There’s a simple reason why rookie point guard Yogi Ferrell showed up on the Dallas Mavericks’ doorstep late last month and acted like he owned the place.
He was told to.
Coach Rick Carlisle and Michael Finley – the Mavericks’ assistant vice-president of basketball operations – preached to Ferrell that they needed him to play like he was a veteran, and not like a novice just happy to collect an NBA paycheck.
The plan worked.
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After his spectacular performances in four games, Yogi Ferrell and the Mavs have agreed on a two-year contract
After signing a 10-day contract with the Mavericks on Jan. 28, Ferrell was put right in the starting lineup the next day against the San Antonio Spurs and six-time All-Star point guard Tony Parker, who has four NBA championship rings.
Ferrell finished with nine points and seven assists, and made a pair of game-sealing free throws with 7.3 seconds left in an improbable 105-101 win over the Spurs.
Most guys try to fit in (after signing a 10-day contract), and then you’re at Day 6 and then they try to contribute, and it’s already too late.
Mark Cuban, Mavericks owner
The next night, Ferrell faced the reigning champion Cleveland Cavaliers and four-time All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving.
Ferrell outscored Irving 19-18, Irving had six turnovers to two for Ferrell, and the Mavericks walked away with a stunning 104-97 victory. Two days later, Ferrell contributed 11 points and five assists in an 18-point win over Philadelphia.
Last Friday, going against the Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard, Ferrell lit up the two-time All-Star point guard for a career-high 32 points on 11-of-17 shooting. He also converted 9 of 11 shots from 3-point range, tying the most in one game by a rookie in NBA history.
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In a nutshell, the undrafted rookie wasn’t passive when he changed his Long Island Nets’ National Basketball Association Development League jersey for his No. 11 Mavericks’ jersey.
“Most guys try to fit in (after signing a 10-day contract), and then you’re at Day 6 and then they try to contribute, and it’s already too late,” owner Mark Cuban said. “Yogi obviously took what coach and Fin said to heart, and away he went.”
Carlisle reiterated to Ferrell about always taking an aggressive mindset to the court.
The main thing he just said is be aggressive, don’t look to be a setup guy. Just go out there and play the game.
Yogi Ferrell, on coach Rick Carlisle’s advice
“I’m still watching film with (Carlisle) and seeing how I can get even better,” said Ferrell, who signed a two-year contract with the Mavericks on Tuesday. “The main thing he just said is be aggressive, don’t look to be a setup guy.
“Just go out there and play the game.”
Which is exactly what Ferrell has been doing.
The week started with the Mavericks hoping to beat the Nuggets in Denver on Monday and defeat the Portland Trail Blazers in Dallas on Tuesday.
Doing so would have put the Mavericks just half-a-game behind the Nuggets for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot.
But the Mavericks lost both, to the Nuggets (110-87) and the Blazers (114-113), dropping them 3 1/2 games behind Denver for the final playoff spot.
Now with the rugged Utah Jazz at American Airlines Center at 7:30 Thursday night, the Mavericks hope to play a physical game against a team they’re 0-3 against this season.
“We let two important wins get away from us, but we’re still right there,” guard Wesley Matthews said. “With (the Jazz) we just have to play a full 48 minutes.
“Play like our lives depend on it. That’s what we’ve been doing.”
Not even a vintage game from Nowitzki could get the Mavs a win over the Blazers