The Associated Press
Draymond Green showed Dennis Smith Jr. no sympathy.
Empathy may have been appropriate.
A welcome-to-the-league moment happened in Dallas on Monday night, when the Mavericks’ promising point guard went at the Golden State veteran — and the NBA’s top defensive player — with hopes of dunking on him. Smith got fouled at the rim, both players flashed smiles at one another and Green talked a bit of trash about how the rookie made a less-than-wise choice.
Green said that “ain’t happening” afterward about Smith’s dunk attempt. “Better check my resume. This ain’t summer league, bro. You aren’t just going to dunk on anybody. Better luck next time.”
Smith, who came into the NBA with a high-flying reputation and a reported 48-inch vertical leap, correctly pointed out that Green fouled him and didn’t exactly stop him there.
“I was laughing,” Smith said. “It was funny.”
It is a time-honored tradition in the NBA that rookies get put to the test early and often against veterans — think of it as an approved method of on-court hazing. A week into this season, there’s been some notable such moments like the Green-Smith play in Dallas and the Los Angeles Clippers’ Patrick Beverley going hard at Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball in the season opener for those clubs.
Beverley makes no secret of the fact that he’s a defensive pest and he went at Ball all night in the rookie’s debut, knocking him down and giving him quite the initiation to NBA life.
It was personal for Beverley — not against the kid but his father, the very outspoken LaVar Ball.
“Due to all the riff-raff that his dad brings, he’s going to get a lot of people coming at him,” Beverley said. “He has to be ready for that and I let him know how this game works.”
That’s not just from Beverley, either. Washington’s Marcin Gortat predicted on Twitter that Wizards star point guard John Wall “will torture” the Lakers’ guard for 48 minutes when they square off.
“I’ve got to learn and keep going,” Ball said.
Not every night so far has been filled with growing pains for rookies.
Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists in his second game, against Phoenix. Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons put up a triple-double Monday — 21 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists — in the 76ers’ win at Detroit, also was his fourth double-double in as many games. Atlanta’s John Collins already has two double-doubles, both off the bench. Jayson Tatum is averaging a solid 12.3 points through his first three games in Boston.
There’s also been some struggles. No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz is averaging just 6 points on 33 percent shooting.
So there will be good, and there will be bad. Green should remember that.
When Miami went to Golden State in Green’s rookie season, he went at then-Heat star LeBron James twice in the third quarter of that game.
Both times, Green got called for offensive fouls.
He didn’t shy away then, and Smith didn’t shy away Monday.
“I’m not going to back down from anybody,” Smith said. “That’s just how I am.”