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Nets forward Dorian Finney-Smith plays in front of father for 1st time

Elbert Smith, released from prison after serving nearly 29 years of a 44-year sentence, was at Barclays Center on Saturday night.

Dorian Finney-Smith played with his father in attendance for the 1st time Saturday night at Barclays Center.

NEW YORK (AP) — On the schedule, it was Game 78.

It was something far more meaningful for Brooklyn Nets forward Dorian Finney-Smith.

Finney-Smith’s father, Elbert Smith, was at Barclays Center on Saturday night for the Nets’ game against the Detroit Pistons. It marked the first time the 52-year-old was able to see his son play in person.

“It’s exciting,” the Nets forward said before the game. “It’s exciting knowing it’s (going to) be his first time ever seeing me play in person. But definitely want to get his win for him, so just try and focus on getting the win.”

Elbert Smith was convicted in 1996 of second-degree murder, malicious wounding, and commission of a firearm in the shooting death of Willie Anderson II. He was sentenced to 44 years in prison.

The Dallas Morning News reported that the Mavericks helped work for Smith’s release while Finney-Smith played for the team. The Virginia Parole Board voted unanimously in July 2023 to release Smith, and he was released in December.

He had served 28 years, nine months, and 10 days of his sentence.

According to Finney-Smith, the family had to wait until the elder Smith was allowed to travel. He and Finney-Smith’s mother, Desiree, arrived in New York on Friday.

“He’s been having the window down, looking at all the buildings,” Finney-Smith said. “You know, comparing it to when he came here in 1994. He remembers Brooklyn back in the day. He keeps saying Barclays wasn’t here and stuff like that, so he obviously knew New York history.”

The Nets, who were eliminated from postseason contention Wednesday, recognized the personal significance of the game for Finney-Smith, who they acquired from the Mavericks last year as part of the trade for Kyrie Irving.

“Yeah, we talked but not to the extent of what it’s going to mean and all that,” interim coach Kevin Ollie said. “I know it’s going to be significant for him, and he’s going to handle it like a pro. He’s going to compartmentalize it and go out there and do his job, but I imagine he’ll have some special joy inside for his dad to watch him finally play.

“So hopefully, he’ll go out there and do his thing, I know he will. He’s the ultimate pro when it comes to things like this, so I don’t expect anything different for him. Hopefully, we can get him a win tonight.”