By waiving veteran point guard Deron Williams on Thursday, the Dallas Mavericks essentially have turned the key to their offensive over to rookie point guard Yogi Ferrell.
And what a mighty responsibility is it for Ferrell, who the Mavericks originally signed to a 10-day contract on Jan. 27 after finding the diminutive playmaker with the Long Island Nets of the national Basketball Development League.
Ferrell believes he is more than ready to tackle whatever issues he’ll be faced with for the remaining 26 games this season.
“It makes me feel great,’’ Ferrell said after Friday morning’s shootaround at the Target Center. “That just adds more confidence to myself.
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“I feel like for them to be able to put the ball in my hands and go out there and make things happen for our team, I can go out there and just play free.’’
Playing free for Ferrell starts at 7 tonight when the Mavericks face the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Mavericks are hedging their bets that Ferrell, who eventually signed a two-year contract with Dallas, can be their starting point guard for many years to come. By waiving Williams, that process stats immediately.
So what exactly are the Mavericks expecting from Ferrell, who turns 24 on May 9?
“Continued improvement, continued aggression, continue to get integrated more and more into the mentality we like to play with,’’ coach Rick Carlisle said. “He’s going to have a lot of tough defensive assignments along the way.
“There’s a lot of good players coming in at the point guard position, and he’s going to have the responsibility of playing those guys, at least why he’s a starter.”
The way his professional career has drastically changed over the past month, Ferrell is more than up for the challenge.
“For me, I’ve got to be able to go out there every single night and give the full package to the other team,’’ Ferrell said. “With that meaning, defensively getting into the ball, pressuring it.
“Offensively, just being a threat. I’m not trying to make crazy plays or stupid plays. Making just smart plays and just playing the game.’’
Ferrell admits he was taken aback by the Mavericks waiving Williams.
“I’m a little bit shocked,’’ he said. “He’s an All-Star guy, he’s a great player.
“I know there’s always a business part of it, and there’s nothing else more to it. I love Deron. I learned some stuff from Deron, and that’s pretty much all it is.’’
For Ferrell, this journey has been a whirlwind. One minute he’s collecting a small D-League check and the next minute he’s signing a two-year contract with the Mavericks that pays him $208,000 the rest of this season and $1.3 million next season.
“It’s been fun, I can tell you that,” Ferrell said. “Different than the D-League, but I’m having a lot of fun with these guys and just playing the game.’’
While Williams was out nursing an injury, Ferrell started seven games and the Mavericks posted a 5-2 record. That was all they needed to see to know that they had finally found a young point guard who could guide them going forward.
As far as Ferrell goes, his approach to it all hasn’t been altered.
“It’s the same thoughts as when I was in the 10-day (contract),’’ he said. “Give all my energy defensively -- that’s the first thing -- and be a threat offensively.
“I’ll still play the same way. I’m glad to be with such a great organization, though.”
And the Mavericks are glad they've found their point guard of the future.