A change of heart has made Dallas Mavericks point guard Dennis Smith Jr. change his mind about the NBA Slam Dunk Contest.
A source confirmed to ESPN on Friday that Smith will compete in the All-Star Weekend event after getting eliminated in the first round last year, then dissing it in September.
Heading into the 2018-19 season after his rookie year, the 6-foot-3, 195-pound guard from North Carolina State criticized the event and “the gimmicks and everything that go with it.”
He disagreed with the score (39) he was given by the judges on his first dunk, a two-handed reverse made after putting the ball behind his head, then below his knees. On his second dunk, he switched the ball from his left to right hand during a 360 windmill that earned him a perfect score of 50.
Last week, Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell announced will not defend his crown at the contest.
“It really stems from when I got hurt, the three different times I got hurt this year. I remember last year when I came back from All-Star, I was tired,” said Mitchell, who captured the title as a rookie.
“Fortunately, we had some days where I could rest, but there would be days where I wouldn’t go to the gym and I would just sleep and get rest.”
The 2019 NBA All-Star Weekend is set for Feb. 15-17 in Charlotte, N.C. Smith, a native of Fayetteville, N.C., who was the No. 9 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, is considered a likely choice for the Rising Stars game after playing in it last year.
Smith recently returned to the Mavericks after missing six straight games, the first three attributed to back soreness and the fourth due to Smith’s agent calling in sick for him. Multiple reports claimed there was friction between Smith and head coach Rick Carlisle, and that Smith was upset that his role is different this season with rookie star Luka Doncic evolving as the leader of the offense.
Smith is averaging 12.7 points, 3.9 assists and 2.8 rebounds this season. As a rookie, he averaged 15.2 points, 5.2 assists and 3.8 rebounds.
—Field Level Media