Dennis Smith Jr prefers playing two-on-two. At least, that is, when it comes to Call of Duty. As far as hooping is concerned, the rookie out of NC State just prefers playing, period.
When Smith Jr isn’t working on refining his basketball skills, the explosive point guard can be found working on his second game of choice—Call of Duty. It is there, siting on his couch, in front of a big screen and Playstation, when Smith Jr de-stresses by hopping on the sticks with friends, foes, and even fellow rookies.
“Markelle was stinking it up,” laughs Smith Jr, good-naturedly.
Recently, SLAM spoke with the young Maverick about brotherhood, COD: WWII, Dirk and more.
SLAM: How have the first couple of days of training camp been for you?
DSJ: Good. I’m learning a lot from my teammates and the staff. It’s been good so far, but I know it’s a process.
SLAM: What’s it like playing with an OG like Dirk? He’s been in the League since you were in diapers.
DSJ: It’s great. That’s probably one of my favorite parts. I just like being around him, listening. I try to take in as much as I can.
SLAM: Rumor is Dirk is actually a smack talker and funny guy. True?
DSJ: He does, but it’s all in the spirit of the game. He’s been an elite player, so he can trash talk all day.
SLAM: Everyone knows by now that you have nice hops, but what about your game will surprise people?
DSJ: My overall floor game. Like, my ability to get people involved. I think I do a good job of that. I play with so many good players, so I think you’ll see that.
SLAM: Which rookie, on the court, are you most excited to go against?
DSJ: As a rookie? None of ’em. I look at them all the same. Once we’re on the court, I’m going to do my thing.
SLAM: I hear that. Well, in general who are you most looking forward to hooping against? You grew up watching a lot of guys you’ll see this year.
DSJ: On an opposing team, it’d have to be LeBron James. And I have a legend, Dirk, on my team.
SLAM: I saw you and LeBron had an exchange on social recently. What’s the best piece of advice he’s given you so far?
DSJ: He told me to remain myself. Always remain me, be me. He told me to always be myself.
SLAM: I heard a rumor that you got to see an early preview of the upcoming Call of Duty: WWII.
Dennis Smith Jr: It was dope.
SLAM: Are you a long-time COD gamer or did you get into it more recently?
DSJ: I’ve been playing for a minute…
SLAM: Do you prefer playing alone or do you like getting online?
DSJ: I like playing with other people. A lot of times, we’ll play two-on-two. Sometimes, we even bet on it a little bit.
SLAM: Since you like playing online, could fans guess your gamer tag?
DSJ: Nah, it’s something random.
SLAM: Is that a special one just for COD?
DSJ: [Laughs] It’s for all of my games online.
SLAM: By the same token, do you have a nickname you go by on the court?
DSJ: On the court? Nothing in particular, outside of DSJ, which is perfectly fine with me.
SLAM: One of the themes of this year’s game is brotherhood. It’s about playing as a team and being a band of brothers. I feel like that applies to hoops, too.
DSJ: Definitely. You got one job in the game—earn the respect of the people you go to war with—and basketball is the same thing.
SLAM: So, are you the best player—the best COD player, that is—on the Mavericks?
DSJ: On the team? Yeah, for sure, though I haven’t played with a lot of guys yet.
SLAM: Off top, do you feel like you’re the best rookie at COD too?
DSJ: Shoot, I haven’t played with a lot of guys, but Markelle was on my team one day and he was stinking it up. [Laughs] I might be the best.
SLAM: When it comes to video games, do you talk trash or let your game talk?
DSJ: If I’m really in my bag, I might say a couple of words. Otherwise, I’m just doing my thing.
SLAM: Is that the same way on the court?
DSJ: In basketball, I just go out there and do my job.
SLAM: So you like playing twos, you said. Who would you team up with in COD?
DSJ: It’s hard to say, cause I don’t know how many guys in the League play. But right now I’d say Dorian Finney-Smith. He’s the only other guy I know that plays.
SLAM: You’ll find out real soon that almost everyone plays.
DSJ: That’ll be good [laughs]. Any time, any day, I’m ready to roll.
SLAM: If you were playing twos in hoops and could only get one guy on your team who would it be?
DSJ: Dorian Finney-Smith.
SLAM: So you think you and him could take LeBron and Isaiah Thomas in a game?
DSJ: Yeah, for sure. Bet that.
SLAM: What’s your go-to move on the court?
DSJ: Definitely just getting to the rack [laughs]. Whatever happens there happens, but that’s the plan.
SLAM: You said you played with Markelle, but with other cats from the rookie class would you like to play with in COD?
DSJ: I might say Markelle, just because I know for a fact that I’m going to win that [laughs].
SLAM: So, you’re a rookie, which means you want to keep getting better. How do you get better at COD?
DSJ: Just by playing more and more and learning the maps. The key to Call of Duty is always learning the maps quickly.
SLAM: And what about in hooping? How do you focus on getting better?
DSJ: Making sure that I’m able to do anything that I might need to do in a game—whether that’s passing, shooting, learning where my teammates want the ball or how to react to certain things.
SLAM: This is random, but when you were growing up did you own any NBA jerseys? If so, which one was your favorite?
DSJ: My favorite was a Steve Nash jersey that was handed down from my older cousin Mookie to my little cousin Isaiah and then down to me. That was a Phoenix Suns Steve Nash jersey.
SLAM: That’s dope because he was a great Dallas point guard, too.
DSJ: That’s true.
SLAM: Was that the first jersey you owned too?
DSJ: That was the first and, actually, only jersey I ever owned.
SLAM: How you going to feel when you see a bunch of kids rocking your jersey this year?
DSJ: I’m going to be blown away. It’s something you dream about, but never see how it’ll actually happen. It’s just a dream. You don’t wait it out too much, but you just believe it can happen. Now that it’s finally happening, it’s crazy.
Tzvi Twersky is a Contributing Editor to SLAM and the Director of Basketball at Stance. Follow him on Twitter @TTwersky.
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