Dennis Smith's 'Stations of the Cross'

The player promised a lot when he was with the Mavs, but he ended up with the Knicks and has not progressed. Now he asks to play in the G-League.


Races can sizzle or directly explode, and not for good, at any time. In the NBA, with so many games and so many variants coming into play together, it tends to happen frequently. The case of Dennis Smith is, nevertheless, eerily special. From what was shown at first, from what has been seen some time later.

A boy who came to Dallas with a baggage but with a lot to prove. And he did. He came from being a five-star youth, as the best in the pre-university stage are categorized in the United States, and from playing only one year in the NCAA, specifically for the North Carolina State Wolfpack. But he was chosen in the ninth position of the 2017 Draft by the Dallas Mavericks and the first steps in the NBA hinted that someone could have been wrong. For falling short. Others like Jackson (4th) or Isaac (5th) did not break to play and were among those who had been chosen in a more leading position. The first season, with Dirk Nowitzki giving his last blows and needing new blood, he went to 15.2 points on average in 69 games and was chosen in the second best rookie quintet. The problem came the year after that fall from grace.

Luka Doncic's irruption in the NBA was to destroy everything and one of the real direct affected was Smith. The ball Doncic needed to knead was the ball left untouched by Smith, who also needed it to produce with penetrations to the basket. As it seemed logical, and more so with other shooters like Matthews on the team, Smith's production fell. His shooting attempts dropped three points, from 14.8 to 11.2. The Mavs had two players who had just entered the best league in the world, who overlapped for position and exposure and had to decide. The chronicles of that stage speak that it was Smith himself who, through his agent, asked for a solution as if to say that he did not see badly being transferred. Doncic's impact was already being greater than his, especially in terms of sports, and it seemed clear that the relationship would end there. That's how it went. Dennis went to the Knicks in the trade that brought Latvian Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas.

In New York he took the opportunity to make numbers as soon as he arrived. But Matthews went with him, so he still had competition on the outside, and the following summer forward Kevin Knox arrived as a fresh face and there was a saturation on the outside with Dotson, Trier, Ntilikina and Mudiay accompanying Smith. The young man from Fayetteville began to fall and physical problems also began to be present. In 2019/20, even without the pandemic, he played fewer games than stipulated, only 34, and his average points (5.5) collapsed strongly.

In the current campaign the irruption of Immanuel Quickley, another newcomer, has given him the blow along with some outstanding performance of Elfrid Payton. The gritty Tom Thibodeau, the new coach, is and the rookie is giving it his all in a Knicks who have not started the year badly has kept him from any opportunity to shine. And, as he did in his day, he has asked for a change. This time, even more aggressive. Smith went to the managers and told them to please let him go to the G-League, the affiliate that has the franchise in the development league. Request granted. The second NBA competition is going to make a bubble to play its 2020/21 season and Dennis Smith will be there, looking for new sensations with Westchester. He has degraded himself to try to regain momentum in a surprising decision that, why not say it, honors his capacity for sacrifice.

Along with Ignas Brazdeikis and Jared Harper will be one of the players that the Knicks have in the orbit of the first team that goes to the second. Smith had only played 3 of the 22 games this season and was not even half an hour into the game. In February and at the Disney complex in Orlando, the same place that his major league teammates made history between July and October of last year, the 23-year-old is looking to rewrite his tale.

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