Mavs’ Johnathan Motley hopes to earn minutes rookie year as high-energy, backup big man

DALLAS — While he likely won’t assume a major role during his rookie season with the Dallas Mavericks after signing a two-way contract last month, former Baylor standout Johnathan Motley feels he can make an immediate impact by playing with a high motor when he is given an opportunity by coach Rick Carlisle.

The 6-foot-10 Motley went untaken in June’s NBA Draft after three stellar seasons at Baylor came to an abrupt end with a torn meniscus to conclude his final collegiate campaign. Prior to the injury, he averaged 17.3 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.1 blocks per game during his junior season with the Bears, earning consensus All-American second-team honors in the process. The 2017 Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year will now try to make his mark in the NBA with the Mavericks, adding depth to a front line that already features 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki and leading scorer Harrison Barnes. But with playing time expected to be limited for Motley early on, it’s his high energy that figures to pave a way for him on the court.

“I take it as an opportunity,” Motley said last month shortly after signing his two-way contract with the team. “You know, any time you’re playing you’re getting better, so the more I can play I think the better it will be for me. Rick Carlisle at first just told me to do a lot of rebounding and a lot of rim running starting out, and a lot of making the mid-range shot type of stuff. And then later on we’ll talk about having the ball in my hands. But right now, it’s rim running, rebounding and making open shots.”

This upcoming season will mark the first year that the league’s two-way contracts will be used, allowing teams to have up to two players who will spend the bulk of the year in the NBA G League and not more than 45 days with their NBA squad. Players also must have four years or fewer experience in the NBA to be eligible to sign two-way contracts. And with two-way players paid a corresponding daily amount based on the number of days they play in each league, Motley admits that he is a long way from NBA stardom.

The Houston native played limited minutes during the Orlando summer league as he continued to rehab his way back from the meniscus injury, averaging 7.0 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.5 block per contest. However, he did provide the Mavericks with the highlight of the tournament by hitting a game-winning jumper in the championship game to capture the Orlando summer-league title with an 83-81 win over Detroit on July 6. He stepped up his production during the MGM Resorts Summer League in Las Vegas from there, averaging 7.7 points and 4.3 rebounds in just 14.8 minutes an outing as the Mavs went 5-1 and advanced to the semifinals of the tournament. And after showing what he’s capable of in limited minutes, Motley hopes he gets the opportunity to contribute in a similar role for the team this season.

“You know, they’ve got me on minute restrictions with the whole knee issue, but I’ve been real productive and getting better and better each game. Like I said, my body is feeling better every game, but I’m definitely showing what I can do in limited minutes. That’s going to help with my success early on, ’cause I’m not going to play too many minutes from the jump,” Motley admitted.

“That’s how a lot of people started,” he added. “You’ve got to start off where you get in at. The league is full of scorers. Yeah, I shouldered a lot of the scoring load at Baylor, but sometimes it’s a little bit different in the NBA. You’ve got to get adjusted to the game, coaches have got to have confidence in you, the staff has got to have confidence in you, and that could take years of just producing. So, if I produce over the years, maybe I could become a scorer like I was in college.”

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