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Rookie stars headline Mavs-Kings matchup
DALLAS -- When the Dallas Mavericks and Sacramento Kings hook up Friday night at American Airlines Center, plenty of attention will fall on a pair of 19-year-old point guards coming off dazzling NBA debuts.
The Mavericks' Dennis Smith Jr. and the Kings' De'Aaron Fox didn't waste any time making an impact for their respective teams. The two rookies, both lottery picks in this year's draft, flashed considerable potential in competitive losses in their respective openers.
Smith, the ninth pick from North Carolina State, tied for team-high scoring honors with 16 points and dished out a game-high 10 assists in Dallas' 117-111 setback to Atlanta. Smith was the first rookie to start a season opener for the Mavs since Devin Harris in 2004-05, and the first with a point-assist double-double in his first game since Jason Kidd in 1994-95.
Although Smith was pleased with his effort, he pointed to rebounding as an area where he fell short. He had only three boards, and he missed grabbing a key defensive rebound in the final minute that led to the Hawks taking the lead for good.
"I didn't contribute enough -- that was a focal point coming into the game," Smith said. "I didn't do my part on that, so we will watch film and will look to bounce back Friday."
Smith, sounding every bit the team leader he is expected to be, did take away positives from his introduction to the regular season.
"We have each other's backs," he said. "Even though (it was) a loss, we stuck together like we were supposed to. Nobody is pointing fingers. Like I said, we are a team that's ready to bounce back from any loss."
Fox came off the bench in Sacramento's 105-100 loss to Houston and quickly won over the home crowd. The fifth overall selection from Kentucky zipped through the Rockets defense to rack up 14 points, five assists and four rebounds in 24 minutes.
"Even though I've seen him for the last month or so, it's something to see," Kings guard Garrett Temple told the Sacramento Bee. "When those lights go on, his ability to get into the paint and push the pace is something I haven't seen, besides John Wall.
"When he gets it going, picks his spots, when he gets that jumper down, he is going to be hard to guard. His pace can't be stopped right now. He's so fast."
Willie Cauley-Stein paced Sacramento with 21 points, 10 boards and three blocks. His four offensive rebounds stood out for coach Dave Joerger.
"Those are effort and energy plays, and I think your teammates embrace (it) when you see a guy picking up a guy full court, or a guy crashing the boards, getting rebounds in traffic," Joerger said. "And those kinds of things that inspire you as a teammate, so guys have confidence in him and I thought he had a good game."
The Kings have won four of the last five against Dallas, but the Mavs are 23-2 at home against Sacramento since 2003.
Updated October 20, 2017