go inside. Mark Cuban came outside and asked him what was wrong. “I was supposed to be the franchise cornerstone, but now Luka has taken that role from me. And now you celebrate the return of a player you traded for me?”
Mark Cuban put his arm around Kristaps and said, “Look, you have a max contract. We try to get you post ups as much as we can. And even though we need a second scorer, you are what you are right now. But Dennis was our highest draft pick in a decade, and he was gone, and has now returned. So we’re gonna celebrate.”
Kristaps shook his head in disgust, but he followed the Mavericks’ owner inside. “Besides,” Mark Cuban said, “we’re sending him to the G-League.”