DALLAS — Dereck Lively II performed well during the Dallas Mavericks' Western Conference Semifinals series victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Lively, a 20-year-old rookie, presented a lob threat for Dallas and he also helped in the rebounding department. The Thunder turned to a Hack-a-Shaq method on Lively to send him to free throw line on multiple occasions during the series, but Lively stepped up and made a number of big shots.

On Monday after practice, I asked Lively if Oklahoma City's Hack-a-Shaq strategy gave him any extra motivation in the series.

“Yeah, you could definitely say that,” Lively said. “You know, it wasn't even a challenge from them. I heard my mom in my ear saying, ‘if you miss it, you suck.' You gotta be able to just step up and make those easy shots. If they're gonna give you free shots, you gotta be able to make them. So whenever you miss them, it just makes you wanna get in the gym and work on it that much more.”

Lively lost his mother after a long cancer battle before the postseason. His Mavericks teammates and coaches have had his back during such a difficult time. He also often credits his late mother and he wants to make her proud.

Lively selected to NBA All-Rookie Second-Team

Dallas Mavericks center Dereck Lively II (2) reacts after scoring during the second half against the Oklahoma City Thunder during game three of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at American Airlines Center.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday, it was announced that Lively was selected to the NBA All-Rookie Second-Team. He was “grateful” for the recognition.

“It is an amazing feeling,” Lively said. “Coming into my first season, I never imagined my season would be like this. Never imagined the position I'd be in or to have this much success. So I'm grateful. And I'm just trying to be able to focus on what we've got going forward.”

Mavs head coach Jason Kidd has been impressed with Lively's maturity and performance throughout the season, something he mentioned when discussing the rookie's recent honor.

“It's great to be recognized and he deserves it, ” Kidd said of Lively being selected to the NBA All-Rookie Second-Team. “The work that he's put in has been incredible and his future is bright. He's just starting his NBA journey. It's been off to a great start on the floor. We all know what he's gone through off the floor. But just his maturity, his voice… He's going to be part of the leaders of this group as he goes forward. That's gonna be fun.”

Daniel Gafford “happy” for Dereck Lively II after impressive honor

The Mavericks centers have played a pivotal role in the team's success. Dereck Lively II enjoyed a strong rookie season, but the acquisition of Daniel Gafford helped to solidify the center position. Lively and Gafford have joined forces to give Dallas stability on the boards and in regards to protecting the rim.

Gafford has enjoyed watching Lively's development since he was traded to the Mavs.

“That's great,” Gafford said of Lively's achievement. “It's always good to have some type of achievement like that to have in your back pocket. I heard him talking today, he wanted to be on the first-team. At the end of the day, you can take anything… With me, with all of the awards, I just see it as all the regular season awards. I feel like we should wait until the postseason when it comes to those awards. But at the end of the day, they are going to make their decisions… But I'm happy for him.

“From the things that I've seen him doing when I first got here throughout the regular season, the first chance I got to play against him and stuff like that, I saw that he was going to be one of those guys that was going to be dominant when it comes to defensively inside the paint… He's learning his position more and more as the days go by.”

Gafford knows that Lively has endured a lot this year. He has done what he can to be there for the Mavericks rookie.

“He's real mature for his age,” Gafford continued. “Just all the stuff that he's been through I just want to make sure I'm one of those guys that is always right there behind him and pushing him to be the best that he can be because he's doing the same for me.”