On 10-day contract, Yogi Ferrell scorches Blazers for resurgent Mavericks
Undrafted and on a 10-day deal, Ferrell hit a record nine 3-pointers in Portland
PORTLAND, ORE -- In Game 1 of the 1992 NBA Finals, Bulls legend Michael Jordan turned to the broadcast table after hitting his sixth 3-pointer of the first half and shrugged, in disbelief over his torrid shooting. His opponent in that iconic moment was the Portland Trail Blazers.
Just like Jordan, Dallas Mavericks point guard Yogi Ferrell had the hot hand from behind the arc, hitting six three-pointers in the first half on Friday against the same team His Airness tormented, the Trail Blazers. And very similar to Jordan, Ferrell could only shrug at his hot shooting.
"It was a groove where every shot I took felt like it was going in," Ferrell said. "You know, I was just being aggressive just like coach wants."
Led by Ferrell, the Mavs defeated the Trail Blazers 108-104 to extend their season-high win streak to four games. Ferrell finished with a career-high 32 points, two rebounds and five assists in 39 minutes. He shot 11 of 17 and 9 of 11 from three. His nine treys tied an NBA rookie record and, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, Ferrell is the third undrafted player in history to score at least 30 points within his first 15 career NBA games.
"I'm just trying to play with no fear right now, go out and give it my all for my teammates," Ferrell said. "You know, I'm not trying to worry if I miss or make, or if I get a turnover. I'm just letting all the chips fall."
Ferrell is definitely playing with no fear as he's been on a tear since signing a 10-day contract on Jan. 28. Starting right away for the injury-riddled Mavs, Ferrell was key to Dallas winning in San Antonio for the first time 2011 on January 29 by finishing with nine points and seven assists. He followed that up with 19 points, five rebounds, three assists, and four steals in Dallas' 104-97 win over LeBron James and the Cavs the next day, its first in Cleveland since 2011.
Ferrell continued to thrive with 11 points and five assists in a 113-95 victory over the 76ers on Wednesday. And now he can also add a 32-point performance to his week-long career with the Mavs.
"I love the way he's playing," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "He's got a great team vibe to him, he's got great energy, he's taking advantage of the way they're playing him and playing Dirk [Nowitzki] and other guys in pick and rolls. He's an opportunistic guy and it's pretty clear that he's out to prove a point."
Portland's game plan defensively was to go under on pick-and-rolls, daring the Mavs to shoot and not hurt them in the paint on drives. But this strategy backfired, as Ferrell, who was shooting just 28.6 percent from deep before the game, couldn't miss.
"We respect everybody, but our game plan coming in was we were going to go under pick-and-rolls and try to keep [Ferrell] out of the paint," Damian Lillard said. "He came off, he hit a few early and got his confidence up. So he had a great game, but anybody playing in this league, [if] they get a couple shots to fall early, you never know what can happen. His came right on time."
Ferrell's strong play is coming at the perfect time for a Mavs team decimated by injuries. Deron Williams is out with a toe injury, J.J. Barea has a calf injury and Devin Harris didn't play against the Blazers due to an illness. Even Pierre Jackson, another player on a 10-day contract, is banged up.
Jackson's injury is the basically the reason the Mavs signed Ferrell. As GM Donnie Nelson told scouts on press row, they basically had a short list of guards they were interested in, and after Jackson got injured, Ferrell was simply the next player up. So far, it has worked out quite fortuitously for both the Mavs and Ferrell, who is expected to be signed for the rest of the season.
"We've got a special group, a special group of guys and they really welcomed me into the team. I was thankful for that," Ferrell said. "That doesn't happen often. It happened very quickly, so I'm just out there having a lot of fun and living the dream."
The Mavs signed Ferrell out of the D-League, where he played with the Long Island Nets. Ferrell has been on a rather bizarre NBA journey so far as after going undrafted out of Indiana (where he is the school's all-time assists leader). He was the last cut in the Brooklyn's training camp. He remained in Brooklyn' system with Long island and was then quickly called up after the Nets experienced injury woes at the point guard position with Jeremy Lin, Greivis Vasquez and Isaiah Whitehead.
Despite the dearth of point guards, the Nets didn't play Ferrell very much. He only played 10 games and averaged 5.4 points and 1.7 assists in 15.1 minutes a game. Brooklyn cut Ferrell again in early December and he returned to Long Island. Starting 18 games in the D-League, Ferrell averaged 18.7 points, 5.8 assists and 2.9 rebounds before getting scooped up by the Mavs.
Ferrell's circuitous journey looks familiar to the ones many undrafted players take during their careers. It's a path that Blazers coach Terry Stotts, who played in the Continental Basketball Association, can relate to. Stotts appreciates Ferrell's performance even though it cost his team dearly on Friday night.
"Anybody can come in and have a game, but he's had an impact on four games," Stotts said. "Being a minor-league guy, I'm happy for him. You get an opportunity to get a 10-day, you get an opportunity to make the most of it. As disappointing as this loss is, I root for those kind of guys."
With Ferrell's seamless integration, the Mavs are one of the hottest teams in the league right now. Dallas has gone 7-3 in its last ten games, getting within striking distance of the eighth seed in the West. Ferrell could provide the boost Dallas needs to make the postseason.
"Man, I think he's got more in the tank," Wes Matthews said. "I think he's got some more in him so we're going to need it."
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